When Jason Meyer was recommended to be the successor of John Piper at Bethlehem, I took a couple of hours to share why I believe Jason would be a great candidate for such a position. Pastoral succession can be very difficult. I have heard of numerous churches that have struggled and failed in this challenging process of transition. Both John Piper and Jason Meyer have personally impacted my life in profound ways, and for that I’m grateful to watch with joy this video testimony played at Jason’s installation service last Sunday evening.
For He Alone Is Worthy: The Video Testimony of Jason Meyer’s Installation Service at Bethlehem Baptist Church
As you know, I have been praying for and paying close attention to the succession plan/process at Bethlehem Baptist Church. My interest is really twofold: on the one hand, this succession is between a hero (Piper) and a personal mentor (Meyer). On the other hand, the issue of pastoral succession is, in my opinion, one of the biggest issues facing local churches today. I can’t find the statistic, but somewhere I read that 3/4 of large churches are currently pastored by the leader during its most significant growth. In other words, the church’s identity/personality has been largely influenced and shaped by the personality/values of the lead pastor. When the pastor leaves, how will it affect the church? Is there any forethought or plan in place for the health and prosperity of the church and its mission for the next generation?
Along those lines, I am thrilled to see how God has unmistakably worked in the succession plan/selection process of the next lead pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Below is a video interview with John Piper and Jason Meyer, interviewed by Justin Taylor on the campus of Southern Seminary, in which they discuss for the first time together what God has done over the past year to bring it all about. Watching this, my heart is filled with gratitude on multiple levels, especially for God’s “leaning in” in choosing to make His will known in such a glorious way.
Last night, Bethlehem Baptist Church had an all-church congregational meeting to vote on the unanimous recommendation of the elders for the successor of John Piper as Associate Pastor for Preaching & Vision. As many of you know, I have had the privilege of knowing and being mentored by Jason Meyer, so I am particularly interested in the outcome of these events. The result of last night’s vote was an 99% affirmation (784 yes, 8 no), further paving the way to a healthy succession plan under the leadership of the elders (and of course John Piper). Plans are for Jason to begin ministering in this capacity on or before August 1, 2012. Pray for him, BBC, and this process!
John Piper reflected on this vote through a blogpost on BBC’s website. He wrote:
On February 13, 1980, Bethlehem voted to call me as her pastor. The vote was 149 yes, 17 no (89.7%). Thirty-two years later the church is more united than ever behind her leaders. For this I am on my face with tears of thankfulness and joy.
Jesus Christ is the head of this church. And he means to have the glory. Let him have it from your heart and lips. Gather your family and friends and give thanks. Tell him how amazing he is. Exult in the cross of Christ. Without it there could be no such blessings on sinners like us.
Praise God for the unity He has given BBC, wisdom to the elders, and humble dependence upon God to shepherd them through this critical period in the life of their church.
This post is entirely unplanned. In fact, I just happened to see John Piper’s tweet about the succession plan going forward. And now that the choice has been made, I’d like to share a thought two why I believe Jason Meyer is the right man for Bethlehem Baptist Church as the successor to John Piper.
I met the guy who is replacing John Piper first on a UPS tram at 3:30AM nearly five years ago. He was reading his Greek New Testament, something which I came to find he was actually memorizing. I had to meet this guy. Walking to the parking lot, we connected as I soon to find what a gracious guy Jason Meyer really is. Jason worked third shift with me, seeking to evangelize the same people I was seeking to reach. He also pastored a small church out in the sticks, faithfully expositing God’s Word in total obscurity. He was completing his Ph.D while teaching NT Greek, and if I remember correctly, holding down a couple of other jobs. What I came to find God enabling Jason to do was nothing short of amazing. More than that, God afforded me a year of getting to know the kind of man Jason is, which leads me to this post and Piper’s announcement.
While in seminary, I always wanted a godly man to mentor me, to speak into my life and help me love Jesus more. Three years in, I did not think it would happen. But on that cold, autumn morning on a stinky UPS bus, God answered that prayer through Jason. Over the course of the next year, Jason would become my Greek professor, mentor, and a great personal friend. Every Thursday morning, we would meet at the UPS cafeteria, reading through Scripture and praying fervently for the Lord to work in our life. It was honestly the highlight of my week. We were not just praying. We were communing with God. The people you’re with when those moments occur are the ones you want to have with you the rest of your life.
I certainly don’t know Jason as well as others do, but I did have the opportunity to see his life up close and personal, how he loves his wife Cara and precious girls (and since then two adopted sons). I been with him in prayer, observed his love and passion for God’s Word. The sincerity and gravitas by which he walks with Jesus permeates every aspect of his life. There is nothing sensational about Jason Meyer, and that is why most of the evangelical world does not know him. He hasn’t sought a platform when he could have easily had one. He’s not that kind of guy. He’s the guy you meet at 3:30AM in the UPS cafeteria and the young preacher boy giving his life away to a small country church that no one has ever heard of. That’s the guy I believe God had long ago called to be the man to succeed John Piper.
There’s a lot of similarity between John Piper and Jason Meyer.
Long-time readers of this blog will know that I used to do “book alerts” which were basically previews of new book releases. I don’t really have the time to do those kinds of posts these days, but I thought I’d make a list of books, perhaps on a quarterly basis, that I think you should check out. Here are 15 books scheduled to be published between August-November 2009 worth looking into (in some kind of order):
15 New Books This Fall to Check Out
1. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters by Tim Keller
2. The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World by Michael Horton
3. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer
4. Filling Up he Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale Adoniram Judson, and John Paton by John Piper
5. Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley
6. The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus by Stephen Smallman
7. The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson
8. J.I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: The Impact of His Life and Thought by Timothy George
9. Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice by Bryan Chapell
10. Evangelicalism: What Is It and Is It Worth Keeping? by D.A. Carson
11. The Power of Words and the Wonder of God by John Piper
12. God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom – Graham Cole
13. Four Views of Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology by Stanley Gundry
14. Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and Not Yet by Jason Stellman
15. Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional by Jim Belcher
Any of these books pique your interest? If so, which ones and why?
Edit: Somehow I forgot two books that should be on this list, although I don’t know where to put them. They are:
* A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones
* The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas Kostenberger, Scott Kellum, and Charles Quarles (eds.)
It was not my intention that this series last for over a month, but I guess that’s how things fall out sometimes. But I wanted to put all the links together as well as create a PDF for anyone desiring to download these articles for their own benefit. Let me provide a brief background:
In early March, I shared an account of sharing the gospel at work that was an intense moment in my life. I entitled that post “The Cross Isn’t Sexy: A Dying Man’s Confession.” That article produced considerable feedback, both for and against my actions. Given that the issue of evangelism in the workplace is one that I have been currently dealing with in real life, and realizing that there was little I could find on the topic, I decided to write a couple of articles on the topic as well as invite my fellow blogging partners to pitch in as well. Below are the articles that have been posted over the past month on the topic of “missional work”:
1. The Cross Isn’t Sexy: A Dying Man’s Confession (by Timmy Brister)
2. Missional Work (by Timmy Brister)
3. Putting in Time or Preaching the Truth: What’s More Valuable? (by Owen Strachan)
4. Don’t Waste Your Work! (by Timmy Brister, excerpt from John Piper)
5. Because Christ Is Risen, Abound in the Work of the Lord (by Timmy Briser, Easter reflection)
6. Witnessing at Work: Sacred vs. Secular? (by Jason Meyer)
7. Gospeling at Work, Part 1 (by Matthew Wireman)
8. A Christian Education and Witnessing at Work (by Jason Meyer)
9. Gospeling at Work, Part 2 (by Matthew Wireman)
10. Churches, Affirm the Importance of Work and Mission (by Timmy Brister)
11. A Working Paradigm for Missional Work (by Timmy Brister)
I am grateful for Owen, Jason, and Matt for participating in this discussion. We hope to do more of this kind of multi-author topical focus in the future.
For those who would like to have these articles in a downloadable PDF (with active hyperlinks), here it is:
For previous work related to this series, check out my compilation post on “elemental evangelism” (which also has a PDF version).
Here is Jason Meyer’s second contribution to “missional work”. Check out “Witnessing at Work: Sacred or Secular?” also by Jason.
I will always remember the day that my dad gave me some wise counsel. He said, “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” I am sure he told me other wise things, but I probably was not listening. I have kept this particular piece of advice me for all of these years because something about it rung true. I never thought it had anything to do with evangelism, but I do now. I will try to explain my rationale in what follows.
Most people wouldn’t give a minimum-wage job a very high ranking in the category of “rewarding and fulfilling.” Therefore, a college education can be an essential aspect of finding a job that fully fits with your God-given gifts and passions. Although some colleges would omit the “God-given” part, most recruiters at colleges and universities use this kind of proverbial wisdom to press for educational decisions from high school seniors.
My burden today is to point out that following this advice will actually cause you to be a more effective evangelist at work. In other words, one of the most neglected strategies for witnessing at work begins long before your hire date: know yourself so that you can identify what a fulfilling vocation looks like for you, and then take the necessary steps to secure a job within that field. Education is one of those “necessary steps” for many today.
The importance of finding a meaningful and fulfilling vocation for evangelism should be obvious: it is hard to witness winsomely concerning the joy of following Jesus when we look miserable at work. I remember working at jobs where I had to fight feelings of futility. There were some days when I felt like they could train a monkey to do my job, which certainly didn’t leave me with lasting feelings of fulfillment.
Now don’t get me wrong, we can still glorify God in the midst of the most mundane work imaginable. I remember learning that lesson as a college sophomore when I read Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God. Great theology should form the foundation of great doxology. In this case, knowing and cherishing God’s glorious omnipresence has enormous ramifications for our ongoing experience of God in the midst of menial tasks like washing dishes. Jesus didn’t say: “I’m with you always, except when you are washing dishes.”
Continuing in our series on missional work, Jason Meyer chimes in to address the false dichotomy with a biblical-theological approach. More contributions to come, but for now, consider Jason’s response.
Christians tend to see things in pieces and miss the big picture. This inability to see in a panoramic way leads to many false dichotomies and dualisms. I think recovering a full-fledged biblical worldview would help put the pieces together into a more coherent whole, which in turn would eliminate much of the spiritual schizophrenia that Christians in the workplace often feel.
Many Christian authors are turning to a creation, fall, redemption model as a biblical grid for understanding all of life. Although this grid is useful in many ways, I will focus on three benefits for the sake of the question we are addressing today. First, it allows one to share the gospel in a structured way by answering the three essential questions that many people keep asking: (1) where did we come from [creation], (2) what went wrong [fall], and (3) what is the solution [redemption]. Second, this three-fold grid also functions as a tool for analyzing the worldviews of others, like those with whom we work. Contending worldviews must attempt to answer these same three questions and so Christians and their co-workers can compare and contrast their answers and assess how these answers stack up next to the reality that they see all around them. Third, it is not only useful for explaining the gospel in our personal evangelism at work, it is also useful for understanding a Christian perspective on work itself. I would like to spend a few moments explaining this third benefit.
Many Christians think that our sole objective is to receive salvation and share the plan of salvation with others. Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth offers some staggering statistics that solidify this common stereotype. She notes that research polls identify the strength of evangelical convictions in these areas. An overwhelming percentage of evangelicals believe the authority of the Bible, and the necessity of personal salvation and evangelism. However, she also noted that no one polled (not one person) could articulate a distinctively Christian mindset toward work. Christians typically thought in terms of infusing the secular with the sacred by praying at work or having a Bible study. When pressed further, Christians talked in vague terms about the importance of honesty and morality at work. Now let us be clear: these are all good answers in and of themselves. But they fall far short as complete answers. Can Christians glorify God at work even in those moments when they are not explicitly telling others about Jesus or praying with them?
It’s really amazing how things have been coming together over the past 3-4 months. The first blog development was bringing Jason Meyer on for book reviews and contributing to blog series; then came Owen Strachan for culture commentary as well as various contributions; and now I am excited to share the news that Matthew Wireman will be coming on board to help develop a major part of P&P – Blue Collar Theology.
Matt and I have talked several times over the past couple of weeks about our passions, goals, interests, and future ministries. Prior to coming to Southern, Matt attended The Bethlehem Institute (TBI) in Minneapolis, MN (2003-2005) as well as served with Campus Crusade for Christ in Argentina (2000-2002). Currently, he is working on PhD in Systematic Theology at Southern Seminary with the future plans of pastoring, teaching, and and developing a form of church-based training with an emphasis on training future elders. Both the academic pursuit and ministerial vision of Matt line up beautifully with the purposes of Blue Collar Theology, for we both believe that the local church should be the place where leaders are developed, trained, and educated. Matt writes,
My vision for our ministry is to plant churches and form good church-based theological training. I want to have an elder-training center where we build into men’s lives who aspire to the office of elder and send them out to plant/re-vitalize churches.
I am thrilled about Matt coming on board to help develop a robust Blue Collar Theology where lay people are encouraged in their theological pursuits, churches are strengthened in their vision for theological education, and pastors are given resources to develop their people to love God, apply the truth, and communicate the gospel. Matt will begin his contributions this week, starting with theological accountability. Please welcome Matt to P&P as I know that his contributions will assist, edify, challenge, and encourage you in the journey ahead.
I have asked that my fellow contributors of P&P, Owen Strachan and Jason Meyer, to participate in the discussion regarding missional work. Here is Owen’s very helpful contribution. He is a PhD student in Historical Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Managing Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding.
Read more at his blog, consumed.
The answer to the above question must be carefully qualified, in my humble opinion.
Both pursuits, offered out of a redeemed heart, are honoring to God. God has given His creation and His people the opportunity to labor for His glory (1 Co. 10:31). As with all things that we do, we have the opportunity to present our works and deeds to God as gifts. How do we do so? By performing them out of a heart of love. Though it is easy to get a bit over-heated about the nature of work–some theologians have oversold its value, as I see it–and see every task as ushering in the kingdom, it is clear from the Bible that work possesses inherent dignity when done to maximize God’s glory. Though the actual tasks we perform may not in themselves advance the kingdom (the kingdom is advanced primarily by proclamation and inherently spiritual activity, I would contend), yet our attitudes, our dispositions, and our constant devotion to God can well bless the Lord.
We see, then, that while making a shoe may not inherently advance the kingdom (the shoe possesses no spiritual value, after all), the attitude of the shoemaker (his worshipful heart expressing itself even as he sows the shoe together) and the good he accomplishes with the shoe (passing it on to a needy child in the name of Christ, for example) may well contribute to the forward movement of God’s kingdom. Not everything we do contributes to this forward progress, I would argue, but this is not to say that we cannot bring God glory in our daily goings-on and, perhaps often by means of our heart and our spiritually minded acts, claim some kingdom ground. We see, then, that the matter of work–indeed, all of our daily acts–becomes a matter of theological consideration, and requires us to carefully define the kingdom on biblical grounds.