Dear friends of TBI,
With trembling gratefulness in my heart, I look at the remarkable cluster of visionary ministries growing like fruit on the tree of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
- We are a kind of mission sending agency with 85 foreign missionary units (families or singles) who count Bethlehem as their main sending base.
- Campus Outreach has exploded in its four-plus years at Bethlehem with 25 staff on four campuses.
- Desiring God has been spreading resources and holding conferences for over a decade and nourishes people around the world with its Internet presence.
- Children Desiring God is transforming the way children are nurtured in over two thousand churches in the US and overseas.
- Bethlehem Urban Initiatives pushes truth and love into the inner city.
- Treasuring Christ Together plants churches and channels Christ-exalting relief and reformation to the poorest of the poor.
- The Bethlehem Institute has graduated nine classes of pastoral and missionary-destined men for Bible-saturated, God-centered ministry.
I mention these as a testimony to God’s sovereign grace working through a remarkably unified, Christ-exalting, Bible-cherishing, Spirit-filled, doctrinally Reformed, people-loving, hard-thinking, deep-feeling, justice-advancing, globally aware, eldership at Bethlehem over the last two decades. In other words, the fruit of such a ministry has not only been souls saved and saints edified, but new structures of multiplication created.
One of the most explosive of these new structures is The Bethlehem Institute. I am writing this letter to express my amazement and joy over what God appears to be doing with this ministry.
Nothing here has been precipitous. It has been in the making for over ten years. I would say it goes back twenty-five years to Tom Steller’s earliest mentoring of apprentices and teaching hundreds of our people what used to be called LTTTR (Leadership Training Through Theological Reflection).
Now a flash point has been reached for moving to new levels of training and a new place of ministry.
The new levels of education include moving toward becoming an accredited college and seminary. That means offering as soon as is feasible an accredited BA in Biblical Studies and an accredited MA and MDiv at the seminary level.
One evidence of God's blessing in this plan is that the TBI Board, the Bethlehem Council of Elders, and the church as a body have now approved moving in this direction.
What moves me most deeply about this plan is that it is all built around a solid, biblical, Reformed affirmation of faith—The Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith. The longer I have thought about it, the more it has seemed wise to me that the educational enterprise I would love to give my remaining life to is one that is robustly Reformed with all the vital signs connected with Christian Hedonism:
- A vision that stresses the sovereignty of God,
- the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,
- the inerrancy of Scripture,
- rigorous thought with disciplined habits of mind,
- intense affections awakened by a true vision of God,
- cultural awareness and discerning engagement,
- creative and compelling expressions of great old truth in fresh ways,
- global concern, especially for the unreached peoples of the earth,
- courageous, risk-taking readiness to suffer and die for Christ,
- a wartime lifestyle that prefers simplicity over luxury and generosity over riches,
- serious friendships that last a lifetime,
- corporate life and worship in the local church,
- and a respect for history and what we can learn from it.
Add to this that the dreamers at this stage in TBI include those who have long experience in higher education. They see the paralyzing effects of massive debt incurred by college students. We believe there is a way to re-conceive higher education to avoid this kind of debt so that students are free for radical mission. We do not aim at just being another school. It will have, we believe, a unique combination of theological, intellectual, affectional, communal, and financial commitments.
I would like to be a part of this vision for the remainder of my life. I believe the church and the world need leaders shaped by this vision of God. I pray that you will find it compelling. If you would like to know more or to share in it, please contact Tim Tomlinson, Executive Director of TBI, or Tom Steller, Dean of TBI. Send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things,
Pastor for Preaching and Vision
Bethlehem Baptist Church