Category Archives: Ministry

What I am reading now … Or at least attempting to


This is the time of year where the academic types publish their summer reading lists.  Everyone who is a “celebrity ” seems to publish some sort of list like this.  Since I am not an academic type (meaning that I am not a professor or an administrator at an academic institution currently – although I am looking for a place to serve in either a local church or academic institution)

I don’t have a summer break per se like those who work in academic institutions, but I try to read several books each year as time permits.  So, let’s dive into the stack (from top to bottom):

  1. Work Rules – by Laszlo Bock – this book I have been wanting to read for some time.  Mr. Bock is the leader of Google’s people function. If a company like Google can provide such wonderful perks for their employees and people are wanting to work there, then maybe there is something I can learn about employee satisfaction and retention?  I just started this book earlier this week.  What will motivate me to finish it is that it is due back to the library on June 29th – stay tuned for a book review.
  2. Who Moved My Pulpit? – by Thom S. Rainer – this book was released on June 1st, 2016 and I was chosen to be on the launch team.  We were provided a number of free books to give away to others.  I will mail out 12 books this week to friends in ministry.  I also have a few to give away here on the blog, so leave a comment if you would like a book.  If you are chosen, then I will mail you a book free of charge and hope that it will be a blessing to you.  I am enjoying this book because it deals with the ever present issue of change within the local church and how church members and pastors respond to change.  Here is a great quote from this book: “Sometimes the confused include those who want to hang on to some tradition for their own sense of security and comfort.” (pg. 22)  This book is definitely worth reading, even if you are not a pastor because it will tip over some of your own sacred cows in the process.  Stay tuned for a more detailed review.
  3. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins – this is a book that I read when I first purchased it, and I am now attempting to re-read and transcribe what I highlighted into Evernote for future reference.  This is a great book to help one discern one’s calling in life.  I am re-reading this to make sure that I didn’t miss anything the first time around.  Another reason I am re-reading this is because I am struggling with what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  I spent four years in Bible college, eight years in seminary and now six years post seminary and I am not doing what I have trained to do, serve in local church ministry as my vocation.
  4. The Pyramid and the Box by Joel Tetreau – this is a book that I have had in the stack for sometime but now it has been moved up.  Joel is a pastor friend who pastors in Gilbert, AZ and is a fellow alumnus of Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, MN.  I will probably read this book when I finish Who Moved My Pulpit since the subject matter is similar in both books. From what I have read of this book so far tells me that this work is something that new and experienced pastors should read and glean much from it.
  5. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene/Joost Elffers – This is a book that I have owned for sometime and have started it and stopped it several times.  The bright orange color stands out in the stack and after seeing a Facebook post on this book, I decided to read this book from start to finish and not quit this time.  I realize that this is a secular book and I am looking forward to reading it and looking at it from my Christian worldview point.  I can imagine that there will be things that I will disagree with from an ethical standpoint and other things that I can learn from it without an ethical conflict or conundrum.
  6. Whatever The Cost – by David and Jason Benham – this is a book that I picked up when the Benham Brothers spoke at the First Baptist Dallas Men’s Conference in April 2016.  I had heard of the Benham Brothers through their ups and downs with the media over their reality TV show which never aired because they took a bold stand for Christ.  This book tells the story behind the story of what happened to them with regard to their reality TV show and how it opened their eyes to what is going on in the media and the tremendous pressure that is placed on the media by activist groups and sponsors.
  7. Living Forward – by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy – this is a book that I preordered before it came out and was able to score a good book at a reasonable price along with some really great bonuses.  I served on Michael Hyatt’s launch team for his book Platform when it first came out.  This is a book that is similar to Jeff Goins book – The Art of Work.  I stopped reading at Chapter 7 – Dedicate One Day because I have not had one day that I can do what this chapter is wanting the reader to do.  When I find a day, then I will resume reading.
  8. Don’t Fire Your Church Members – by Jonathan Leeman – I want to read as much as I can on church government and really understand why I consider myself a congregationalist.  This book would run in tandem with Joel Tetreau’s book The Box and the Pyramid.  There is a shift in some churches to abandon congregational government and move to an elder rule type government which inevitably makes the average church member feel that they have no input into any decisions in church life.  This book reinforces that congregational government is Biblical and should not be abandoned for religious political correctness.
  9. Every Child Can Succeed by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias – I ordered this book from Amazon at the recommendation of my brother in law who is a former school administrator. We were having some difficulties with my son in school and this book was recommended to us.  I have read most of it and I have discovered my learning style which in turn helped me to discern his learning style.  I also was able to gently refer this title to the school administrator at my son’s school – hopefully he will read it.
  10. Clutter-Free Christianity by Robert Jeffress – I received this book as a gift after attending the Step One class and luncheon at First Baptist Dallas.  I have always enjoyed reading Robert Jeffress even before I joined First Baptist Dallas.  I remember one of the first books that I read of his entitled Guilt-Free Living.  This book appeals to me because I am a planner and an organizer by nature.  I hate clutter and chaos.  My desk at work is neat and clean.  Don’t look at my office at home.  It is cluttered and these books are stacked on a tray.  I really work at staying organized but it is currently a work in progress as I also attempt to go paperless using Evernote as well.  I have read the first two chapters in this book.
  11. How To Make Wise Decisions by Robert Jeffress – Another book by my pastor.  This book also appealed to me to re-examine my calling in life.  You know this must be a controversial book when on page 10, Dr. Jeffress wrote that his own brother wrote him a 4 page letter begging him not to write this book.  I appreciate that he didn’t listen to his brother and he wrote the book. When I finish reading it, if things haven’t become clearer to me about my calling in life, I will definitely attempt to see if the Pastor will give me some time so we can have a conversation.
  12. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp – Shamefully this is another book that I have had for a long time.  I started reading it, would get convicted about something I read, stop reading it for a time, then resume and get convicted again and stop reading it. I finally gave up and decided to start reading it from start to finish.  This also falls in line with several other books that I am reading with regard to calling and vocation.
  13. Baptist Distinctives by Kevin Bauder – Kevin was one of my theology professors while I was in seminary and I learned a great deal from him during my early seminary years while I was trying to figure out what I really believed.  I started reading this book while on vacation at Christmas but stopped after our vacation ended.  I hope to resume this at some point
  14. Battling Unbelief by John Piper –  I had never heard of John Piper until I went to seminary in 2002 and did not realize who he was and where he served until I had gone through a semester of seminary.  Unfortunately, my schedule did not permit me to attend a service at Bethlehem Baptist Church while I lived in the Minneapolis- St Paul area and I have never met John Piper.  I am however thankful that God has chosen to use him in a way that serves the body of Christ as a whole.  I started reading this book shortly after we moved to Texas because my whole life was in an upheaval after moving away from MN and still not being in full time ministry and trying to find a local church and all the disruption that was going on in late 2014.  Unfortunately, I stopped reading and I am not sure why.  I plan to resume reading this book at some point

I have set some goals for myself to read and in some cases re-read some books the remainder of this year.  I am not sure how I will do.  I hope that by sharing this list, it will be a help and a blessing to someone.  I am not famous or a celebrity but here is my reading list.  Enjoy and leave comments as you are able!

Doing what you trained for

The title may be grammatically incorrect, but I want to make a point with what I am writing.

I was thinking about something while I was walking home from the train station yesterday.  I was thinking about a friend who recently completed his first year of full-time teaching and recently signed a contract to teach next school year.  In reading his Twitter feed and Facebook posts, he really enjoys his job.  I went back and thought about what I knew about this individual and his path to his eventual teaching career.  He had a desire to teach (not sure how far back this goes) but he graduated high school and went off to college to train to be an elementary school teacher.  During his last year of school he had to put into practice what he learned in the classroom by student teaching.  This individual, as part of his student teaching taught my son in the 2nd grade.  My son enjoyed his lessons, especially the science ones.  We were just talking about some of them the other day and my son really enjoyed his lesson on the water cycle and that was well over a year ago, but he still remembers it very well.  What this showed was not only this individual was well-trained, he had a passion for what he was doing, but he also was doing what he believed God has called him to do and he was given an opportunity to do it!

Contrast this with those who train for pastoral ministry.  Same process.  There is the call of God on an individual’s life, they make that call public and then it is off to Bible college and then seminary.  Sometimes an individual will be required to complete an internship within the context of a local church which might be the equivalent of student teaching but not quite because most pastoral internships never really let the intern do everything, it is like the pastor is afraid that the intern will mess up and ruin his ministry.  Mark Dever once talked about letting the new pastor mess up and make mistakes, he related to his own experience at Capitol Hill Baptist Church when he first came that he indeed made a few mistakes and the people were patient with him.  Student teachers do not teach their first day or week, but they get one subject at a time, do a lot of observing and then towards the end of their time, they will teach for entire days with the supervising teacher observing and providing feedback along the way.

I was wondering how many people are out there that went to Bible college and seminary and invested large sums of money for their education some in excess of $50k and they are not in pastoral ministry?  There are some who have disqualified themselves due to moral issues, etc.  There are some who after completing their training may have decided that pastoral ministry is not for them.  What about those people who have a passion and a desire (1 Timothy 3:1) to serve the Lord only to find themselves working in a job or career that they had no intentions of working in except to pay the bills while they were training.  Their heart is not in it and their desires are elsewhere, but a cloak of silence has enveloped their life with regard to ministry.  No direction from a mentor or encouragement from a local church, just silence.  The secular job market really has no use for theological degrees.  Most jobs nowadays are requiring specialized training and specialized degrees. Experience alone will not get you a job now.  You wouldn’t want a airline pilot performing brain surgery on you?  Then why is it okay for pastors to work other areas that they are not necessarily trained for?

I remember reading several articles regarding people with Phd’s wanting to teach in their fields but there were not enough openings in the academic world so some of these PhD’s were janitors, waiters, etc.  and not able to ply their trades either.  That was a few years back and I trust that things have improved somewhat so those people could find work.

I would love to hear from you if you have a desire for pastoral ministry and have finished your college and seminary training but find yourself working in a field that you did not train for.  Please comment below and maybe this can be a catalyst to help and encourage others to be able to find a ministry opportunity since other venues have been notoriously silent.  Where are the people who will speak truth into the lives of others?

Is there anything wrong with doing what you trained for and invested your life in?

Being a guest speaker can be tough

Being a guest speaker can be tougher than being a pastor.  Before you take issue with what I just said, please hear me out.

The reason why I say that is because when one is invited somewhere to speak and you do not know much about the church congregation or their struggles, it can be very difficult to know exactly what to preach that will meet the needs of the congregation.

It can also be tough because sometimes there can be a lot of travel involved. Last weekend, I drove over 300 miles roundtrip from home to preach at a church in Iowa.  We left on Friday afternoon and went to my in-laws and then we left for church Sunday morning around 8:15 am and did not get back to my in-laws until almost 9:00 pm that night.  Thankfully Monday was the Labor Day holiday.

I am not in any way trying to minimize a permanent pastoral role, but just wanting people to understand that life can be a bit challenging for those of us who can only gain speaking engagements outside of our local congregations. I appreciate the opportunities that I have. They tend to ebb and flow and are not consistent.  Since I cannot seem to land a pastorate, this is the route I must take for now.

Processing some things

Tuesday morning, I heard some things that got my attention and shook me to my core.

The first one was Tuesday morning. As my normal routine is, I listen to Pathway to Victory while on my way to work each morning. This morning, Dr Jeffress said something that caught my attention. He was talking about a call and as he was speaking I was thinking about it more in terms of an equation:

Call = Burden + Passion + Opportunity

Hearing this and eventually writing it down really shook me!

I was thinking about this while I was driving. I was thinking back to when I had publicly expressed a “call” of God on my life to preach the Gospel. I was probably the last person that would ever be called to preach. I am not a dynamic speaker. I do not have a commanding or charismatic personality. I would consider myself more of an introvert. I stumbled through memorized speeches that we had to give in high school. I never thought that I would be involved in any sort of public speaking at all. I remember preaching my first sermon and apologizing to my English teachers in advance for all the trouble I had given them during the delivery of those memorized speeches each year. All I knew at the time, was that I had a burden to communicate the Bible to others.

Someone once said, “A call to preach is a call to prepare” So, off to Bible college I went in 1988. Along with the burden, I gained a passion while I was in college as I went through my classes and serving in the local church, I began to grow in my Christian life.

So I had a burden and passion, but was lacking in opportunity. I preached wherever I was given an opportunity. Rescue mission, prison, nursing homes, etc. Then I graduated from college and was ordained shortly after. Ordination was/is a big deal because it is a local church’s endorsement of your calling and gifts. I was ordained but there were no opportunities on the horizon.

Fast forward ten years to 2002. I had resigned my position at a mission agency where I had been for 3 1/2 years and moved to MN to attend Seminary.

Fast forward eight years to 2010. I finished seminary with two degrees.

Fast forward three more years to 2013. I have sent my resume out to over 40 different churches and ministries, looking for an opportunity to re-enter full-time vocational ministry with one interview and a lot of rejection letters. The main reason I have been given is that I do not have any pastoral experience. When I graduated from college in 1992, I was told rather curtly, I was too young and had no experience. I was stunned, while watching my classmates who were the same age and also have no experience, leave college and go into various ministry positions. My home church, although they ordained me, did not attempt to hire me at all. When I finished seminary, I realized that I am in the same boat as I was when I finished college, except for the fact that I am older and married. I am still lacking the experience that most churches are requiring.  I was told by someone that if you are looking for a pastoral opportunity within a church, that most church committees will not take into consideration any experience while serving in a non-pastoral capacity. Honestly, that does not make sense, but it is what I have experienced these last three years.

As I was listening to Dr Jeffress, I was processing my life and realizing that I have a burden (and have had for years), passion (it has been waning in recent years), but the opportunities are non-existent. Then it hit me, the opportunities are no longer present. I thought back to 2010 where I did an unusual amount of pulpit supply and then that came to a halt in September 2010 and I did not preach again until late last year in August of 2012 where I had two preaching opportunities (both pulpit supply) back to back and then as quick as they came, they have disappeared again. Pulpit supply does meet a need, but it is a poor way to learn how to preach and it is a poor way to preach with any consistency. Pulpit supply is not the experience that most churches are looking for. The opportunities are scarce in pulpit supply and in my case non-existent. It is the proverbial catch-22, you have to have experience to get hired by a church, but no one wants to give anyone the opportunity to gain the necessary experience. It should never be this way in a local church.

When I got to work our main computer system was down, so after processing email and doing everything that I could do without our main computer system, I remembered that Jason Meyer was going to speak this morning on the subject of Pastoral Transition after a 32 year ministry. I had the time because our system was down and there was nothing else to do, I listened to the live stream of Jason’s message. If you did not know, Jason Meyer is the new Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the successor to John Piper, who was the previous Pastor of Preaching and Vision for 32 years.

As I listened to Jason’s story recounting the process and how he spoke many times about the supernatural and the sovereignty of God. I was struck by the fact that nothing of a supernatural nature has been taking place in my life related to ministry since I graduated. It shook me when I had that thought! I started asking myself where I went wrong, was there sin in my life that I needed to deal with, was God chastening me for some reason? I could not identify any one particular thing but as I kept listening, my discouragement increased. I also noticed that Jason had made an impact on several people as evidenced in this video

When I finished seminary and there was no available opportunities for pastoral ministry, I had prayed regarding further education, a PhD or DMin possibly. I found myself in a quandary, I was not academically qualified (grades were not high enough – competition is too strict) and then I found out that I could not get into any DMin program because I lacked the three years of post MDiv ministry experience. So my formal education came to an abrupt halt and I realized that at this point I would not be able to teach in any institution of higher learning with just an MDiv. to teach anywhere, one would need a Doctorate. So teaching in a college or seminary was out.

I was also struck by the fact that John Piper poured his life into Jason Meyer. Jason started his role in August and I can imagine that he has spent numerous hours with John Piper, learning and observing the ministry. Now, the church voted again in December for Jason to become the Pastor of Preaching and Vision effective January 1, 2013. This represents a four month transition. One can only imagine what kind of intense mentoring that took place during those four months and what will take place from January until April when John Piper will step down as the Associate Pastor of Preaching and Vision.

Recently, I had a good friend who was in a similar situation. He was in full-time ministry and was let go by a pastor/church over money issues. He did nothing wrong, he served with honor, but the church and pastor were not obeying 1 Timothy 5:17-18. He found himself out of the ministry and discouraged. He was faithful and had a desire to serve God in full-time ministry and went over ten years with no prospects and a healthy amount of disappointment. The turning point in his life was an area pastor he met who took an interest in him and kept in contact with him. This pastor eventually recommended him to a church nearby and last Sunday he preached his first sermon as the new Senior Pastor of that particular local church.

What I am noticing is a common denominator in these situations: People took a real interest in an individual. It was not a casual interest, but rather a committed one. It embodied the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

I was also struck by the involvement of the local church in the life of Jason Meyer and the life of my friend. Acts 13 is a text that reaffirms the role of a local church with regard to its responsibilities of sending out those within its midst who are called and affirmed by the local church for Gospel ministry. Too many local churches take the passive approach and abdicate this responsibility to a Bible college or a seminary. Does the local church that you attend have a method or process for recognizing and affirming those who have expressed a call to ministry?

In the end, I am reminded of the Scripture found in 1 Timothy 3:1

If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good thing.

I am also reminded that I am not getting any younger either.

Still trying to make sense of what I heard on Tuesday morning and wondering how it all fits in the context of my life.

I am going to do something I have never done before

… review a book partially before I finish reading it.  You may say that is foolish to review a book before finishing it.  Well there is a good reason for it!  The author makes so many compelling statements in the first 15 pages I wanted to share these with you in hopes that you will read the entire book as I am endeavoring to do.

Here is the story…

My wife works for a Christian radio station where she is a production assistant. One of her duties is to set up interviews with the authors of books that the stations receives.  I look through the books when they come home and will peruse a few of them before they are sent back to the station for interviews.

I was looking through a recent stack that she brought home and saw a book that intrigued me.  I am drawn to any type of book on ministry, leadership or mentoring and this was no exception.

The book I am talking about is Protege – Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders by Steve Saccone.  I had never heard of the book or the author prior to seeing the book in a stack of books. I picked it up and started to casually read the Introduction not knowing how far I would get.  I did not get very far before I started reading some things that really resonated with me!  My wife happened to come into the living room and I read some of these things to her and told her that this was unbelievable, that I had been waiting for someone to write something like this!  She could tell that I was pretty passionate about what I had been reading.  I told her that what I had read and had drawn me in was just within the first 15 pages of the book!

Before I share the quotes that arrested my attention and compelled me to read the rest of the book, I want to share a bit of my story.  I have been looking for an opportunity to serve in full-time pastoral ministry since January 2010.  If you have read here , you would know that my search has been highly unsuccessful.  I have submitted my resume over 30 times to 30 different ministries since 2010 and have yet to be granted an interview.  I had stopped searching while we were expecting our second child because we were unable to travel if called upon to candidate.  I have since resumed searching but the results are still the same.  This book really hit home because it addresses some of the core issues that I have been dealing with since launching my search for an opportunity for full-time pastoral ministry.

Here are the things from the book I wanted to share:

I think back to when I was nineteen years old, when I initially stepped into ministry and had no idea where to begin. Someone decided to help me figure it out…  Not only that, he spend time coaching and mentoring me with insight and compassion because he believed in God’s call and gifting in my life.  He believed in who I could become as a person, communicator and leader (pg.12)

Wow, what a powerful example of mentoring and coaching!  It gets better.

Throughout history, if someone wanted to learn a particular skill, he or she would find a master or mentor to guide them.  This person seeking to learn and grow is called a protege.  And like any skill or trade, ministry leadership involves a set of abilities that must be developed and cultivated.  (pg.13)

There are countless proteges simply waiting for an experienced master of their trade or wise mentor, but they so often become lost in the deficit of strong and developmental leadership that is so absent and misprioritized in today’s culture and today’s church.( pg. 12)

The author speaks about seminary – he is in favor of theological, academic training but also realizes that there are some shortcomings as well.

I’m profoundly convinced that attending seminary without also receiving “on the job training” is the equivalent of a physician attending medical school without ever practicing their skills in clinical rotations.  And this dilemma is not solved with a simple field education course, as good as it may be. Think about it.  Can you imagine being treated by a physician who possesses all the medical knowledge in the world after just graduating from several years in school but has absolutely no hands-on experience?

The author has hit the nail on the head!  I have used the same example also in some of my writings on the subject as well.

He continues on:

Many proteges who attend seminary as their sole preparation end up stumbling around the church upon graduation and battling confusion and frustration.  Why? Because they initially believe they’ve been properly prepared, trained, and equipped for the demands ahead, but they soon realize it’s not true.  In actuality they were, more often than not, only given information instead of personalized and intentional development.(pg. 14)

This is true also of those of us who have served and are serving in the local church.  My seminary experience was not just merely academic.  I was involved in service within the local church while in seminary and even now.  I also served as a pastoral intern in my local church as a graduation requirement.  I have also found out that having two Masters degrees (M.A. and MDiv) along with over 25 years of practical Christian service in three different local churches will not cut it with churches looking for pastors, whether a senior pastor or assistant pastor.   The expectations have been raised so high now that most seminary graduates do not have much a chance in finding a church ministry unless they were able to serve in full-time ministry on a church staff while completing their seminary training.  Most seminary students have to work a secular job to take care of their needs and after that, there is not much time for anything else.   I speak from experience because the entire time I was in seminary from 2002-2010, I worked a full-time job at minimum 40 hours a week, many times a lot more hours along with studying and other academic responsibilities.

The author also talks about training indigenous leaders:

And if we’re going to become the movement we long to be as the church, we must begin by raising up indigenous leaders rather than just looking outside our own backyards for people who are already where we want them to be. In the short-term, it may be easier to hire a ready made leader; but in the long-term, we not only do a disservice to all the hungry proteges around us, but to the church’s future.  Her future will be shaped significantly by how we as leaders choose to engage the development process of the next generation of ministry leaders”  (pg. 16)

I do not think that there is much more that I can say than what the author has already said in the first sixteen pages of the book.  I think that the church really needs to step up and take responsibility for the proteges in their midst.  We see the church taking a vital role in the development of leaders (see Acts 13).

I look forward to reading the rest of this book

What are some ways that the local church and its leadership can contribute to the training and development of the proteges in their congregations?

 

 

 

Trying to solve a Catch-22

Here is my dilemma or Catch-22:

I have been searching for a full-time vocational ministry position upon completing my graduate education in 2010.  I have been searching since January of 2010. Recently, a pulpit committee from a church in the Eastern US contacted me and sent me a questionnaire.  I completed the questionnaire and submitted it along with several other pieces of pertinent information.  I received an email back from them after a month that I am no longer being considered a candidate for Senior Pastor.  This did not surprise me because I have been rejected 33 times since January of 2010 for various ministry positions, not just senior pastorates.  I have always wondered what the specific reasons for rejection were.  I have asked and all of the committees have refused to answer this question, except for the one that I just heard from on Monday.

I will summarize the response:

They gave me high marks for being a servant, but said that my background had too much on administration and that there was lack of experience.

I never thought that administrative gifts would be a liability, but that is not the dilemma. Ultimately, I am being rejected or denied opportunities, because I do not have experience. It is true that I do not have any paid, official experience as a pastor. I have served as a pastoral intern, and have served in a wide variety of roles within three different local churches since 1987.  None of them have been paid, official positions.  I currently serve as a deacon in the local church I am a member of now.

The big question is:   How do I ever get experience, if no one is willing to give me a chance to gain the needed/necessary experience?

I have had many good people say, “Go out and start something”  I would, but I know my gifts and abilities and that is not how God has gifted me.  I would not thrive in that environment. I know a college professor who tried to start a church and he was not wired in that way and the church never got off the ground.  He is now in an area where he is thriving and doing well because he is working within his gifts and abilities.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Difference Maker: John Piper

Recently, I have been reading the Festschrift for John Piper entitled For The Fame of God’s Name – Essays in Honor of John Piper, edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor.  While reading this book I came across a couple of different stories that go along with the theme that I have written about in the past, people who make a difference in the lives of others by asking them a question that changes their life, giving them opportunities to serve, etc.  My desire is to share these stories to be an encouragement to others who may be searching and also to say thanks to those who have been a difference-maker in the lives of others.  I have written about Thabiti Anyabwile and how Mark Dever made a difference in his life (not sure if either of them will read that article) and writing this one about John Piper (not sure if he will see this either).

The first story comes from Jon Bloom who is the President of Desiring God, he writes:

In 1991, about a thousand people were attending Bethlehem.  Pam and I didn’t know the Pipers personally.  So a phone call in January caught me off guard.  It was Noël Piper. “Johnny and I would like to know if you and Pam would be interested in renting our basement apartment.” I think my jaw dropped to the floor.

In the spring of 1993, as we were preparing to move out of the Pipers’ house into our first little home, I heard from Jim that John was contemplating hiring his first full-time administrative assistant.  He wanted a male, someone who could travel with him and uniquely care for the growing number of inquiries and ministry demands.  This news landed on me with the same weighty sense I had about the apartment.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  At age twenty-seven, an administrative assistant position may have appeared an unwise career choice.  But I knew I was supposed to do it.  This was the next step.  A few days later I walked upstairs to John’s home office and simply asked him to consider me for the job.  He did.  I began in July.(Pg. 502)

What a story!  I am not sure that I would have the boldness to ask for a job like Jon Bloom did, but now he is the President of Desiring God.  But it all began with a simple question regarding the rental of a basement apartment which eventually forged a friendship and relationship which has grown and been nurtured over these many years and still continues to thrive today.   In my own world, I have sent unsolicited resumes for opportunities that I was aware of that I was interested in, but I did not receive those positions.  The difference was the fact that I did not have a close enough relationship with the person making the hiring decision to warrant consideration.

The second story comes from Tom Steller.  Tom is the Academic Dean at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He writes:

As much as Dr. Piper loved investing in college students, his growing desire to preach to all ages in all situations in life the glories of Christ that he was seeing in his study and in the classroom became overwhelming.  A short while later, we received another letter from Dr. Piper, saying that Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis called him to serve as their pastor.  The next sentence changed my life forever.  “Would you like to come and serve with me?”

There is a bit of a back story that I did not include in the above quote that I think will give some context to the overall story.  Tom was a student of John Piper’s at Bethel College and had taken seven classes from him.  He also attended Fuller Seminary because of John Piper’s influence.  Tom was the one who founded The Bethlehem Institute which eventually morphed into Bethlehem College and Seminary.

Again another great story of someone making a different in the life of another person by asking a simple question.  I like what Tom Steller said before disclosing the question that John Piper had asked him, “The next sentence changed my life forever”.  As I sit here and write this post, I think about what that would be like to get a phone call, email, or have a personal conversation with someone that had the ability to put another person in a position that would eventually lead to unparalleled passion and fruitfulness and a great growth potential.  If I received a call from men like John Piper, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, I would probably fall over in shock!  I have never met John Piper personally. I met Albert Mohler once while on the SBTS campus in 2008, and I have traded a couple of emails with two of Russell Moore’s assistants, never meeting him in person either.

As a side note, I have answered a lot of questions this week regarding not being in ministry from various people (church members and co-workers).  Never an easy question to answer, but one person that I spoke with this week got it.  He said that it sounds like you are in a catch-22, churches refuse to interview or hire you because they say you do not have enough experience, how do they expect you get obtain the needed or necessary experience?  I have had a lot of conversations on the subject of not being in ministry, but this person really understood what was going on.

Who knows, maybe one of these days I will get a call, email with a question like Tom Steller received?  Until then….

Thanks to John Piper for being a difference-maker in the lives of these two men and in the lives of others who have not shared their experience in print.