The Multiplying Joy of (Shocking) Generosity

The Multiplying Joy of (Shocking) Generosity by D. Michael Lindsay  for The Gospel Coalition

“Michael, we’d like to do something big.”

I was driving to an appointment in the summer of 2016 when the call came through my cell phone. The caller had been an occasional donor to Gordon, the Christian college on Boston’s North Shore where I serve as president. We had spoken a handful of times about his giving to the college. But in the wake of that phone call, he and his wife would ultimately commit $75.5 million to endow scholarships and programs for Gordon students—the largest gift to an evangelical college in history.

This gift has had a transformational effect on our college, and on me. This experience has taught me about the generosity of God—and how God’s provision can create rising faith in all of us as we respond with generosity of our own.

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Strategy Calculates. Generosity Surprises.

I like to think of myself as a certain kind of leader, one who can develop a winning strategy and then work with a team to carry it forward to completion. But the truth is I had little to do with this record donation.

My wife and I had spent time with the couple, and I would handwrite longish letters to them from time to time. And a gift this size is fundamentally an endorsement of the vision that colleagues and trustees pursue for years. In other words, securing it was not effortless. But with this family, we had done none of the things I thought would be requirements for getting a big donation. It came as a true gift, a breathtaking blessing I could not imagine when I first began praying for it.

Four years prior, after learning of a school that received a very large gift and saw it become the fulcrum for rebirth, I began asking the Lord for a transformational gift. I wanted the same for Gordon. After seeing so many of our students struggle to make ends meet and knowing our college’s numerous needs and challenges, I asked the Lord to send us a few dozen of those cattle that he owns on the thousand hills.

God did not answer that prayer in the way or in the timing I’d expected. From time to time, I would meet someone to make a big “ask” and wonder, Could you be the transformational donor I’ve been praying for? Alas, over and over, they were not. But then one day, when I was least expecting it, I received the phone call that would change our lives.

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