Junctures like this don’t happen very often. Thirty years of marriage, twenty years of ministry at Bethlehem for David, ten years of ministry at Bethlehem for Sally. This article is an advance overflow of my heart.
David is presently the Pastor for Family Discipleship and oversees that vast department. Sally is a minister for family discipleship specializing in curriculum development for children and youth. In their present roles they are a powerful team for families and children and youth. More on that in a moment.
But first, most people at Bethlehem now do not know that David began his work at Bethlehem in urban ministry. He and Sally moved to the neighborhood before Noël and I did in 1980. They became part of Bethlehem at roughly the same time we did. The question in those days was: Will this 111-year-old church survive in the city and have any impact on its urban surroundings?
The long-time veterans of this church and those of us who came after 1980 answered yes. We would live here and, God willing, die here. The church would stay in the city. In those days moving into the city to be a part of the neighborhood and belong to Bethlehem was what we called people to do. David and Sally were the leaders. We saw it early on and began to draw David slowly into more formal leadership responsibility in urban ministry until he was our first fulltime pastor wholly focused on urban and social ministries.
The years that David and Sally led us in that ministry were fruitful. Some of the most moving testimonies of people coming to faith were owing, under God, to the ministries they led in the Twin Towers across Eighth Street. I plan to give you more details on September 3rd. But for now, know that there will be people in heaven to greet David and Sally with crowns of joy because of their investment in the city.
In those early days, David and Sally sowed the seeds for the adoption passion that has swept our church. They adopted Amy and Kristi and raised them in such a way that a new vision began to form in our heads—a vision for parenting and children’s discipleship.
When the leaders of the church became convinced that the children’s ministry needed fulltime pastoral leadership, the question was: Where can we find a man who believes that the supremacy of God in all things can shape and drive ministry to children? I can still remember the very booth in the old (burned down) Dinky Town Pizza Hut where I sat across from David and Sally and told them: We think you are the answer to that need. We think you should move from urban ministry to Children and Parenting.
Eventually they said yes. What an incredibly fruitful decision that proved to be! Their ministry has always been a partnership. There is no doubt that David is the head of his wife as the Bible says he should be. But he holds this woman in the highest esteem, as we all do. And together they have led this ministry to levels of influence beyond anyone’s dream. It has overflowed to thousands of other churches through the curriculum and conferences of Children Desiring God.
The key has been the intentional application of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God for the glory of God for children and parents. The word “intentional” is crucial. Raising children and teaching them at home and in the church should not just happen. It should be thought through. What is the goal? What are the means? What kind of training and equipping and leadership will it take? Everything was thought through from the Scriptures with God at the center.
David and Sally really believe that a big picture of God matters for children. They believe children can comprehend and appreciate far more than most parents think they can. They do not water down the truth. They say it so that children can get it. They know that children can understand and embrace a great vision of a sovereign God. If you never tell a child God is anything less than absolutely sovereign he will think: That is as obvious as the broad-day sun.
In recent years, David and Sally have led the way in expanding the vision beyond children into youth and beyond. The question that drives them is: What kind of twenty-five-year-olds do we want to raise up at Bethlehem? Then, you work back through issues of marriage and singleness and dating and discipline and ministry and friendships and Bible reading and prayer and home and church.
Again “intentional” is the word. If we want men who are mature, godly young men at age twenty-five and women who are mature, godly young women at age twenty-five, what are the decisions you make while that young man or woman is still in the womb? And at two years old? And ten years old? And fifteen years old? David and Sally are leading the way in answering these questions and shaping our cradle-to-the-grave vision for discipling at Bethlehem.
Personally, I have loved working side by side with this amazing couple. Sally is one of the most Bible-saturated people I have ever known. She is one of the reasons that this hyphenated phrase exists at Bethlehem. She is also one of the main reasons there is a Fighter Verse program. But not only Bible-saturated. She is also prayer-permeated. God only knows how many of our children (I speak personally, with deepest gratitude) will be in the kingdom because Sally carried them on her heart with tears.
Both David and Sally have been among my most consistent encouragers, especially in times of conflict and controversy. They have given words that were more timely in sustaining me than they knew.
There is so much more to say. But I will save some for September 3rd. Even if you do not know David and Sally, I hope you will come, mainly because I know that this evening will be so God-centered that you will go home rejoicing.
I am looking forward to saying and hearing more. We love you, David and Sally.