Let the bold type in each paragraph function as the outline of this report. Run your eyes down and pick out the ones that interest you. In sum, God has been kind to me and to us. I love being a pastor at this church. I enter the new year eager to preach the glorious Christ from the Gospel of John.
I love to be used by God to encourage, equip, and inspire younger leaders who will be spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things when I am gone. There were some personal and critical involvements with some younger pastors around the country-some private, some public-that gave me much joy.
Along this same line, Bethlehem Seminary admitted its first class of students into the four-year degree program. This is a remarkable turn of events and bodes well for the training of God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated pastors and teachers and missionaries. I am amazed that I wear the daunting title "Chancellor" for this powerful little institution.
I am thrilled that we added to the staff and elders some younger men. For example, Mike Tong as Pastoral Resident for Neighborhood Outreach Downtown; Jonathan Bowers as South Site Coordinator; Jason French as Pastoral Resident for Worship North; and Paul Poteat and David Mathis as Congregational Elders Downtown. I was 34 years old when I came to Bethlehem, and I would like to see a strong phalanx of 30-somethings in place across our campuses when I am done.
Mentioning my being 34 years old when I came calls to mind the fact that October 14, 2009, marked the 30th anniversary of my call from teaching at Bethel College to the preaching ministry. It was a decisive night in my life as God made the passion to proclaim overpowering. Noël confirmed it the next morning. Next stop, Bethlehem.
This year I was drawn more personally and publicly into the debate over how to relate to Islam. I had publicly dissented from the so-called Yale Response to the "Common Word" letter which Muslim leaders had written as a way of reaching out to Christians. This dissent led to my being part of a panel at the Evangelical Theological Society in November, in which I interacted with several evangelicals and two Muslim scholars. This issue remains prominent in our world both missiologically, politically, and personally (Muslims are our near neighbors).
Throughout this year, there was a growing emphasis on the way each Bethlehem campus can assume greater responsibility for shepherding its people. The restructuring of the Council of Elders into Organizational Elders (all-church oversight) and Congregational Elders (campus oversight) has come into its own with each campus eldership taking significant new leadership in caring for the people of that campus.
I was given permission by the Elders to plan an international ministry trip each year with a couple extra weekends out of the pulpit. The first of these trips was to pastors' conferences in Bonn, Germany, and Samara, Russia. It was hugely encouraging to me to see the work of God in these two very difficult situations. Delightfully, this trip included a return to the place of my doctoral studies in Munich, which I had not seen since 1974.
Another international piece to the year was the invitation to speak at the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in South Africa next Fall. Bethlehem hosted in December the Lausanne Statement Committee of which I was a part. This was an enriching time for me to be a part of a group of 20 international Christian leaders.
July 10, 2009, was the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, and we joined many in the Christian world marking this by focusing our National Conference on Calvin's vision of God, and by publishing a small biographical study, John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God.
I was happy to partner with some newer friends at Christian Focus Publications in the release of Finally Alive. And our old friends at Crossway brought out Filling up the Afflictions of Christ (the fifth book in the Swans Are Not Silent biographical series). It has been thrilling to watch the International Outreach Department of Desiring God get this latter book into the hands of thousands of missionaries.
Advent 2009 was the first year since 1981 when no Advent Poems were read during the worship services. It seemed like the right year to bring that sweet tradition to a close. I am thankful for the kindness of the congregation in receiving them as long as they did.
One of the most moving experiences of the year was a visit to Angola Prison in Louisiana. I spoke in the chapel to about 800 prisoners and walked along one of the wings of death row speaking to the inmates. One of them was executed January 7, 2010. I spent about 45 minutes with him sharing the gospel of Christ and trying to awaken the hope of the thief on the cross. I sent him two letters after I got home. When he was executed he was wearing a gold cross-a tiny sign of hope that God may have answered the prayers of many.
My writing leave in 2009 was a month longer than the usual one month. I completed the first drafts of two books, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God and Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. I am deeply thankful to the church for these weeks of focused thinking and writing.
On the home front, changes included Talitha's returning to homeschool for the eighth grade. Noël worked with Abraham to build her new blog now at www.noelpiper.com. Both Noël and I launched Twitter accounts where we try to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things. (Don't expect to hear about the dog.)
God was again astonishingly kind to Bethlehem to bring in all the money we needed for the year. And more. This has been the story of my life and the life of Bethlehem. We are treated better than we deserve.
There is a reason for that. His name is Jesus. He died for us and took away the curse that hung over us, and bore the condemnation we deserved, and provided a righteousness that we needed and could not produce. This is why God adds so many good things to our lives though we don't deserve it. If he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not with him freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)? Yes, he will give us all we need.
That is the confidence we have entering 2010.
Thank you for your partnership in spreading a passion for this great Savior.
2009 Piper Speaking & Writing Calendar
|January 19-21||Together for the Gospel leadership meeting||Louisville|
|February 2-4||Desiring God Conference for Pastors||Minneapolis|
|February 5-April 1||Extended Writing Leave (wrote Think and Bloodlines)||Minneapolis|
|April 19||Evangelistic messages at Park Street Church||Boston|
|April 21-23||The Gospel Coalition||Chicago|
|April 23||The Pastor as Theologian||Chicago|
|April 30||Children Desiring God||Eden Prairie|
|May 6||Minnesota Teen Challenge||Minneapolis|
|May 11-13||Alistair Begg's Pastors Conference||Columbus, Ohio|
|May 18-20||Moody Pastors Conference||Chicago|
|June 4-6||Advance09||Durham, NC|
|June 14-15||Resolved||Palm Springs, CA|
|June 29-July 27||Vacation||Georgia|
|July 29-31||Mini Writing Leave||Minneapolis|
|August 5-6||WorshipGod09||Gaithersburg, MD|
|September 2||Chapel at Crown College||St. Bonifacius, MN|
|September 11||Native American Awareness Conference (Bethlehem)||Minneapolis|
|September 16-17||American Association of Christian Counselors||Nashville|
|September 25-27||Desiring God National Conference||Minneapolis|
|September 27||An Evening on Eschatology||Minneapolis|
|October 6-18||Speaking in Germany and Russia||Bonn, Samara, Munich|
|November 17-19||Evangelical Theological Society and Angola Prison||New Orleans|
|December 15-17||Lausanne Statement Committee||Minneapolis|
|December 30-31||Campus Crusade Twin Cities Xperience||Minneapolis|