A Word of Thanks for Dick Turnwall

I just got word that Dick Turnwall went to be with Jesus yesterday. I want to give public thanks for a life-directing influence he had on me.

Dick was the Executive Minister of the Minnesota Baptist Conference in 1979 when, on October 14, in the wee hours of the morning, God rocked my world. Soon after midnight, there was no turning back. There arose in my soul a deeply settled conviction that God was calling me to leave academia (teaching at Bethel College) and pursue pastoral ministry.

Within a few days, I found myself sitting with Dick in his office on County Road E2, telling him that I was going to resign at Bethel and asking if he would help me find a church. I said, I am green as can be with no pastoral experience. I was 34 years old and skipped all the practical courses in seminary.

He called Marvin Anderson, a church history professor at Bethel, who was the chairman of the search committee at Bethlehem Baptist Church, downtown Minneapolis. I had never been to the church and didn’t know where it was. Marvin called me. I candidated in February of 1980 and began my ministry in July.

If Dick had pointed me anywhere else, I probably would have gone. O how little we design our lives! The mind of man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps. And he uses people. Thank you, Lord, for Dick’s willingness to take a risk on a totally green 34 year old Bible teacher. Bethlehem has been merciful to me. Far better than I deserve.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.