If there were a reality TV show about a Bible college president, would you watch it? When it comes to TV, my kids and I stick to the good old stuff—Andy Griffith, Home Improvement, and 1980s MacGyver—but if you’re like me, you’ve seen at least one episode of a reality show featuring a profession.
Without leaving your living room, you can become an Alaskan fisherman (Deadliest Catch), police officer (Cops), trucker (Ice Road Truckers), or coal miner (Dirty Jobs). These programs always feature jobs that are hands-on and visually interesting. (There are no reality shows about accountants.) They put you in someone else’s work boots, and you imagine: how would I handle their challenges?
So: would you find any drama worth watching in my job?
It’s not coal mining or big rig driving, and the cameras for this imaginary show would discover my routine isn’t made-for-TV. I wake up early and open my Bible and a Diet Coke. (I like my caffeine cold.) I check on the donkey, sheep, and dog, greet my family, and head to campus. I teach my 8:00 a.m. preaching class, go to LOTS OF MEETINGS, then travel on weekends to preach. Not exactly riveting stuff.
But maybe it could be. Keep reading, and you can decide…and even play a part on the show.
What would make this reality show (Bible College Boss!) an interesting watch? To capture drama, a reality show must answer two questions:
- First, what are the stakes? If coal miners don’t do their job, families don’t eat, and US electricity supplies falter. If police officers don’t do their job, bad guys roam free, and the city’s in danger.
- Second, what are the challenges? Ice road truckers haul vital supplies, but dangerous terrain stands in their way. Alaskan fishermen need to catch fish, but the stormy Bering Sea always threatens.
First question: what’s at stake in the job of a Bible college president?
If the cameras followed me into my 8:00 a.m. class in the Don DeWelt Preaching Lab, you’d see 15 ordinary college guys—superhero t-shirts, starter beards, ballcaps, goofy smiles—learning how to study and preach a text. When they preach their first sermon in class, they’re nervous. An African student’s legs trembled so much on his preaching day that he told me, “My knees are fellowshipping with one another!”
But if TV cameras could film a few years into the future, they’d see a confident young preacher step to the pulpit. Seated before him is a grieving widow, a couple in conflict, a rebellious teenager, and a young teacher deep in depression. Cameras would see a guy getting ready to teach from an old book on a sleepy Sunday morning, but spiritual eyes would see much more…
As that young man opens his Bible, ten thousand angels lean over the balconies of heaven, holding their breath, and ten thousand demons glare up through the gates of hell, gritting their teeth. The air crackles with anticipation because all of heaven and hell knows: in that moment, eternity hangs in the balance. They know that, when that preacher opens God’s Word, those lives may never be the same! Proud spirits may be broken, wounded hearts may be healed, and the final destiny of souls may be forever changed.
When I walk into that class, my job is to get those men ready for that moment. Right now they’re twenty years old, still growing up, raw recruits at boot camp, and I’m their drill sergeant, equipping them for spiritual battle. Millions around the globe need to hear about Jesus, and I’m trying to train this ragtag group of guys to go save the world.
That’s high stakes drama. Maybe this show is worth a watch…
But second question: what are the challenges? Yes, we have an urgent mission, but what stands in our way? On this week’s episode, cameras follow me at 9:00 a.m. from my classroom to my office, where my executive team gathers to look at numbers.
They’re not good. Enrollment is great—up across the board, praise the Lord. But finances are tighter than ever. Why? Keep reading to find out what threatens the mission…
One word: inflation! You’re not surprised—everyone’s feeling it. As the camera looks over my shoulder, you see the numbers:
- In one year, a case of chicken for our cafeteria went from $40 to $159! (And students eat a lot of chicken.)
- In one year, our campus electric bill went from $25,000 to $36,000—every month.
- In one year, our liability insurance went up 10%—that’s many thousands of dollars.
Our best estimate: inflation could raise our operational costs this year by at least $250,000. On top of that, since our employee families feel the pinch of inflation too, we’ve also given modest cost-of-living raises. Bottom line: to end in the black, we need to find more money.
How would you handle this challenge? This reality show puts you in the shoes of a Bible college president—where do you find the funds? You’ll need to be 1980s MacGyver—fewer resources, more resourcefulness. You consider your options:
- Option 1: Trim fat from the budget (which we’ve done). This helps, but how far until you hinder the mission, hit muscle and bone?
- Option 2: Raise tuition (which we’ve done). This helps, but how high until you saddle future ministers and missionaries with heavy debt?
You still need to find more. You consider option 3: Ask partners for help. You’re blessed with generous partners, but you have a problem. Asking for one-time gifts works perfectly for one-time projects, but it doesn’t really address the ongoing inflation challenge.
So, Bible college boss, what do you do? I’m guessing you’d do what I’m doing now: write a different kind of fundraising letter. Usually I ask for one-time gifts to help with a one-time project. Today, to address the inflation challenge, I’m writing to ask for a cost-of-living raise for the college itself.
If you’re a one-time gift giver, we are grateful, and we definitely still benefit from one-time gifts. But if you give regularly—whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly—would you consider increasing your regular giving by 10%? That’s roughly the inflation rate we’ve experienced this last year.
Since you’re in my shoes, how does it feel to make that ask? Fundraising is a big part of my job, and now you realize why it matters. Raising dollars raises workers for the harvest field. More money means more missionaries…and more people hearing about Jesus. My hunch: if that’s true, you’d ask for money eight days a week.
By now, as you’re watching this reality program, you realize that—while you’re not a Bible college president—you can play a big part in this story. Instead of the one asking for dollars, you can be the one giving them. And surprise: that’s the more important role. Without your help, none of this happens. But with your help, we overcome the inflation challenge, keep training preachers, and someday win more souls to Christ.
As you or your church plan next year’s budget, would you prayerfully consider increasing your regular giving to OCC by 10% (or more)?
If I could script this reality show, I’d end each episode this way: you’d see those students years later, faithfully preaching the gospel and baptizing men and women into Christ—smiling faces coming up out of the water to walk with him—lives transformed because of leaders trained.
I think that’s a show worth watching.
By the way, as the credits roll at the end, I hope you look closely…because you’ll spot your own name on the screen. Those new baptized believers—you helped make that happen. Thank you for your generosity, thank you for helping us overcome every challenge, and thank you for your partnership in training gospel leaders.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. If you’re 70½ or older, you can use a charitable IRA rollover to transfer money to a ministry like OCC for significant tax advantages. (It counts toward your required minimum distribution.) Let us know if we can help. Contact your tax advisor or OCC attorney Doug Miller at 417.626.1215 or [email protected].