The Pilgrim Year
I thank God for the completion of the new building and for the patience and flexibility of the staff during this pilgrim year away from our onsite facility. While the Education for Exultation building was being built, the staff was housed in rental facilities at 800 Washington Avenue North. We moved the offices into the fourth floor of the new building on December 11, 2003. As I write there have been no loans. All has been paid for with cash that the people have given so generously. The project will cost over $7,000,000 and we are almost finished paying for the soft costs. Over $2,000,000 was given to the Education for Exultation vision this year. We gave public thanks to God as we dedicated the building on January 18, 2004.
The series on Romans which began April 26, 1998, continued through Romans 9 and 10 and into Romans 11. These were weighty texts, but God was at work, both saving and sanctifying. It is a wonderful thing to hear the testimony of people converted to Christ through the truth of God's absolute sovereignty.
Treasuring Christ Together
We devoted seven weeks to prayer and fasting during the summer as we sought God's leading concerning the multi-campus way of growing as a church. At the end of that time I presented a vision called Treasuring Christ Together. The Council of Elders approved it and I preached four messages on it September 7 - October 5, 2003. The essence of the vision was stated like this:
Treasuring Christ Together (TCT) is a multiplying movement of congregations, campuses, and churches defined and united by their common Mission and Biblical Life and Doctrine.
The Mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.
The Biblical Life and Doctrine is The Bethlehem Institute (TBI) Affirmation of Faith.
As a part of Treasuring Christ Together, Bethlehem Baptist Church is committed to an aggressive strategy of multiplying such congregations, campuses and churches as God adds to his church those who are being saved.
This vision has given deeper commitment to the North Campus effort that began last year. We moved from simulcast Sunday mornings to a new Saturday night service which is taped and played the next morning on alternate campuses where I am not preaching live. As I write, we are pursuing hard a very specific opportunity to locate the North Campus in its own building at the latest by September, 2004 and, we hope, sooner. In addition we helped fund ($30,000) a new church plant as apart of TCT in Charlotte, NC lead by Coty Pinkney.
The New Affirmation of Faith for Elders
One of the most significant events of the year was the congregational approval on December 10 of a change in church By-laws that now require the elders of the church to agree with The Bethlehem Baptist Church Affirmation of Faith. This was formerly the TBI Affirmation of Faith. The effect of this action is to solidify for the future the strong commitment of the church to a doctrinal identity that we believe is Biblical and historic and healthy for the church. The Affirmation of Faith may be read at www.bbcmpls.org.
New Staff and New Outreach
This year we added to the pastoral staff Tom Eckblad as Pastor for Counseling with a view to hundreds of lay people being trained in soul-care. Tom will carry a modest load of counseling and devote himself to mobilizing and equipping us to help each other flourish in the kind of radical Christian living Jesus calls us to.
Campus Outreach moved to Bethlehem this year. Ken Currie, as the leader and as a pastoral staff member, as well as Chris White, Jen Owen, Samm Bridgforth, Paul Poteat, Mark Batluck, and Andrew Knight came to Minneapolis to establish a ministry of evangelism and life-on-life discipleship on the campuses of the Twin Cities.
The noticeable advance in racial harmony efforts this year would be the Every Tongue and Nation Choir. Not only has the choir grown significantly but the community they have built under Chuck Steddom's leadership is exemplary for all of us. Besides that, their ministry among us on Sunday morning is rich with expressive life.
I thank the church for the four-week writing leave I was given in March. Published this year were Don't Waste Your Life and The Prodigal's Sister. I devoted another couple weeks in November to writing The Passion of Jesus Christ which was published the second week of January, 2004. The year 2003 also saw the appearance of Noël's book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions. It was a tremendous pleasure to write the foreword to Noël's first book.
Speaking Engagements Outside Bethlehem
|Northwestern College||Roseville, MN||2/25/2003|
|Glendale Baptist Church||Miami, FL||4/30/2003|
|One Day||Sherman, TX||5/26/2003|
|Scottish Ministry Assembly||Glasgow, Scotland||6/10/2003|
|Proclamation Trust||London, England||6/25/2003|
|JEI Conference||Annapolis, MD||7/2/2003|
|JAMA National Conference||Atlanta, GA||7/4/2003|
|The Cove||Asheville, NC||7/8/2003|
|Sovereign Grace Conference||Lexington, KY||8/5/2003|
|Arab World Ministries Mission-Wide Conference||De Bron, Netherlands||8/15/2003|
|Global Consultation on Music and Missions||Fort Worth, TX||9/15/2003|
|Capitol Hill Baptist Church||Washington D.C.||9/23/2003|
|Navigator's Main Event||Cedar Falls, IA||10/17/2003|
|CCC Twin Cities Xperience||Minneapolis, MN||12/29/2003|
Talitha is a healthy and happy lover of Jesus in the second grade. Barnabas is a junior at Wheaton College who loves his church ministry as much as school. After a tearful and joyful reinstatement into church membership on July 30, with our blessing and joy Abraham married Molly Dillemuth on September 20. I was honored to do the wedding in Erie, PA. They live in Minneapolis where Abraham begins at the University in January and Molly works as a Speech Therapist in the public school system. Benjamin and Melissa have moved to Fortaleza, Brazil to care for Melissa's father. They hope to return in the summer of 2004 and perhaps bring him back to live with them. Karsten and Shelly gave us our first grandson, Abel William Piper in Worthington, MN, where Karsten teaches English at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College and serves as an elder in his church. Noël and I rejoice in God's overwhelming goodness to us in the strength and pleasure of our marriage and in the faithfulness of our children.
I thank God for 23.5 years of ministry at Bethlehem. It is a high and holy privilege to serve this church. Christ has been merciful to me in countless ways. I look back over my 58 years with a sense of wonder that he loves me and is willing to press on with me. There are good gifts beyond number that I have not mentioned. Jesus, you know them all. Thank you for your suffering for me. And thank you, Father, for not sparing your own son. And thank you, Holy Spirit, for your indwelling perseverance to keep me from falling.