The Rev. Jason Meyer, left, talks with outgoing pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Meyer, a Volga native, will lead a congregation of 3,000 in Minnesota and take over for Piper. Courtesy photo
• Not a pulpit he wanted to fill
BROOKINGS – "You think God calls the equipped; in fact, he equips the call."
That approach to ministry has been a driving force in the prayers and discernment of the Rev. Jason Meyer, 36, a Volga native soon to be the new pastor for preaching and vision at Bethelem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. The congregation has 3,000 members; the church has as many as 5,000 people attending services.
Meyer, the son of Donna Langland of Brookings and Steven Meyer of Volga, is an associate professor of New Testament at Bethelem College and Seminary in Minneapolis. He is replacing the Rev. John Piper, a noted Baptist preacher, theologian and writer. Piper's pulpit is not one Meyer wanted, prayed, campaigned or lobbied for.
He admits that he didn't grow up wanting to be a pastor. In fact, he saw being a pastor as "the worst job anybody could possibly have"; he fought the call to ministry. But via a somewhat circuitous route, he and the Lord kept bumping into each other.
Minneapolis isn't that far from Volga – unless you go via stops that include Brookings; Bartlesville, Okla.; Holland, Mich; Louisville, Ky.; Pineville, La., and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Call comes in college
Following his graduation from Sioux Valley High School in Volga in 1994, Meyer attended South Dakota State University, taking pre-med aimed courses with a view to becoming an anesthesiologist. He later switched to occupational therapy. But in November 1995, he felt the Lord calling him "very strongly into ministry."
Meyer credits the Brookings Wesleyan Church with being a strong influence on his Christianity and relationship with Jesus. He said, "The Gospel was being preached, and there was this call to know him (Jesus) personally and receive forgiveness of sins." He found the church really vibrant, with people living out their faith.
The Rev. Tim Purcell, then a Brookings Wesleyan pastor, took him under his wing. Meyer said that he took part in group "fellowship of the call meetings and really began to grow in understanding of ministry."
He began courses of ministerial study that over several years took him to Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, where he earned a degree in pastoral ministry in 1998; he followed that with studies at Hope College's Reformed Church in America seminary in Holland, Mich.
Finally, he began to pursue studies to become a Baptist minister. He began a training program in 1999. In 2002 to finish a master of divinity degree, he attended the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. The next year he started a doctoral program in the New Testament, which he completed in 2007.
Meanwhile he began pastoring a church Louisville and was ordained a Baptist minister. In 2006, with a year to go in his doctoral program and while writing his dissertation, he began teaching at a Southern Baptist seminary in Pineville. He taught there for four years.
Then, in what he called a "winding road," he, his wife Cara and their two daughters, Gracie and Allie, moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopa, in January 2010. He taught at the Evangelical Theological College. They were there for a semester and completed adoption of two boys, whom they named Jonathan and David.
They returned to the United States in June 2010, and Meyer was assigned as an associate professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary.
Seeking a successor
With his decision made to move on to another ministry, Piper, 66 and with 32 years behind him at Bethlehem, visited Meyer last October to see if he was open to being his successor. He told Meyer, "This is what the elders are talking about. Are you interested?"
Meyer told him, "Nothing scares me more than that." Piper took that as Meyer not saying no. They both talked and prayed about the succession. But following that visit Piper removed himself from the selection process; it was left up to the elders, staff and congregation. Meyer got a 99 percent vote of approval.
Through all this, Meyer said he put his trust in the Lord; but he did not understand being urged to a ministry he did not want – but what if this was the Lord's plan for Meyer to have more of him?
While he had never wanted to pastor Bethlehem, he had "always wanted more of God."
He added, "If that's what this meant, then I was open to it. My whole heart changed toward it, along with my wife at the same time."
Beyond the high pressure and the high visibility, Meyer sees the transition process playing out as part of "a continuity of God's presence. And that's really what the congregation wants; we want God's nearness."
He added, "It's not about a person; it's about our mission."
Now an eight-month transition begins: from August to December, Piper will continue preaching, while Meyer "tries to get to know the church, gets to know the staff and elders, and some of the church history."
Come December, Meyer becomes the church's main preacher. In January 2013, the church will begin "a major vision and building campaign."
On April 1, 2013, Meyer will solo as Piper's successor.
Contact John Kubal at jkubal@-brookingsregister.com.