Note: This is a letter I wrote and personally sent 3 1/2 years ago to Pastor Jason Meyer, then the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist who replaced John Piper upon his retirement. I was grieved and angered at what I was hearing from the pulpit and in print, as a fellow Pastor and Christian, but additionally because both of the reach and influence of Bethlehem Baptist, and that I had several former students sitting under his teaching. I did not receive a response. Last Week (July 2021) Jason Meyer announced his resignation from Bethlehem, following the resignation of several of fellow “woke” pastors, the agenda he had been converted to and propagating having accomplished exactly what was nefariously intended by the Father of lies, that is, sowing seeds of division within his own church.
Dear Pastor Jason:
These are my observations and thoughts. I would gladly stand corrected where I am in error or lack context
You don’t know me, but I have known you from afar the past few years, through the Bethlehem Conferences and connections I enjoy with the College and seminary. Born, raised, and still living in Minnesota, I serve as Pastor of Lifespring Church, a little Reformed Baptist church plant in Crosby MN
I graduated from Bethel College (2001). Coming out of Biblical studies dept wrought with a feminist current, liberation theology and Greg Boyd, I can say, by God’s mercy, my faith is non-only intact, but now I have come to embrace Reformed theology and ecclesiology.
The conduit of my personal reform and endurance came through the teaching of Bethlehem Baptist Church and the DG conferences. There, for a young pastor like myself, in the midst of an Arminian, Seeker movement brand of generic evangelicalism, The Gospel and God’s Sovereignty invaded my world and re-orientated my Worldview.
I tell you this because I am not alone, Bethlehem was and has been a city on a hill for many of us. A beacon of accountability to The Gospel and the Holiness of God
I have appreciated your commitment to continuing this. I am sure it is very challenging, a large mega-church complex type of thingy that Bethlehem has become. I know your commitment to preaching the Word and keeping the Gospel front and center, as has been evident in the conferences.
To this end, I address you and admonish you as a friend and fellow young pastor(I am 39):
Please re-consider the embracing of the Social Justice/Identity Politics agenda which is permeating the Pastor’s conference and Bethlehem Baptist Church.
There have been many critiques and pauses written (www.justthinking.me; www.alliancenet.org/mos/1517/a-little-ol-fashioned-diversity;www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=20-07-026-f)…so I won’t go there in this.
But I believe the direction and insertion of what I can only perceive as a race agenda and identity politics will only serve to divide the church God has entrusted you to shepherd, which is united through the great work of the Spirit and kept unified through the normal means of Grace…Good preaching and sound theology.
I know you are doing with sincerity what you believe is right, yet I listened to your sermon (January 14), It seemed forced, as you borrowed terms and definitions and examples from the world; trying to please the straw men of Culture….the more insecure and guilt-ridden you sounded.
Truthfully Jason, the sermon served, not a call to real faith and repentance based upon God’s moral law and careful application, but a liberation-theology sermon of works-righteousness. Frankly, it sounded like whatever liberal is saying, like something I heard over and over from Bethel College: sowing confusion, not clarity.
If this was the only example, I would have pause before writing you. It is not. The past couple of conferences has this theme present.
I am sure your people now feel guilty, but I fear, not by truly Godly guilt…but from a lesser call; not to examine attitudes of deep pride and favoritism which manifest themselves in a thousand ways, but from having white skin color and culture.
I believe this approach will only divide your church–once you have gone further down your path…your church will fundamentally change…This will be your most important issue until you have achieved some measure of affirmation from the larger culture that you are successful. Then you will be satisfied,….until the next hot-topic comes up demanding a response…This is how liberalism works.
Just because the culture demands a response through its lenses…we should pause and discern, before giving ours. I know you are under tremendous pressure to grow and lead the church…you have a bigger animal to guide than I do…you have a national presence, I do not.
Brother, Preach the Word, God will build his body. If there is something overtly wrong which you can witness and reprove, do so. But attitudes take time to change. I have seen this: Over 16 years in vocational ministry, I have shrunk a youth group from 70 to 40 and now our church gets to 40 attendees on a good day through my preaching of The Word.
I will end with a personal Anecdote:
I was at a Church-planting-boot-camp 9 years ago at Trinity Ev. Divinity School, when I was in the EFCA. It was, frankly, 40 hours of worthless crap. Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, vision casting, big events…growing with excitement…Nothing about warfare, temptations, discouragement, the Gospel, or even Preaching. (by the way, it was led by Raymond Chang, whom you referenced in your sermon),
My wife and I were fish out of water…but so was one other couple: An inner-city black couple. They were stuck out at TEDS as much as we felt, with our Reformed worldview and from northern Minnesota; and they, from a different culture (Inner City), with different color, dress, and talk.
In the middle of the week, the husband stood up in the middle of a mindless session about “crafting impact Mission Statements” and declared: Why can’t we just say something like, ‘we preach the supremacy of Christ to present everyone complete in Him’ straight from Scripture–I don’t know about all this other crap! But I do know Scripture and it is simple for every church: Preach Christ!
It was an awesome rebuke! But seemingly only for him, his wife and myself, and my wife. Through subsequent dinner conversations and other interactions, we came to know them and knew what united us was far more than the affinity of seeker-sensitive churchiness. We had both been remade through the true Gospel and were being reformed in all our thinking.
I haven’t seen them since. I don’t know their names. I am not on social media. It doesn’t matter. Truth untied us. Truth bridged the gap–the Gospel and all the discernment it creates gave us a new culture through renewing our minds. We didn’t need a lecture on racism, on cultural differences; and I am convinced we would have gladly worshiped at the same church, in spite of differences. I don’t remember if we even talked about race, culture, and other differences (the YRR crowd hadn’t made that their hobby-horse yet)…but we didn’t need to…we gloried in our unity.
Jason, the Gospel and all of its fullness is enough! I would exhort you to follow the old paths, utilize the historical creeds and confessions to help keep balance and tension in these issues. God will bring the nations together by the means he has set forth.
Your fellow Shepherd in Christ,
Pastor, Lifespring Church, Crosby, MN
Some Benefits of using a Hymnal. A few years ago, our young church plant made a conscientious and principled decision to move away from the screen and purchase hymn books. One of our members attended a Ligonier conference and returned with “Hymns of Grace” and “The Trinity Hymnal” we choose “Hymn of Grace” for practical reasons (large print, simpler selections). It was one of the best decisions we made and from which many fruits, both obvious and not so observable, can be cataloged.
This is not a post that has a villain (the screen), nor do would I say that using a screen for worship is wrong. But as I have been thinking through the ways our church has been blessed over the past few years after which we made a deliberate decision to move from Screen to hymn book, I would show, what I believe are some of the great benefits, which I suspect have been unknowingly lost when we, in the past generation, jettisoned the physical hymn book for the convenience and practicality of the screen.
Faithfulness: With a Hymnbook, you get hundreds of songs for worship that are theologically sound. They have stood the test of time. The Gospel is faithfully declared in song.
Sing-ability: Why do hymns last generations? Good lyrics? Yes, but also (and equally as important) they are easily learned and singable by all of God’s people. With a hymn book, you get a canon of vetted music that both men and women can sing congregationally. One of the most avoidable tragedies churches have participated in has been presenting un-singable music. I think many think (rightfully) that music must be doctrinally accurate. This is necessary, but it is also to be participatory. High-pitched songs with tone and tempo changes may minister to you, via radio, but will have no place if men cannot sing them in church and stand with their hands in their pockets. Singable music is necessary for congregation worship.
Historicity: A Hymnbook provides a cannon of music which spans generations, era, and continents—There is something about singing old Irish song (Be thou My Vision), Appalachian (What Wondrous Love is This), a song penned by Martin Luther (A Mighty Fortress) or a former slave trader (Amazing Grace) which is both humbling and confidence building.
Variety: You get a canon of music that has a variety of Christian experiences and seasons. I love the Christmas section in “Hymns of Grace” and we have added each year to our repertoire of songs. Hymnals allow for congregation favorites and seasonal requests. Though I pick the songs each week, and we follow a regular liturgy with at least 5 songs, and I regularly invite people to make requests of their favorites.
Memorability: Children grow up knowing songs—can they know songs from a screen? Sure…but not if they are constantly changing. I cannot stress how much singing music helps to catechize a congregation. How good it was for me during a particularly difficult season of ministry to have the lyrics of “How Firm a Foundation” in my head, ministering to my soul.
Accessibility: People can read all the verses and memorize them as they see them, for hymns both tell a story and crescendo in meaning (EX: “For the Beauty of the Earth”, “Fairest Lord Jesus”).
Teachability: People learn, even basically, how to follow the music as it is written.
Transferability: Hymn Books allow for delegation of singing at times to younger musicians while giving them guardrails which pre-emptively strike down those cringe and apology moments which comes from lack of awareness while leading music (ask any pastor for stories of this).
Accompaniment:Accompaniment: Hymnals funnel the music towards the piano and voice, with the guitar being an accompanying instrument, yet not the main one, mostly. This actually increases the amount and variety of musicians who can join in.
Preachability: Hymnbooks allow for pastoral illustrations of song lyrics. I can actually say, as a non-poet, that I have poetry memorized and ready to recite.
Practicality: Hymnals allow for Accapella worship when desired, or if the musicians are unavailable (this is especially beneficial for a small church). We know this from experience. Hymnals also cut down on practice time needed for musicians.
Peaceability: Hymnals cut down upon many, many unnecessary conflicts surrounding worship and worship teams. “Hey man, blame the publisher, not me”.
Psalm-singing: Hymnals allow for Psalm to be sung without a Psalter. I have a cataloged list of hymns directly translated from Psalms which we sing and mention (EX: “The King of Love my Shepherd is” is from Psalm 23)
Unity: Purchasing hymnals has helped with a reverent, consecrated time of singing as pages are turned and eyes follow the music as written. Hymn Books promote loud, manly, confident, joyous singing, as the musical flow has unity with the lyrics. There is hardly anything so glorious or life-giving as hearing voices singing of the confident Victory of King Jesus.
by Pastor Eric Anderson
(I am not presuming that Bruce/Caitlin Jenner will be nominated, or is even serious about actually running, but this is what makes the news today, and several realities converge at once)
He is a man. Bruce Jenner is a male name that corresponds to his God-given sex.
Bruce/Caitlin is embodying two lies: That he is a woman and that you can change your God-given biological reality. This is the pagan/satanic worship of the self in full array.
He is probably the Governor that California deserves
This is what Judgement from God looks like (Romans 1)—from the act and the guaranteed chaos that follows.
Does anyone ever ask what Bruce’s children and grandchildren think? What do those say, who have had to answer for his narcissism? Where is the compassion for them?
It amazes me the extent that we will go for the appearance of woke or political correctness. What has Bruce ever lead? What minuscule credentials does he have. This is not merely nonsense, it is a nightmare.
The fact that some Republicans will inevitably support him shows that they care about winning the election at all costs, and only the election.
The fact that Nikki Haley continually referred to him in a recent interview as She says a lot about Nicky Haley, not about Bruce’s credentials
The State that willingly votes in gubernatorial authority by Bruce Jenner, a man who poses as a caricature named Caitlin Jenner, will continue to slide into catastrophic, in spite of his surface conservatism.
This is all about Bruce’s never-ending quest for peace and affirmation, and others filling up their “woke” credential cards.
My Prayer: Oh that Bruce and all who support him in this wicked nonsense would come to his senses and repent to the living God for forgiveness and purpose. That he would turn from his narcissistic worship of self to one of God, and be the man he has refused to be. God will change him. He will be a new creation, with clear thinking to fulfill his God-given purposes. Oh, we as a people would stop using him for cheap thrills, as a token for progressive inclusivity, and for political strategy; for this is wicked.