(Photo: T4G/Sarah Danaher)
Influential pastor John Piper made his joyful reaction clear via the Web shortly after getting word that his congregation had overwhelmingly agreed with church elders on their choice of Jason Meyer as his successor.
"God came down and kissed Bethlehem tonight. 784 Yes. 8 No. Jason Meyer has been approved to take hold of this baton," Piper tweeted on Sunday after the vote taken at Bethlehem Baptist Church located in the Twin Cities metro area of Minnesota.
Meyer will fall under Piper's pastoral mentorship and an "overlap" period between the two beginning Aug. 1.
A decision on when Meyer takes Piper's lead position as Pastor for Preaching & Vision will not be made until the church's Council of Elders makes sure Bethlehem's congregation has time to interact with his "preaching and other visible avenues of leadership/grooming that he will take on before the second congregational vote."
Piper, an influential author and theologian, continued to express his jubilation over the church's decision on Monday, tweeting and posting on his "Desiring God" blog.
"I am up early this morning. Unable and uneager to sleep. My heart is seeking ways to praise the Lord, thank the Lord, be devoted to the Lord," he wrote. "What shall I render to the Lord? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fix my eyes on the gospel of the glory of Christ."
In a letter to his church posted on its website, Piper stated that he has "no memory of any all-church strategy meeting with 800 people in attendance" such as what occurred Sunday.
He continued, "Last night (May 20), 792 members gathered at Bethlehem's Downtown Campus to complete the confirmation of Jason Meyer as the Associate Pastor for Preaching and Vision. Of these, 784 confirmed the unanimous recommendation of the elders that Jason be called, beginning his ministry on or before August 1, 2012."
Piper said he did not attend the meeting and instead prayed earnestly with his family "for God to show his hand in the unity of the people's approval of the elder's motion."
However, he did send a letter of "joyful support for Jason," which was read to the congregation.
Piper, 66, said he believed God united the pastoral search team with the church staff and elders during the last five months, and now the congregation, in an unprecedented way.
"99% of 792 people united in their sense of God's leading is simply stunning," he wrote.
On February 13, 1980, Bethlehem members voted to approve Piper as their pastor. The vote was 149 yes, 17 no (89.7%), Piper stated in his letter.
"Thirty-two years later the church is more united than ever behind her leaders. For this I am on my face with tears of thankfulness and joy," he said. "Jesus Christ is the head of this church. And he means to have the glory. Let him have it from your heart and lips. Gather your family and friends and give thanks. Tell him how amazing he is. Exult in the cross of Christ. Without it there could be no such blessings on sinners like us."
Piper is the author of numerous books and the evangelical organization Desiring God is named for his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.
Earlier this year, he was asked about what he would do once the overlap period with Meyer was over. Piper said he plans to be with his family and together "leave town for a year or so and find a place for writing and reflection."
"There are several writing projects I want to make headway on. And I want some time and distance before I lock in to any pattern of ministry too quickly. I need to get some perspective and pray and think about the next 10 years," he wrote.
"In general I can say that, if God gives me life and health, these years will involve my role as Chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, and my role as founder and teacher for Desiring God. I love to teach seminary students, and I love to encourage and strengthen the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated vision of pastors. And I love to write. So some configuration of those loves is what I expect to see.
"My life's calling remains the same: I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Pray that I will spend and be spent for this till I can speak and write no more."
Bethlehem Bapitist was founded in 1871 and currently has three campuses located in downtown Minneapolis, Mounds View, and Burnsville. Religious scholars have referred to the church as the "flagship" or "best-known" congregation of the Baptist General Conference.