The supremacy of God in all things, centering in the glory of Christ crucified and risen, remains the ultimate value that we prize and pursue at Bethlehem. The last quarter of the year this has been brought to a pointed focus in John 1:14— "We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
The larger Bethlehem becomes, the less detailed my annual report needs to be. There are so many key and detailed reports that mine no longer functions to provide the particulars of ministry. I praise God for this multiplication of reports and perspectives.
In the role I play at Bethlehem, accountability is measured in two ways: micro mutual personal accountability with Sam Crabtree for personal holiness and macro accountability for preaching and vision evidenced (or not) by the overall spiritual health and effectiveness of the church.
Preaching in 2008 had four focuses. We finished the series on the new birth. We spent five weeks in the Psalms. We revisited the issue of baptism, church membership, and the relational culture of love. And we started the series on the Gospel of John. My heart is filled with thankfulness for God's powerful and precious Word—and for the Holy Spirit who illumines it and wakens our hearts to see and savor what it reveals. And I thank God for the people of Bethlehem who graciously draw the best out of me with high and holy expectations.
The title of my position at Bethlehem includes the word vision. That implies not that I am the only person here with ideas or large dreams, but that under Christ the staff and elders look to me as a buck-stopper in perceiving, protecting, and proclaiming the overall vision of the church. I do this mainly through preaching where the vision of God and his purpose for us as a people is heralded. I also do it through staff interaction: My voice is not the only one, or even the most common one heard in various staff meetings, but it is an influential one when we are talking about theological and philosophical issues in ministry.
I also do it through writing. The weekly Taste & See articles and books and occasional papers and devotionals are all intended to display and defend the vision that drives us as a church. The books Spectacular Sins and This Momentary Marriage both appeared in 2008 and attempt to clarify and solidify the vision of God's sovereignty and marriage that shapes our church.
One of the on-the-ground challenges that keeps us busy is the fleshing out of the vision for a multi-Campus church. One of the things that God seems to be clarifying in these months is that in the post-Piper years, there should continue to be one church on different campuses. This does not require one preacher by video. There has been a rising sense that four different preachers on four campuses would be preferable to all the campuses becoming separate churches. My hope is to keep preaching and leading for at least seven more years, if God gives me strength. We believe the Lord will bring clarity in those years for what comes next in his good plans for Bethlehem.
Spreading Beyond Bethlehem
We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. To that end, the elders give me a good deal of freedom to carry the message about God's supremacy to other places. These are the places I have ministered in 2008 (including days of writing leave)
2008 Speaking Events
|January 21-23||3-Day Writing Leave for Spectacular Sins book||Minneapolis, MN|
|February 4-6||Desiring God Conference for Pastors||Minneapolis, MN|
|February 26-28||The Resurgence Conference at Mars Hill||Seattle, WA|
|March 27-28||Desiring God Regional Conference||San Luis-Obispo|
|April 7-10||New World Alive Conference||Wales|
|April 15-17||Together for the Gospel||Louisville, KY|
|April 22 - May 22||Writing Leave||Minneapolis, MN|
|May 26-27||New Attitude Conference||Louisville, KY|
|May 27-29||Gospel Coalition Pastors Colloquium||Deerfiled, IL|
|June 15-16||Resolved Conference||Palm Springs, CA|
|September 1-4||UCCF Forum Conference||England|
|Septmber 26-28||Desiring God National Conference||Minneapolis, MN|
|October 9||True Woman Conference||Chicago, IL|
|October 17-18||Desiring God Regional Conference||Austin, TX|
|November 20||Evangelical Theological Society||Providence, RI|
|December 1-3||3-Day Writing Leave for Ruthbook||Minneapolis, MN|
Staff and Elders
In 2008 we reorganized the elders so that there would be "organizational elders" and "congregational elders." The point was to free more elders for shepherding ministry, to increase the efficiency of macro and micro discussions, and to increase the focus of the congregational elders on their specific campus flocks. I rejoice in the wisdom and skill and prayerful, humble, servant leadership of our elders. I love them. I feel energized when I meet with them. Bethlehem is blessed to have them.
The pastoral staff is not complete. It will, I suppose, now at this size, never be complete since there will always be refinements of positioning and changes in organization. That's the way it is in every growing organism. What camaraderie we enjoy! May the Lord keep us deeply unified and passionate for the Word and work of Christ.
Noël and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on December 21, 2008. What a gift God has given me!—not just that Noël was willing to marry me 40 years ago, but that she has been faithful to me all these years. Thank you, Father, for my wife.
Talitha is in the seventh grade and has a faithful work ethic. She does over and above what she is required to do at Hope Academy, and her grades show it. I am deeply thankful that God has awakened faith in her soul and inclined her heart to worship him seriously and to serve others.
We have 10 grandchildren. As I write this, number 10 is being born in Wheaton, Illinois. "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Yes, I have a beautiful inheritance."