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.
In the comments of my previous post, Dr. Steve Lemke has responded to my comments regarding the factual errors in his journal article. I was going to leave my response in the comments but at the conclusion felt that it was better to write a follow-up post here. I will not reproduce Lemke’s comment here, although I will post some quotes from his comment. My response is as follows:
I assume that, despite all the qualifications, you are offering a retraction on what you have written about Bethlehem Baptist Church. If my assumption is right, then your bearing false witness against Piper and BBC has secondary implications–your charge of theological compromise. The only right thing to do in a retraction is not only to correct the factual errors but also retract your falsely derived conclusion as well.
By the way, I do think you misunderstood what I was saying, although my statement could have been clearer. I was not saying that the CHURCH approved the motion, but that the ELDERS had adopted it.
Elder approval of a motion an a policy enacted by the congregation is not the same thing, at least in Baptist polity. To say that “an amended policy was finally enacted in 2005 is simply not true, even with your argumentation (in the same paragraph you call it “the new policy“). BBC holds to Baptist polity with congregational rule while being led by plurality of elders. Simply because the elders approved a motion does not mean it was a policy in the church, as Piper and the documents clearly explain. Having done a paper on the differences of Baptists and Presbyterians, you should know this.
The fact is that there were numerous ways which you could have contacted BBC, not the least of which is actually calling them (Sam Crabtree is the staff person you would want to talk to). The information is clear as day on their church website, and any search engine would get you in the information within 30 minutes of searching. The other site I referenced indeed was a blog–one that happens to be the most informative and reliable source of information on the internet. Because it is a blog, it is any less credible? “Not an internet site but a blog . . .” – what’s your point Steve?
Because the issue is not resolved does not mean that the church or elders are in active deliberation about this matter. You argue that this paper was presented in February of 2007. That was over a year after the motion was withdrawn and a year and a half before it was published in the journal article. As an editor, is it not your responsibility to make sure that the information you present is up to date and accurate?
Piper’s continued advocacy of allowing people into their church fellowship without having practiced believer’s baptism is the point, whether or not he temporarily backed away from it for pragmatic reasons.
Piper personally holds to a different position, but his advocacy of that position does not mean he allows people to be members apart from believer’s baptism. There is a difference from a personally held belief and the policy of a church. He said in the interview that BBC indeed does NOT allow people to join apart from believer’s baptism. He did not back away because of “pragmatic” reasons but because of a right understanding of Baptist ecclesiology–precisely what you charge him of compromising on! He was not going to force this issue but respectfully considered the disagreements among the plurality of elders and concerns of the congregation.
Your circumlocution does not strengthen your argument nor change the error you have made. You have not presented the facts or accurately represented BBC and John Piper. You owe them an apology and should not be defending your rationale with such justifications.
Finally, you are correct to say that your paper does not contain “inflammatory language,” but Dr. Lemke, you have wrongly presented a whole host of people. I have shown that you were not fair in the journalism of Collin Hansen, you falsely labeled “streams” of Calvinism, you wrongfully explained TULIP, you misrepresented Timothy George on ROSES, you bore false witness regarding BBC and John Piper, you missed the point of theological triage by Al Mohler, and you wrongly presented by the Presbyterian beliefs of infant baptism. So yes, no inflammatory language, but don’t you think that being wrong on all these points will not be considered a real provocation?
I, too, am willing to have good dialogue about these matters. I never questioned your salvation, although I said your scholarship did not represent Christian virtue. You are not telling the truth and representing the positions of those with whom you disagree accurately and fairly. Until you are able to do so, I do not see how anyone will be able to enjoy a productive and engaging discussion with you on these matters. Thanks for your comment, and I do hope that the future holds promise for charitable dialogue for the benefit of all people interested in the gospel, the church, and unity of faith in the fellowship of the saints.
Steve Lemke is not a fan of Together for the Gospel. The second half of his article is entitled, “Baptists and Presbyterians Not Together: Nine Marks Which Separate Baptists from Presbyterians,” where Lemke lays out his argument for Baptist separation (or, as I would argue, isolation). Interestingly enough, his first two marks are “soul competency” and “age of accountability”–not exactly bedrock doctrines of the Baptist tradition. In any case, he proceeds from there to believer’s baptism (mark 3) and baptism by immersion (mark 4). In the fourth mark, we find yet another major error in Lemke’s presentation–this time it is Bethlehem Baptist Church‘s position on baptism and church membership.
In the pertinent portion of Lemke’s commentary, he writes:
“Piper’s proposed statement did not find general agreement among the church’s elders, and the issue was discussed for several years. An amended policy was finally enacted in August 2005. Although expressing preference for baptism by immersion, the amended membership statement expressed the desire ‘not to elevate beliefs and practices that are nonessential to the level of prerequisites for church membership.’ Thus, according to the new policy, ‘Christians who have not been baptized by immersion as believers, but, as they believe, by some other method or before they believed, may under some circumstances be members of this church.’”
Now, for those of you who can remember back in 2005, the debate over baptism and church membership was no private matter. Documents were made public, and the discussion was one of the most heated in the blogosphere. I recall in particular one church’s elder body, Clifton Baptist Church, writing a letter to the elders of BBC encouraging them to reconsider the proposed amendment by the elders.