'Painful and confusing': John Piper’s successor resigns from lead pastor role at Bethlehem Baptist Church

John Piper (right) and Jason Meyer (left) speak about pastoral succession at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
John Piper (right) and Jason Meyer (left) speak about pastoral succession at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. | The Gospel Coalition via The Christian Post

The lead pastor of the church founded by Desiring God teacher and author John Piper has resigned from his position, becoming the latest church leader to leave the congregation in recent years.

Bethlehem Baptist Church, a multisite church based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, recently confirmed the resignation of Pastor Jason Meyer, who succeeded Piper as senior pastor.

Dave Zuleger, pastor of preaching and vision for Bethlehem’s South Campus, confirmed the resignation in a blog post on the church’s website.

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“This is another painful and confusing moment for us. It’s confusing and painful corporately because Jason took the mantle from Pastor John Piper and helped lead us to this point of campus-specific preaching. It feels jarring,” Zuleger wrote Thursday.

“It’s been more painful to me personally than corporately. Jason has been a dear friend and mentor since we met in his tiny closet of an office during my first year of seminary back in 2010.”

Zuleger went on to state that he wrote the post as a way “to state the reality of things and to give you space to lament,” adding that they need to return to a “healthy rhythm of grief-filled lament that the world is broken, sinful, and not as it should be.”

“What do we do when confusion and pain are heavy and we don’t yet see or understand much of God’s plans or purposes? We just keep talking to God. Talking to God—casting our cares on him and pouring out our hearts before him—is an exercise of faith,” continued Zuleger.

“So, South Campus, pray for your leaders as we pray for you. Pray for me, and I’ll be praying for you. This moment is hard. Feel the freedom to lament. We will talk more in the days ahead, and please feel free to reach out to the elders to talk.”

Meyer is the fourth pastor to resign from Bethlehem Baptist since March, as church leadership weathers accusations of “allegations of toxic and abusive leadership,” according to investigative journalist Julie Roys.

The other three were Ming-Jinn Tong, former pastor for neighborhood outreach; Richie Stark, former director for youth and family discipleship; and Bryan Pickering, former pastor for care and counseling.

Pickering explained to Roys in an interview that he believed “there’s harm being done” by the church leadership, especially the elders at Bethlehem Baptist.

“There’s unethical behavior. There’s domineering. There’s bullying ... cultural, damaging behavior that’s being done, and has been done, for a long time,” Pickering told Roys.

In May 2012, Meyer was overwhelmingly approved by a congregational vote of 784-8 to be the successor of Piper, who had led Bethlehem Baptist for over 30 years.

"God came down and kissed Bethlehem tonight," said Piper in a Twitter post at the time. "Meyer has been approved to take hold of this baton."

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