(Photo: T4G/Sarah Danaher)
After stepping down from 33 years as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., John Piper, 67, will begin the transition of the church's leadership in May by moving his family to Tennessee.
In an open letter to his congregation on Wednesday, Piper explained that he wants Bethlehem's new pastor, Jason Meyer, an assistant professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary who was voted as Piper's successor last May, to develop a strategic vision for the church without distractions.
"The aim is to give Jason and his team unencumbered freedom to discern God's leading and move forward," wrote Piper. "I am thrilled with our new leadership and have total confidence in their spiritual discernment for the future. Love them as you have loved me," Piper wrote.
The Desiring God founder who thanked his church profusely for their love and support over the years in the letter, also noted that during his year in Tennessee, he plans on working on a few writing projects and his priorities for the next decade of his life if he's still around.
"The aims of these months away, besides giving more room to the new Bethlehem leadership, are to make a big dent in at least three writing projects and to discern the Lord's leading concerning my priorities in the next 10 years (if God gives me health)," wrote Piper who underwent successful surgery to treat a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2006.
In assessing his priorities, Piper, who also serves as chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, said he will be looking at what proportion of his time would be devoted to writing, teaching at the college, speaking engagements, working at Desiring God and family commitments.
"Or is there a plan God has that I haven't even thought of? Would you pray with me about this?" he asked.
Once the year is over, however, Piper plans to rejoin his congregation as a regular member of the church with his family. "In the summer of 2014 we plan to return to our Minneapolis home and quietly slip into a pew at Bethlehem and savor the worship we have always loved and grow with you under the ministry of Pastor Jason," wrote Piper. "I have always said I hope to die at Bethlehem. Well, it didn't happen in the pulpit, so maybe it will happen in the pew."
Piper cited several reasons for his decision to step down last year and chief among them was the growing complexities of his church. "… I am less competent at leading Bethlehem structurally and organizationally than I used to be. For about 30 years I was usually able to see through the complexities and formulate feasible and exciting plans – always with the help of incredibly devoted and gifted partners in ministry," he noted in earlier statement. "This is no longer the case: One is that Bethlehem is more complex than it used to be; and the other is that my energies and abilities for this kind of organizational and structural planning are diminished."
A thanksgiving service for Piper's work at Bethlehem is planned for Sunday April 14.