"There's something I want you to pray about, Jason," his grandfather said. Now this at least got his attention. Jason's grandfather was a successful farmer in rural South Dakota, and not to mention, a trusted elder in the local Reformed church. When he spoke, people listened — especially Jason standing beside him under a cold, overcast sky. "I've been noticing your life," his grandfather continued, "and I believe God is calling you into the ministry."
That's not what Jason expected. Matter of fact, he might as well as got a punch in the stomach. Ministry? Really? Like a pastor? Jason kept his thoughts to himself and politely listened to what his grandfather said. But it still didn't make sense. Not after what he'd been through.
His grandparents had played a crucial role in his life. Growing up in church, Jason had all the pieces together with what religion required. Attendance and morality seemed doable enough. He was a good kid, you know, even in the midst of his parents' divorce. He didn't lose himself in adolescent antics, as devastating as a broken home feels. He plugged away doing his thing and got more time with his grandparents, a couple who had been shaped by the gospel. His grandmother routinely sang hymns in the car. It's not that she was a great singer or that she was trying to get in extra choir practice. She sang hymns in the car because she loved Jesus everywhere she went, not just during the service on Sunday mornings. This was a paradigm shift for Jason. He knew his grandparents' faith was real and that he wanted it.
But as real as his faith became, he didn't remove all the high places. Or at least not his local basketball stardom. Jason grew up in a small town and knew how to shoot hoops. In fact, his six-plus athletic frame made him quite the player. In small towns like these, the weekly basketball games beat out the movies. Scores of folks came to the games, and therefore scores of them knew Jason. He had plans to play in college. By his senior year he was getting some attention from nearby programs, but then it became plain no scholarship money was coming. Basketball was taken away and he had to settle for a music scholarship, which for a baller like Jason Meyer, was slightly embarrassing. He was stepping out of high school into already disappointing horizons.
But then there was a breakup. He knew he wanted to have a good marriage, one that would never end up like his parents'. He had found the girl of his dreams, or so he thought. Yet, as systematically as basketball, the relationship ended. Saying goodbye to basketball and to this relationship plunged him into a deep sea of questions as he entered college. These two things composed his identity and now they were gone.
So Jason began to seek the Lord. The Lord, after all, is all Jason had now. And as he would come to find, the Lord is all he needed.
This is what his grandfather had noticed. This is what led up to this talk on a cold, overcast afternoon in rural South Dakota. Jason was content to be an occupational therapist, a Christian one, that is, who really cares about his clients. The ministry idea seemed odd. Nevertheless, he couldn't shake it. It became a burden to him and he grew desperate for clarity. "If you want me to do this, just tell me," Jason prayed. As a 19-year-old kid with his whole life ahead of him, he just wanted to be sure he was doing the right thing. He wanted a clear sign. He wanted God to speak. And as he sat in church the next Sunday, God did.
The pastor preached on the calling of the disciples and at one point in the sermon, having no knowledge of Jason's quest for clarity, the pastor looked out at the congregation and said there were some present who needed to answer God's call. Jason, now sitting on his hands and completely undone, whispered, "God, I'm yours."
Looking back, Dr. Jason Meyer considers this to be the watershed moment that bolstered him into devouring the Bible. "Psalm 1 was happening to me," he reminisced in a recent phone conversation. "I developed an insatiable longing for the word." One, he explains, that was accompanied by compassion and boldness he had never known before.
Jason was introduced to the writings of John Piper early in college, further encouraging his Reformed roots and matriculation at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. At the start of his training he heard about The Bethlehem Institute and knew that's where he needed to be. A friend had simply mentioned it to him and, as powerfully as that Sunday morning a few years prior, Jason felt God calling him there. So he went. He moved to Minneapolis with his wife, Cara, for two years of vocational eldership training. From there he went on to study at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he earned M. Div. and Ph. D. degrees. Soon after he launched his academic career and moved his growing family to Louisiana College where he became the professor of New Testament, but only until once again, he was drawn to Bethlehem.
The Bethlehem Institute became Bethlehem College and Seminary and they needed a NT prof. Sensing God's call, Jason moved his family back to Minneapolis where he began teaching at the seminary and became involved in the life of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Having written on Paul and the law, Jason was in the midst of his next book, a biblical theology of preaching — a book to be written by a whole Bible guy who understood the priority of preaching (as would any decent professor of New Testament). But he wouldn't stay a professor. In April 2011 Pastor John Piper preached his sermon on "The Antioch Moment" — an epic message that directed the church's prayers on the days ahead, in particular, the search for a successor to Piper's 32-year preaching ministry at Bethlehem. Jason was in the congregation and found himself in an experience similar to when he answered the call to ministry as a 19-year-old kid. The sense was hushed, but clear. "This is why you've led us back here," he prayed with a frog in his throat.
Call it a frog in his throat, but it probably felt more like those words from his grandfather on that cold, overcast afternoon. It was a punch in the gut. Following the three-decade long ministry of John Piper is a position to be pitied, not sought. But here is God's leading. The council of elders were united, and when Jason was put forward, the church responded with a resounding yes. Beginning January 2013, because God leads, Jason Meyer will become the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
"There's something I want you to pray about," Jason's grandfather said to him those many years before. When his grandfather speaks, people listen. And pray he did.