This is my fifth annual report as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Therefore I will divide my report into two parts. The first will be a statistical survey of the past five years. The second will be a summary of 1984.
|Total gift income (excluding foundation):*
up 130% over 5 years
|Total missions (excluding O/A gifts):*
up 152% over 5 years
|Total to BGC (includes Project 84%):*
up 214% over 5 years
|Worship attendance (includes Lao):
up 30% over 4 years
|Sunday School attendance:
up 47% over 5 years
averge yearly increase 95
up 20% over 5 years
*figures are thousands
A Review of 1984
I am surrounded and supported by a remarkably powerful pastoral staff. They are not the kind of people who need prodding. They usually need a day off. They are theologically and spiritually deep. They are in earnest pursuit of "all the fullness of God." They are dreamers for the future. They are tender hearted. They are disciplined. They are thinkers. They are God-besotted.
It feels good to be complete. The responsibilities break out like this (the year is when we came on full time):
John Piper (1980): General oversight, cohering vision, preaching, staff discipleship, crisis presence.
Tom Steller (1982): Students, Missions.
Steve Roy (1984): Welcoming ministries, cell groups, adult education.
Char Ransom (1984): Ministries for children.
Dean Palermo (1985): Music and Worship.
I believe God, not man, has called us together for this hour at Bethlehem. It is thrilling to lay ourselves open to God's future for us and for you and for the world. We pledge ourselves to spend and be spent "for the advancement and joy of your faith."
This has been a year of awakening to frontier missions. I have come to some convictions that for me are new and full of unanticipated implications. One is this. If we think of the fulfillment of the Great Commission merely in terms of reaching more and more individuals, the compelling rationale for foreign missions vanishes. Why should we spend so much money trying to save a foreign individual when you can spend less and probably win more individuals right here in America?
Someone will say, "Because you ought to go where there aren't as many Christians." But why, if the only consideration is saving as many individuals as we can? Jesus didn't say, "Focus your soul-winning on the places where there are fewer Christians."
What's missing in this merely individualistic view of missions is the utterly crucial concept of people groups. Without this concept you can't ever know how close you are coming to completing the task Jesus gave us to do in the Great Commission. How many individuals must be won to Christ out of the four billion in order to say, "It is accomplished"?
But if you focus on the Biblical concept of people groups, the commission comes into much sharper focus and you can strategize toward its actual completion. The people group concept emerges, for example in Genesis 12:3, "By you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Also in John's vision of the redeemed in Revelation 7:9, "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues."
If the redeemed will include members from every tongue and tribe and people and nation, then our mission strategy should be focused on getting this job done, that is, planting a church in every unreached people group. There are ransomed sheep to be gathered in from every people and tongue and tribe and nation. The point of missions is to build bridges to those groups and call them to repentance and faith.
This has revolutionized my thinking about missions. It has given me a sense of urgency and strategy because it is so obvious that their are thousands of unreached people groups. The Lord's command has not yet been accomplished. We stand under orders. The challenge is clearer than ever.
So this has been a year of awakening to frontier missions. Tom Steller's job description was changed from students and education to students and missions. Noël and I opened our home each quarter to those considering missions and other vocational ministries. The "90 by 90" visions was born and approved by the deacons: To work and pray so that by 1990 at least 90 of our members would be sent out form us into vocational or short term missions, or vocational ministry at home.
Another all night of prayer was added Pentecost weekend, focused mainly on mission. A special fund drive was held during the summer which raised about $17,000 for new ventures in missions. We had one of the most thorough missions week ever with Virgil Olson and Ralph Winter and John Marrs. And Tom Steller and I traveled to our denominational headquarters to spend four hours picking the brains of all the leaders of the BGC Board of World Missions.
We sent out 17 of our people under the 90 by 90 auspices in 1984, four of whom are now serving the BGC in Japan and the Philippines. We paid our budget comitments regularly and at the end of the year completed all our obligations. See the financial reports for details.
It was a thrilling year, and I believe set a good pace for the next five.
Besides the individual messages there were four extended series. Spring: On the Holy Spirit. Summer: The Book of Ruth. Fall: The Names of God. Advent: Christ came into the World to Destroy the Works of the Devil.
In addition I accepted opportunities to preach or teach on the following occasions:
January 25-29, Stanford University Inter-Varsity
February 17-18, Toshavim Reflection
April 24, Crystal Free Singles
April 25, North Central Bible College
May 17-18, Houston, Texas Church retreat
August 7, White Oak Baptist, Greenville, S.C.
October 22-26, Wheaton College Chapel and Conference
October 31, Bethel Seminary Chapel
December 4, Bethel Seminary Chapel
I want to express my appreciation to the Council of Deacons and to the church for freeing me to accept the out of town engagement which took me away from the church.
Milestones on the homefront
This year the white house was removed and the additional parking was added.
Roger Fast assumed his duties as business manager at the first of the year and has made a significant difference in efficiency and accountability.
Steve Roy launched the 20:20 Vision (from Acts 20:20). The results have been a new sense of multiplying ministries among us.
Architects presented possible plans for expansion and a long range planning committee was formed by the deacons to bring a recommendation to the church in 1985.
M.O.M.S. became an increasingly significant ministry and outreach to young mothers.
The Urban Ministries Task Force was formally approved and funded by the deacons and Bethlehem became a part of Neighborhood Churches Acting Together.
Over 1,000 people worshipped her on Easter Sunday morning.
I turned 39 last week. During the Night of Prayer the people gave me one of the most wonderful birthday presents I have every received. They gathered around my chair and laid their hands on me and prayed. I shivered like I often do when someone prays for me. The tears puddled up in my glasses as I bowed my head. And I felt like I had been treated by God with unutterable grace.
I cherish my calling more today than ever before. I love the ministry of the word. I love the people of Bethlehem. I long to be a leader worthy of the trust and respect of the flock.
I realize that the more we grow—and we will grow—the more difficult it is for many people to get close to me as their shepherd. With the building of a staff and the multiplication of many nurturing groups in the church my role is transformed from shepherd to rancher. The ranch is bigger than the flock, and there are many ranch hands to care for. But I know the cattle will prosper because the keepers of the corrals are an extraordinarily gifted lot.
Noël and I are firmly in love after 16 years of marriage. Our four sons are a high commitment and a joyful treasure. Our health is good. Our needs are abundantly supplied. We stand in awe of the kindness of God to lead us to Bethlehem and to prosper the ministry which we enjoy so much.
As we enter the new year we lift our hands together and sing with you, our God reigns! "Come let us go up to Jerusalem and die with him."
In the service of the King,
John Piper, pastor