Celebrating Two Concurrent Decades of Faithfulness to Youth and Adults

August marked the ten-year anniversary for both David and Karin Livingston and Brad and Cindy Nelson on the pastoral staff at Bethlehem. There is a reason why we have waited until September 28 at 6:00 PM to celebrate God’s grace to us in their lives. There is a surprise for them and for you. But it couldn’t happen sooner. I am excited about it, and hope you will come and spend an hour and a half expressing thanks for these incredible gifts to our church.

Brad Nelson – Just think of it. How many churches can you think of where the Minister for Youth has flourished for 10 years in the presence of teenagers? What an achievement! I stand amazed at Brad’s resilience and perseverance and rugged faithfulness. There is no one easier to work with than Brad Nelson. He has been a humble and energetic team player all the way. He is courteous and kind and encouraging and hope-giving. He is free from guile and duplicity. What you see is what you get. He does not grumble or murmur. He is bent on the spiritual good of our young people. He is given to prayer. He leads the kids to the Word. He has a heart and hand for missions. There is always a dream a year or two out there in the future of where the youth might take the gospel to some less saturated place than America. And there is a burden for the city and the marginal kids as well as the faithful. I praise God for Brad for all this, but especially that three of my sons have come all the way through the youth ministry and one remains. And all of them are walking with God and love the church. That’s worth a billion dollars to me.

Cindy Nelson – Of course Cindy is at his side all the way, supporting and tolerating and even flourishing (more than most of us could, probably) with Brad’s schedule. Among all the other things she does for us, I feel especially grateful for about a year and a half of really concerted work on the Search Committee for our Associate for Worship and Leadership. That was one of the hardest working committees I’ve ever been on. On top of that, she shared the worship planning and coordination with Dan Holst in a crucial season of transition for us. Those were great days. What an immense privilege to have had Brad and Cindy come into my life and give themselves away for the supremacy of God at my side. Thank you, Father.

David Livingston – David Livingston is two days shy of being the oldest member of the full-time pastoral staff. He was born on January 13 and I on January 11, 1946. We believe that we are the oldest Boomers at Bethlehem. Anybody between us and January 1, 1946? We both grew up in homes with one older sister. We have both lost our mothers, and have dads who are the same age. Those are some of the less important ways that our lives are knit together.

Far more important is that our hearts beat together (as does Brad’s) for the vision of spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. David is called Associate Pastor for Cell Life and Adult Ministries. Could anything be broader? That is the way David’s heart is. In fact, it is much broader than even that, since he carries the torch for evangelism in a tangible way. I love David’s heart for our neighborhood (he lives three houses down from us). I love the way he is aggressive in pursuing new people. I love his God-besotted dealing with all areas of his ministry. I love his flexibility and utter cooperativeness. Like Brad, he is pure gold in genuineness and forthrightness—no hidden agendas or subtle emotional undercurrents. He has a thick skin and carries no grudges. This is the stuff of which truth-driven unity is made. I praise God for David.

Karin Livingston – And Karin is incredible. I hesitate to say too much about her lavish gift for hospitality, lest she feel obliged to invite us for another meal. No one could count how many get-togethers she has made happen. She is a rock in dealing with the pressures of the ministry that every pastor’s wife knows. She is an encourager that always builds up and never tears people down—a fact that is amazingly true of all our pastors’ wives. She brings a warm and welcoming spirit to the newer people at the church and leaves a wake of gladness behind her on Sunday morning. Lord, thank you that Karin and David came into my life in 1974 and have never given up on me.

My space is up. More on September 28. I love you four!

John

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