“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3–5
The apostle’s familiar words perfectly express the exuberant gratitude to God that I feel for your strategic investment in the Lord’s work here at Bethlehem College & Seminary. I came to Minneapolis in 2005 as a newly married twenty-four-year-old seminary apprentice enrolled in The Bethlehem Institute because I was captured by the Christian hedonism that Pastor John Piper preached and wrote about and wanted to prepare for gospel ministry under men like Pastor Tom Steller. I certainly had no idea that fourteen years later, I would be preparing for another Minneapolis winter and another school year as academic dean of Bethlehem College & Seminary. I consider it an incredible privilege and weighty responsibility to teach God’s Word and serve in leadership at this school that I love.
In this letter, I aim to share with you five reasons that I’m very excited about what God is doing at Bethlehem College & Seminary right now. Each of these is only possible because of your generous partnership through the Serious Joy Scholarship.
- We have renewed our commitment to pastoral apprenticeship. Our Div. program seeks to train men to be vocational elders. As a church-based school we believe that those training to be pastors need to train with pastors. We have for many years referred to seminary students as apprentices to express our vision for Bethlehem as a kind of teaching hospital for pastors. One that combines rigorous theological and exegetical training with hands-on ministry experience in the context of the local church. For the past year, we have sought to renew this commitment to training pastors. We considered feedback from students, alumni, pastors, and faculty. We then revised our seminary curriculum to include six credits of “Pastoral Apprenticeship” and developed a concrete plan for involving seminarians in meaningful ministry within Bethlehem Baptist Church, during their four-year pastoral preparation. We have also developed an exciting partnership with our friends at 9Marks to allow all M.Div. students enrolled in the Biblical Eldership course to participate in the Weekender conference in Washington, D.C.
- We have developed a fresh vision for our college programs. We aim for students to graduate as mature adults ready to witnessfor Christ with wisdom and wonder for the rest of their lives. “Wisdom” and “wonder” express our intention to educate men who are enthralled with God and diligently study the Great Books in the light of The Greatest Book. “Witness” signals our commitment to the Great Commission, to train men and women to be globally-minded disciples and disciple-makers. To this end, the faculty has proposed some exciting changes to our college degree programs that will be announced this fall.
- I continue to marvel at the remarkable faculty team the Lord has assembled at Bethlehem. This fall we welcomed Dr. David Howard as Visiting Professor of Old Testament. Dr. Howard is a seasoned Old Testament scholar who has served on the faculty of Bethel Seminary, New Orleans Theological Seminary, Trinity, and Gateway Seminary. He is the author of a number of books and a committed world-Christian who travels regularly to Romania, Vietnam, and elsewhere to train church leaders. Our faculty as a whole continue to be faithful and fruitful in the classroom and also through their writing and service in the church locally and globally. Here are several new books that our faculty have published that signal our commitment to serious scholarship in service of the church:
- Chris Bruno, Paul vs. James: What We’ve Been Missing in the Faith and Works Debate (Moody).
- Brian Hanson, Reformation of the Commonwealth: Thomas Becon and the Politics of Evangelical Change in Tudor England (V&R).
- Andy Naselli (coeditor), Three Views on Israel and the Church: Perspectives on Romans 9-11 (Kregel).
- my book, All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Capstone (IVP).
- This fall we launched an extension site in Yaoundé, Cameroon led by one of our graduates, Dr. Dieudonne Tamfu. About 150 pastors and leaders attended Bethlehem’s first course offering in Cameroon in June—Studies in Theology: The Kingdom of God. We now have five students who are beginning M.Div. studies with Dr. Tamfu in Cameroon. We are excited to welcome Dr. Tamfu home to speak in chapel and participate in our Decennial Convocation on November 1.
- Finally, I am excited about the 54 graduates from Bethlehem College & Seminary last May and the 78 new students who began Bethlehem classes this fall in Minneapolis, Memphis, and Yaoundé. We long for these students to know increasingly the love, beauty, and power of Jesus Christ, and that they might make disciples near and far for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.
In Philippians chapter 4, Paul explains that the saints partnered with him in gospel work by sending financial gifts to supply the needs of the ministry time and again. So also, we at Bethlehem College & Seminary are incredibly grateful for generous friends that you have entered into gospel partnership with us through the Serious Joy Scholarship. Your efforts make it possible for these students to receive world-class training without incurring burdensome student loan debt and allow our faculty to teach at this incredible school that continues to make a disproportionate impact for God’s kingdom. May the Lord continue to supply every need of yours and ours according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.