The Bible exhorts us to give thanks always and for everything. Gratitude is a perennial obligation for creatures, and especially for blood-bought creatures. Thus, it’s a gift of common grace that our culture continues to block out a specific time of the year to encourage gratitude. And on this Thanksgiving weekend, I find myself filled with thanksgiving for two significant events in the life of the Bethlehem community.
First, on November 14, Kenny Stokes was appointed as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at the Downtown Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church. This appointment came with overwhelming congregational approval, a sign of God’s grace and goodness to Bethlehem in what has been a challenging season. Pastor Kenny has faithfully served at Bethlehem for over twenty years, most recently as Pastor for Church-Planting. He also serves as a trustee and professor at Bethlehem College & Seminary, and his wife Kathy has been a consistent presence and encouragement for our seminary wives over the last decade. I’m thrilled about the next season of Kenny’s leadership at Bethlehem Downtown, and thus, with thanksgiving, we ask God to continue to strengthen the partnership between Bethlehem Baptist Church and Bethlehem College & Seminary.
Second, on November 21, members from all three campuses of Bethlehem Baptist Church gathered together as one church to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Founded as First Swedish Baptist Church in 1871, God has proven himself faithful to Bethlehem for 150 years. It was a wonderful night of worship and thanksgiving, as we reveled in God’s varied kindness to this church.
As I sat in the congregation through the service, I was struck by wonderful bonds between the church and school that were represented on stage. Pastor Tom Steller, who initially established the vision for The Bethlehem Institute, opened the evening with the welcome and invocation. Chuck Steddom, professor of worship at the school, led the congregation in worship all evening, with assistance from Dr. Brian Hanson and a number of our seminary apprentices and alumni.
John Piper gave the keynote address, a classic Bethlehem example of expository exultation, in which he lifted up the new covenant promises of Jeremiah 32. Most fundamentally, our sovereign God guarantees both his own faithfulness and that of his people as well. And then we heard from the three pastors for preaching and vision for the three campuses—Kenny Stokes, Dave Zuleger, and Steven Lee—two of whom are Bethlehem alumni and one of whom is a trustee and professor. All three spoke of their vision and hopes for the next season at Bethlehem in which the three campuses will, Lord willing, multiply into three independent churches.
My wife and I left encouraged in the faith and strengthened in our hope for the future at Bethlehem. And so we want to invite you to give thanks with us for the grace and mercy of God’s everlasting covenant. He won’t turn from us. He will put the fear of him in us, so that we won’t turn from him. And he will rejoice in doing us good, both now and forever.
Clinging to Jesus with you,
- Pray that we each would remember to give thanks always and for everything.
- Pray that God would begin to bring us the right students to join us in the Fall of 2022. Our admissions and recruitment efforts are underway, and we are taking applications.
- Pray for Serious Joy: The 34th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, which we will be relaunching in February 2022. Our theme is Gravity and Gladness in a Groaning World. Pray for both our preparation and the pastors who will be joining us.
- Pray for the full funding of the Serious Joy Scholarship for all our resident students.