FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Funding for a new building for the College at Southwestern and the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has reached the two-thirds mark for the cost of construction.
The seminary received a $12 million lead gift from Harold and Patricia Mathena of Oklahoma City in October and a $1 million challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation in February. An additional $3 million in gifts and pledges place the overall total at $16 million raised thus far.
The 73,000-square-foot building is tentatively named Mathena Hall.
“There are living in this world 7 billion unsaved men and women, boys and girls,” Mathena, a businessman and bivocational evangelist, said in announcing the $12 million gift.
“I also know that, from the beginning, Southwestern Seminary’s mission has been to prepare men and women to take the Gospel to the ends of the world,” Mathena said in a mid-October chapel.
“To enhance this mission of taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to every man and woman, we [the Mathena family] believe that the Lord wants a home for the proclamation of the Gospel on this campus. We want to be a part of that,” Mathena said. “After much prayer, [my wife] Patricia and I want to give you today this pledge of $12 million as our testimony and our personal stewardship commitment to the College at Southwestern and to the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions — for the building of a complex to hold their strategic ministries.”
Mathena was relatively poor in his early years, working as a roughneck in the oil industry and later serving in the pastorate. After working as both a full-time and bivocational pastor at various churches, Mathena became a full-time evangelist. Using his experience from the oil field, he founded a manufacturing company for the oil industry as an effort to support his family during his evangelistic ministry.
In 2012, Mathena sold his business for more than $200 million. The following Sunday, Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City received Mathena’s tithe: a check for more than $20 million. For Mathena, the stewardship principles he has practiced all his life continue to motivate him, in his words, “to put his money where his mouth is,” investing in ministry efforts to further the Kingdom of God.
The nonprofit Mabee Foundation was founded in 1948 by John and Lottie Mabee to assist religious, charitable and educational organizations. When the Mabees died in the early 1960s, they left a substantial portion of their personal estates to the foundation, based in Tulsa, Okla. The foundation continues to carry out the Mabees’ vision, and evidence of its benevolence can be seen throughout the Southwestern United States.
“The dream of connecting our students across the world with the ability to attend classes on a virtual basis in Mathena Hall is another step closer to reality,” said Mike Hughes, Southwestern’s vice president for institutional advancement.
“Mathena Hall will end up being the most technologically advanced building on the campus of Southwestern,” Hughes said. “As the world gets smaller, we clearly want to seize the opportunity to bring more students into the classrooms of Southwestern, whether the students are residential or online.”
Hughes said, however, that in order for Southwestern to receive the Mabee Foundation’s $1 million challenge grant, the seminary must raise the balance of the construction cost, or $23 million, in gifts or pledges by January 2016. He encouraged friends of Southwestern to begin praying about “joining this strategic and life-changing funding effort to raise a total of $24 million, which will end up sending missionaries, pastors and other church workers across the globe to share the Gospel.”
Hughes added that Southwestern has achieved many notable milestones yet “the gap between aspirations and means has widened. Specifically, ‘people and program’ growth has outpaced the seminary’s current facilities.”
Concerning the $12 million lead gift from the Mathenas, Paige Patterson, Southwestern’s president, said last fall, “Harold Mathena knows that evangelism and missions are not accomplished through a building. My pledge to Harold Mathena has been that this building will be used to train men and women for the glory of God to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I promised him that, and that’s what he’s interested in. Bricks and mortar, he knows you have to have them, but in the end, what he’s interested in is the taking of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
The new building will be located to the west of the longtime president’s residence, Pecan Manor. In addition to housing the undergraduate college and the school of evangelism and missions, Patterson said the building will contain up-to-date classroom facilities and a memorial with some of the memorabilia of Lottie Moon, a Southern Baptist missionary who spent nearly 40 years teaching and evangelizing in China.
Hughes said the new building will ameliorate critical facility limitations as well as accommodate future growth and sustainability. He added that it will be “an outward expression of Southwestern’s abiding commitment to the spiritual formation of all who come to Southwestern to prepare for ministry and to the mandate to reach the world for Christ.”
To view a rendering of the new building as well as information about the College at Southwestern and the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, visit swbts.edu/mathenahall.