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Last Updated October 17, 2022

Overview

The elders, desiring to strengthen the core of Bethlehem, feel led by the Holy Spirit to pursue a transition from one multicampus church to three independent churches. To this end, they have appointed a group of elders, our Pastors for Preaching and Vision, and key staff and congregants to research and prepare necessary details for the congregational vote on October 16, 2022 (the vote was overwhelming positive–see the "Reflections" update under 'The Plan'). The elders believe this transition will lead to stronger churches, more focused ministry, and greater gospel spreading for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

We are calling this vision “Multiply” because we believe God has answered our prayers in our 25 x ’25 vision. He has helped us plant churches, establish a South building, and has stirred our hearts and prayers for the unreached and unengaged. And as we’ve sought to “strengthen the core,” we believe that God is multiplying us into three independent churches that will love God and love their neighbors, both locally and globally. We believe these three congregations will be able reach their local communities, plant churches, and love and shepherd their global partners to reach the unreached. This vision to "multiply" will result in three churches with shared theology and the same goal of making much of the Name of Jesus.

Why are the elders considering this transition?

The elders have met, prayed, and discussed the move to three healthy, independent churches for some time. We believe that moving in this direction will lead to more fruitfulness for the Kingdom. We believe we will be better able to care for the flock among us and to give an account for those under our authority. 

—Tim Johnson, Elder Council Chairman

Why are we seeking to become three churches?

This question could also be stated, “Why not remain one church with three campuses?” Questions like this come from many different perspectives. Some think things are going great—why change? Others are unconvinced a transition is needed or wise. Why move away from our shared vision, efficiency, and synergy?

Without rehearsing our recent history, in December 2019 we embarked upon our 20/20 Vision with a desire to see our people more clearly, speak to them more specifically, and lead them more effectively. The church voted to transition from a single preaching pastor to three Pastors for Preaching & Vision who could lead and guide each of the campuses. The elders believe this was a good and wise decision, as confirmed by the congregation and by experience. Most are glad to not watch video sermons and to have local shepherds that know, love, and lead their respective congregations. In addition to the transition at the leadership level, we also sought to hold campus-specific congregational meetings that would better facilitate involvement at each campus.

So in many ways, we are already functionally three churches. We have three different preachers and sermon series. Each member gathers with a local congregation. We have three different leadership teams seeking to shepherd their members. A transition toward three churches would reflect what is already true in so many ways: We are increasingly functioning as three churches and should reflect that in our polity.

Additionally, moving toward three churches would address some of the underlying structural and philosophical issues that we saw come to a head in 2020–2021. An already difficult situation was further exacerbated by three campuses, three leadership teams, various leadership and shepherding instincts across campuses, and the difficulty of communication in such a complex church structure. A move toward three independent churches better aligns staff, resources, leadership, and shepherding care. We believe that the things we lose in a transition, namely economies of scale, will be more than offset by gaining organizational clarity, improved functionality, and the ability to focus our time and resources on our people and local communities.

The key biblical texts that have guided this transition and continue to shape our conviction that we should become three churches are 1 Peter 5:1–3 and Hebrews 13:17. In 1 Peter 5 we see that elders are to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight” (1 Peter 5:2). We recognize that it is nearly impossible for one elder at one campus to actively and meaningfully shepherd members at another campus. We don’t worship together, sit under the same preaching, or interact regularly. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” The elders believe that it is sobering to give an account of the spiritual condition of our members, and we cannot do so for members at other campuses. We believe this transition is a more biblically faithful expression of the local church that is prescribed in the New Testament. This doesn’t mean God hasn’t done good things here in our multisite model. He has. Yet we are increasingly convinced that three independent and autonomous churches will best fulfill our mission, allow the elders to shepherd well, and invite the congregation to participate robustly in church life.

Why now? We believe that this transition is wise, biblically faithful, and good for the long-term future of the church. So the question becomes “why should we delay it any longer?” The elders do not believe we should delay becoming three churches, so we are seeking the congregation's approval to move forward into this new and exciting next season of Bethlehem. Another reason for making this transition now is because we have, by God’s grace, relative stability at each of the campuses with leadership (Pastors for Preaching & Vision, elders, and staff) and congregants that are eager to move forward.

—Steven Lee, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, North

What’s the background of this recommendation?

Bethlehem Baptist Church is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Established in 1871 as First Swedish Baptist Church, and celebrating 150 years in 2021, Bethlehem has been a Bible-believing, gospel-preaching church from its inception until today. More history of Bethlehem can be found here.

In September 2002, Bethlehem launched a second campus with a new congregation meeting at Northwestern College (now University of Northwestern – St. Paul). The North congregation moved to their permanent site in Mounds View in June 2005. The South congregation began holding services in Burnsville in September 2006. After a season meeting at Burnsville High School and Lakeville South High School, the South congregation moved into their permanent facility in Lakeville in September 2018.

When the elders considered the retirement of John Piper as the Pastor for Preaching & Vision (where he served July 1980—March 2013), they considered the question of churches versus campuses. After prayer, deliberation, and engagement with the congregation, the elders concluded that Bethlehem would remain one church on three campuses “for the foreseeable future.” Upon completion of the South Campus building and with greater clarity on the role of Pastor for Preaching & Vision (at the time, Jason Meyer), the topic continued to be raised among the congregation and elders in an informal way. As Pastors for Preaching & Vision at the North (Steven Lee) and South (Dave Zuleger) were established in their respective roles, the elders determined that God was leading us to move away from one primary preacher to separate preachers at each campus, as well as enabling each campus congregation to be responsible for its own membership and approval for its own elders and deacons. These changes were implemented as the 20/20 Vision, which was approved by the church on July 26, 2020.

With the catalyst of the 20/20 Vision and the increasing sense that three campuses were already fulfilling the biblical vision of the church in large part, the elders commissioned a committee to study the issue further and bring a recommendation back to the full elder council. That subcommittee recommended that Bethlehem pursue a transition to three independent churches. After a season of prayer and conversations (formal and informal), on October 5, 2021, the elder council voted in favor of the recommendation, which they shared with the congregation on Sunday, October 31, 2021. At a subsequent elder meeting on January 4, 2022, the Council established the “Executive Transition Team” (ETT) with members Pastors Ken Currie, Kenny Stokes, Steven Lee, Dave Zuleger, Jon Grano; and Director of Human Resources, Joby Morgan. Jake Wood, Coordinator for Visions & Operations,  has also joined us.

From January to May 2022, the ETT consulted with various members and “stakeholders” in major areas of ministry in order to provide the elders with specific goals in transitioning to three churches. Now the ETT and elders aim to pray, consult, research, further refine, and communicate the pathway forward, all with the goal that the congregation can make an informed vote on October 16, 2022, at our All-Church Quarterly Strategy Meeting.

To recap, we are recommending that we move from being one church on three sites to being three independent, healthy churches. We do so not because of recent or ongoing conflict, nor because of any theological division or difference between the campuses, nor because of a financial downturn, nor because attendance has been down. 

We pursue this path because we believe it will improve the overall health of each campus congregation and advance our calling and mission to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. 

—Ken Currie, Pastor for Strategic Implementation

The Plan

To move from a single multicampus church to three independent, healthy, viable churches in 2023.

Reflections From the October 16th All-Church Quarterly Strategy Meeting

Dear Bethlehem, 

Thank you to all who participated in Sunday’s All-Church Quarterly Strategy Meeting. As a church, we voted on the following motion during that meeting:

The membership authorizes the Elders of the Church to take all actions necessary related to the separation of the Church and the creation of three separate and distinct churches.

The vote passed with 801 “yes” and 28 “no” votes. God helped us. The Lord was faithful to guide the church into the next chapter of our history—Bethlehem Baptist Church will “Multiply” into three independent churches along the 35W corridor, one Downtown in Minneapolis, one North in Mounds View, and one South in Lakeville. Praise God! Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your engagement. Thank you for preparedness to discern God’s will for our future.

Whether you voted yes or you voted no, let’s all rejoice together in this historic moment in the life of our church. Throughout our entire 151-year history, God has been faithful to Bethlehem. Remember that Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 4:15), and we are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3); and if one member suffers, all suffer together, and if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26). Above all, let’s rejoice that we have a good Savior and our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

Please continue to pray for God’s leading, wisdom, faith, and more of his strength as we continue on the trajectory toward becoming three separate and distinct churches. We aim to post updates on the Multiply web page along the way.

Praising God with you and for you, 

Tim Johnson
Chairman of the Council of Elders

October 16 All-Church Quarterly Strategy Meeting Information

We’re a church that does church together. We gather. We fellowship. We exhort. We baptize. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We pray. We’re an elder-led congregational church. As a church we are facing a historic decision that requires us to assemble, discuss a motion, and vote.

Please pray, engage, and review so that you will be prepared for the All-Church Quarterly Strategy Meeting on October 16 (5-7:30pm, on each campus).

  • Pray for the process. Pray for your own mind and heart. Pray that the Lord will guide you and those who are involved in preparing us for this discussion and the vote.

  • Engage in campus-specific meetings. Engage with the elders. Engage with your small group. Engage with your own conscience and with Scripture to prepare yourself.

  • Review this Multiply web page, which help explain why the elders have proposed this change and include many important details that enable you to better understand what will happen if we vote to affirm the motion.

The motion from the Council of Elders is as follows:

The membership authorizes the Elders of the Church to take all actions necessary related to the separation of the Church and the creation of three separate and distinct churches.

As you pray, engage, and review in preparation of the All-Church Quarterly Strategy Meeting on October 16, below are updates to select topics related to the Multiply vision. Many of you have asked thoughtful questions about these topics during Q&A times and in conversations with members of the elder council; may this update help inform your prayers, engagement, and review.
  • Global Outreach. In coordination with Global Outreach staff and the Pastors for Preaching & Vision, this past August we transitioned the Global Outreach ministry and staff to each campus. We believe this change was needed regardless of the transition. With the elders and GO Teams from each congregation more closely engaged with their global partners, it allows each congregation to make more strategic sending & supporting decisions. We are eager for each congregation to contextualize the mission of proclaiming Christ to all peoples.
  • Bethlehem College & Seminary. The Downtown and North campuses will share governance authority of Bethlehem College & Seminary moving forward. The South Campus leadership, while eager to maintain involvement, feels too far away geographically for this level of ownership. We are working with Bethlehem College & Seminary to modify the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, and to draft other documents that will be necessary for this joint ownership. We are eager to partner together for the advance of the gospel.
  • Individual Church Budgets. Each campus has reviewed their expected costs and prayerfully forecasted their respective giving for the year 2023, including any additional costs required to be a healthy and independent church. Reasonable assumptions were then used to forecast costs and giving based on vision for the church, historical results, and planned actions.


 
  • Debt. Each potential entity (campus) will receive one-third of the debt of the current church. This decision was unanimously passed by the elders at each campus - after prayer, fasting, and detailed discussions. This decision represents the desire for the elders to ensure each campus is a healthy campus while also appropriately allocating debt and assets. The elders have reviewed budgets for each potential entity (campus) where the potential entity (campus) assumes their portion of the debt and has determined how to best service that debt.

  • Assets. Each campus will retain their respective designated assets. Since the majority of Bethlehem assets (building and land) are already integrally associated with a campus or ministry, they will remain with that campus post-transition. In addition to the buildings and land, “furniture, fixtures, and equipment” (F, F, & E) will remain with its respective campus, as will other assets already dedicated to a particular ministry or campus (Helping Hand, Campus Outreach, Bethlehem Foundation, building replacement reserves, etc.). The few “unallocated assets” (several vehicles and trailers, end-of-year operating reserve, etc.) will be equitably allocated between the churches.

  • Commitment to communication and doing what is best for the church. The Council of Elders summarize their commitment to do their best effort to do what is best for the church and inform the congregation of the Multiply vision as follows:

    • The Elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church have determined that it is in the best interests of the church to formally and legally separate the church into three independent churches that are independent from one another and legally independent entities under Minnesota law. 

    • The Elders have determined that this separation is in the best interest of our religious mission and purposes for this separation to occur. 

    • The Elders have thoroughly considered the wide range of legal, financial, and practical factors related to this separation, and will execute numerous formal agreements to facilitate the separation, including without limitation the following: a separation and ministry asset transfer agreement, as well as potential transition services and management services agreement, as required. 

    • The proposed reorganization of the church, including the formation of new churches, is being and has been explained to the membership of the church. There have been, are, and will be multiple sources of communications, including the multiply website, numerous strategy meetings and other church-sponsored events.

Timing

With the Lord’s help, we aim to establish all three campuses as independent churches in the calendar year 2023. The exact timing is not yet determined.


Debt, Assets, & Budgets

With congregational approval, each campus will take one third of the existing church debt and unallocated assets, along with its own church building. Each campus is also working to create a practicable post-transition budget.



Staffing

Our strong desire is to transition our beloved all-church staff to the new churches. To care well for staff, specific individual details will not be made known broadly. Ministry-area details will be shared as appropriate.


Bethlehem College & Seminary

The Downtown and North campuses will share governance authority of Bethlehem College & Seminary moving forward. The South Campus leadership, while eager to maintain involvement, feels too far away geographically for this level of ownership.


Global Outreach

Global Outreach has already begun to function as a campus-specific ministry. Like the other campus-specific ministries, the GO staff and ministry will continue in each church after the proposed transition. 


Campus Outreach

Campus Outreach will continue being led by CO director Reid Jilek. The ministry will be under the primary authority of the North Campus, with active involvement at the sister Downtown Campus under the direction of Pastor Ken Currie. Pastor Ken will report directly to Reid and secondarily to Pastor Kenny Stokes. 


CityJoy

CityJoy will remain an independent auxiliary of the Downtown Campus. The North and South campuses will not be involved in the ongoing governance or support of CityJoy. 


Church Planting

Each church is eager to continue to plant new churches as a part of our TCT Network

FAQs

Still have questions? We have answered some frequently asked questions here. 
 

What are the biblical convictions guiding the elders regarding this transition?

Our vision for this transition is the same shepherding vision we voiced in our “20/20 Vision.” Here's what we said then. It is still true now.

We want to see our people more clearly, speak to them more specifically, and lead them more effectively.

In 20/20 Vision the Lord gave us a renewed passion for church planting and unengaged people groups, but he also gave us a renewed passion for shepherding the flock. In a sense, strengthening the core has become a quest to become better shepherds. In other words, as the elders sought the Lord for how to strengthen the core, he has graciously shaped our vision with biblical texts about shepherding the flock. These texts excite us in a renewed way—not as things we have never done, but as things we can grow into more and more. We are talking about moving further in and further up into the realities of these texts.

Two of the most formative texts for us have been 1 Peter 5 and Hebrews 13. First Peter 5 calls us to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2). And Hebrews 13 reminds us that the elders are “keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17).

The last several years have given rise to a greater passion for shepherding and congregational care. One of the key truths that has fueled this passion is the fundamental truth that the flock belongs to God, not us. The flock is the “flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2). Undershepherds have a distinct calling. We are stewards, not owners. We are servants, not masters. The flock does not belong to undershepherds but to the chief Shepherd. Therefore, the chief Shepherd will be the judge of the undershepherds (1 Peter 5:4).

A greater passion for shepherding also flows from the specificity of shepherding. We have taken seriously the fact that the flock we are called to shepherd is the flock “that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2). Nearness to the flock and accessibility to the flock are crucial aspects of shepherding. A shepherd exercises oversight as an overseer—which means “keeping watch over your souls” (Hebrews 13:17). To keep watch over people is almost impossible without knowing them and being near them.

Hebrews 13:17 also adds the sobering truth that one day every undershepherd will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for the flock under his oversight. This verse forces us to take an eternal perspective on shepherding. Sometimes pastoral ministry feels defined by the daily pressures of running programs and keeping up with the tyranny of the urgent. But being a shepherd is not primarily about managing programs or events. The pressing needs of the present must always be put into the eternal perspective of the judgment to come.

We have already made great strides in these areas as we have focused on meaningful membership. We spend significant time in congregational elder meetings highlighting specific shepherding cases. We also devote a considerable amount of time to knowing the flock and praying for the flock by name. Why do we think that more regular campus-specific preaching will strengthen these shepherding gains? 

Preaching is part of shepherding. Though preaching we aim to help the congregation understand and savor the word of God, and to grow closer in their relationship with the Lord. This is harder to do through video preaching. 

What’s the timeline?

Before answering, it’s good to remember that “the heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9), so “if the Lord wills,” we will proceed with this transition (James 4:15). We believe that this transition is a good, wise, and biblically faithful next step for our church family. We believe it will lead to greater faithfulness, more congregational involvement, better shepherding, and an increased ability to fulfill our mission.

We anticipate that this vote, with all the appropriate details and information, will be presented to the congregation prior to the October 16, 2022, All-Church Quarterly Strategy Meeting (5-7:30pm). The fact that you’re reading it now is a sign that this is happening. Each campus will field questions and hold Q&A sessions to hear from the congregation. We value your voice, input, and the Holy Spirit within each member. We are longing for overwhelming confirmation among God’s people for this pivotal and significant transition for us all.

If all goes well, we anticipate the congregation will vote on October 16, 2022 (5-7:30pm). If the vote is affirmed, we’ll begin to execute the congregation’s wishes to transition toward formal independence for the North and South campuses. We anticipate the timeline for each of those transitions will depend upon a multitude of logistics (payroll, bylaws, constitution, coordinating with banks, etc.) and may require subsequent votes by the congregation (or new congregations) to release or assume debt, to release or receive property, and to dismiss or receive new members. We are aiming to have three independent churches in the year 2023, desiring to maintain flexibility in finalizing the transition to three churches.

—Steven Lee, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, North

How has the timeline emerged?

We’ve had many conversations across the full Bethlehem community about the campuses becoming independent churches since the North Campus was launched in 2002. Some of these conversations have been formal. For example, as the elders considered the succession plan for Pastor John Piper, they also considered whether the North and South campuses should be launched as independent churches at that time. 

The conclusion reached at that time was that Bethlehem would remain one church on three campuses “for the foreseeable future.” This wording was deliberate to settle the matter for the moment but to leave open the door for future consideration. When Jason Meyer was called as the Pastor for Preaching & Vision, he was candid with the elders and the congregation that he believed eventually the campuses should be churches. And this was understood as a distinct possibility when Pastors Steven Lee and Dave Zuleger were called as the Lead Campus Pastors to the North and South campuses respectively. The elders recognize their subsequent transition from Lead Campus Pastors to Pastors for Preaching & Vision as one of the indications that the Spirit is moving us in the direction of three independent churches. 

In addition to formal settings, this question has been on the minds of many leaders and members, and has been discussed in many contexts since the first step to multiple campuses in the early 2000’s. Much prayer, conversation, listening, and learning from each other and other churches have led us to this point in the history of Bethlehem. This transition is not born out of personality, circumstance, presumption, or hasty emotional impulse, but rather out of careful, prayerful, congregational, and Spirit-led conviction. 

—Ken Currie, Pastor for Strategic Implementation

What about our “Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25” vision?

Summary
We believe that “Multiply” is the fulfillment of the “Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25” vision to “strengthen the core,” and that by moving forward with Multiply we’ll be better able to fulfill our church planting and global outreach goals.

Introduction: 25 x ’25 Vision

Bethlehem launched a 10-year vision in 2015 called “Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25.”

Vision Statement

Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25 represents our gospel ambition to accelerate during the next 25 months toward an aim of strengthening our core ministries, building a 24/7 South Campus facility, planting 25 new churches, and engaging 25 unengaged people groups by the year 2025.

Some of these things have measurable numbers behind them that make them easy to calculate, while others—like “strengthening the core”—are harder to measure. Let’s recap where we’ve been in this vision.

Recap of 25 x ’25 Progress

Building a 24/7 South Campus

By God’s grace poured into and through his people, the South Campus has had a permanent facility to call “home” on Kenrick Avenue in Lakeville since early Fall 2018.

This completed the vision to have three “light posts” and outposts of the gospel in the Twin Cities along the I-35 corridor. We are trusting this outpouring of grace and love will resound in many thanksgivings to God in the decades to come for the gospel faithfulness and fruitfulness he will grant.

After weathering pandemics, protests, and political unrest, the South Campus leaders and people are settling in for the long haul of ministry to the South suburbs. We are beginning to dream, pray, and move toward loving our neighbors and making disciples.

Planting 25 New Churches

God has been kind to us in the area of church planting. You can visit this page to see all that God has done in the past few decades and all the way back in the history of our church.

So far, during 25 x ’25 Bethlehem has planted 13 new churches with a fourteenth likely to be planted in early Fall 2022.

Each of these church plants represents another gospel light post and outpost, positioned where God has determined for them to dwell (cf. Acts 17:26). Each of these churches shares our Elder Affirmation of Faith. It is encouraging to think of faithful, fruitful churches planted and growing for the Name of Jesus in their respective contexts. It is especially wonderful to see churches that share our theology and yet have their own distinct flavors, passions, and strategies based on their particular locations, congregations, and situations.

Engaging 25 Unengaged People Groups

This has proven to be hard, long-term work. Up to this point we have begun to engage two unengaged people groups. However, we do not view this initiative as a waste or a failure.

Because of the difficulty of the task, this initiative has caused us to pray much more! Our congregation has prayed for the unreached and unengaged to receive the gospel—a healthy and right request to develop that is reflective of a Romans 15 ambition every church should feel.

We’ve also had many global partners begin to reorient their ministries toward reaching the unreached who are in their regions. This means that there are ministries, people, and prayers all shifting toward the gospel running toward those who have not yet heard it. We trust God is using all of this for the eternal glory of his Name among the nations.

Strengthening the Core: 20/20 Vision

The most fluid and undefined priority of the 25 x ’25 vision was to “strengthen the core” at Bethlehem. Not a lot of clarity was placed around this goal, except to fill in some key positions at the various campuses for long-term vision-casting and leadership. Steven Lee (North) and Dave Zuleger (South) were hired to begin to fill these roles as “Lead Pastors.” Around this same time, many ministries began to move from centralized units to campus-specific ministries to better meet the needs of the congregations and reach their communities.

Right in the middle of 25 x ’25 vision, the Lord began to move among the elders at Bethlehem and give even more clarity on what it meant to “strengthen the core.” That is where the 20/20 Vision was born. The basics of that vision were to have campus-specific preaching and campus-specific family meetings that would move the shepherding voice of preaching and the governing voice of the congregation closer to the local contexts of each campus. 

On July 26, 2020, the congregation voted to approve this new structure and appoint Pastors for Preaching & Vision to each campus. Since that point (two years ago now), each campus has experienced preaching and governing nearer to them, and the testimony has been positive at each location, despite the many troubles of the last few years.

20/20 Vision to Multiply: A Transition to Three Healthy Churches

This move to campus contextualization has led to three congregations beginning to dream, pray, preach, and teach toward the gospel going forth in a more focused and fresh way in Minneapolis, Mounds View, and Lakeville. This has meant that the staffing, programming, and emphases of each place have begun to be less standardized and more diversified and contextualized—all while sharing the same doctrine we know and love.

Almost every ministry has become campus-specific, and there are now ministry teams, elder teams, and congregations seeking to be in-step with each other for the gospel.

This move toward campus-specific ministry and local church life has led the elders at Bethlehem to believe that God is leading us to become three independent churches. This move was not motivated or undergirded by the problems of the past few years but was birthed before that from a belief that we can be more effective for the cause of Christ as three versus one.

Multiplying Our 25 x ’25 Vision

We are calling this vision “Multiply” because that is what we believe God is doing. We believe God has been faithful to answer our prayers in the 25 x ’25 vision. He has helped us plant churches. He has granted a place for the gospel to launch from in the south suburbs. He has stirred our hearts and prayers for the unreached and unengaged.

And God has surprised us with a far more expansive “strengthening of the core” than we were imagining. Rather than seeing this as a division, we believe God is multiplying us into three churches that want to love God with all their hearts and love their neighbors as themselves, both locally and globally.

So, while God has altered and expanded our vision in surprising ways, we believe these three congregations will be better positioned to reach into and make disciples in their own communities, know their regions for church-planting, and love and shepherd their own global partners toward reaching the unreached.

God is creating three churches that have shared theology, love the same God, and have the same goal of making much of the Name of Jesus in the short lives we have here on earth. And he’s creating three churches well equipped and positioned to contextualize ministry in a way that gives the freedom to be effective in their local contexts. So, while the 25 x ’25 vision itself may not remain, its heartbeat has been multiplied threefold.

—Dave Zuleger, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, South

What about our debts, assets, and budgets?

Bethlehem has accumulated enough appraisal data and campus build-out cost details over the past several decades to describe each of our three operating campuses (the main campus building and corresponding parking lot) as “approximately equivalent” properties. Based on that data, the idea that each campus “owns” approximately one third of Bethlehem’s current $7M mortgage debt is suggested as a fair way to proceed with debt assignment and asset valuation.

This places each campus in a relatively strong “debt-to-asset” financial position, with around $2.3M in debt for each future church collateralized by about $10M in assets—somewhat like a family owing $70K on a $300K home. Many of Bethlehem’s other assets are already associated with a campus or project (Helping Hand funds, church plants, undeveloped 7th Street property Downtown and open land for future parking South). Each campus will retain their respective designated assets.

Once a campus transitions to be an independent church, it will have its own annual budget, supported primarily by contributions from members and regular attendees at that church. It’s important that Bethlehem remains financially healthy prior to each campus transitioning, so as not to place an undue financial burden on either the new North and South churches, or the Downtown church (which remains “Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota”). Bethehem aims to maintain a 10% operating reserve at the start of each fiscal year (to help cover ongoing expenses incurred throughout the year, prior to those deficits usually being made up by strong December year-end giving). But that reserve is being depleted quicker than usual in 2022. Please join in praying for generous “Philippians 2:4” hearts that will allow all 2022 Bethlehem expenses to be paid and each church established with a healthy financial foundation in 2023. 

—Jon Grano, Pastor for Operations

What will happen to our all-church staff?

As always, our goal, with God's help, is to care well for the staff we have, maximizing their gifts for the benefit of the church and their own joy in Jesus. This care must always be balanced, of course, with an equal desire to care well for the church and her needs. To care well for staff, specific individual details will not be made known broadly. Appropriate ministry-area details will be made known.

Currently the church has just under 140 staff (some of those working full time, others very part time):

  1. Downtown: 32 staff
  2. North: 37 staff
  3. South: 19 staff
  4. Campus Outreach: 19 staff
  5. All Church: 29 staff

We are making transition plans for our staff in a number of ways:

  1. Conversations are underway with our Pastors for Preaching & Vision (PPV) to know what the projected budgets and needs of each campus are likely to be.

  2. For the most part, those already assigned to one campus will remain in their positions through the transition (acknowledging that there are often conversations underway regarding retirements or transitions). We continue, as always, to be available to these staff members as questions surface.

  3. For the most part, the PPVs are not eager to continue sharing all-church staff across campuses, feeling it is most helpful for campuses and staff when individuals are able to serve just one location—their own home church. Serving across campuses can create challenges from competing needs, and differing leadership styles and philosophies. That said, there will be a couple of exceptions. Our IT team, who has architected Bethlehem’s current systems infrastructure, will continue to serve the Downtown and North campuses. The other broad exception is Campus Outreach. That ministry will continue under the primary authority of the North Campus, with active involvement at the sister Downtown Campus.

  4. We are having ongoing meetings with the PVVs to know which all-church staff they'll be able to adopt into their own staff families. At the same time, we have begun the process of meeting with each of the all-church staff.

These plans are underway, but still in process. We’re aiming to give the campuses the time they need to plan and individuals the details they need to anticipate their future on staff post-transition. Please pray with us for the Lord’s help and guidance and for church giving to financially support staffing needs.

—Joby Morgan, Director for Human Resources

What about Bethlehem College & Seminary?

We are grateful to God for allowing us to establish The Bethlehem Institute and then later Bethlehem College & Seminary. We take seriously the responsibility to exercise some oversight in appointing the trustees of the school so that they can ensure the leadership is fulfilling its mission: Under the authority of God’s inerrant word, Bethlehem College & Seminary exists to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ by equipping men and women to treasure Christ above all things, to grow in wisdom and knowledge over a lifetime, and to glorify God in every sphere of life.

The South Campus elders have expressed a desire to partner with Bethlehem College & Seminary but not to have active governance responsibilities. The Downtown and North elders have both expressed a continued desire to exercise governance responsibilities for Bethlehem College & Seminary. In light of those desires and intentions, we believe it will be best to establish a network or a cooperative association (comprising the Downtown and North churches) to govern Bethlehem College & Seminary. That group may decide to invite other churches to participate in governing the school in the future, but for now, we believe this retains the shared interest of the Downtown and North elders in overseeing the school.

The elders and the Bethlehem College & Seminary leadership are committed to continuing to develop mutually beneficial, collaborative, and affiliative relationships between the churches and school for the training and equipping of the next generation of leaders and to glorify God in all things.

—Steven Lee, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, North

What about Global Outreach?

When we first became a multi-campus church, Bethlehem created a framework for ministries that allowed them to function on each campus while still being tied together overall. For some ministries, this tie across campuses was more pronounced with greater unifying structures. For others, it was a looser connection. In recent years, especially under the 20/20 Vision, we’ve worked to make our ministries more campus-specific, allowing more campus autonomy and freedom.

Global Outreach has taken its turn at this kind of transition in the past few months, moving to be embedded on each campus. This transition has helped the elders and the congregation at each campus to take more ownership in the ministry, allowing them to better know our individual global partners, to speak into their sending, and to have the Global Outreach ministry more contextualized to each campus. We know that these gains come with losses. Having Global Outreach staff and ministries united across the campuses has been sweet over the years and will be missed.

This transition wasn’t tied to the proposed transition to three churches. Rather, it is a way for each campus to take more ownership and to enable Global Outreach to partner with the other ministries on a campus and be less siloed. Just like the other campus-specific ministries, Global Outreach will move forward with each church as they transition. 

As we pursue this move to three churches, each campus has shown an eagerness to continue to be a sending church. Pray with us for generous giving to support the aspirations and dreams God has given. 

—Joby Morgan, Director for Human Resources

What about Campus Outreach?

Campus Outreach (CO) is a global ministry that uses a franchising model. CO has more than 20 franchises around the world. These franchises share the same vision and general strategy, but each operates under the authority of a local church (referred to as a “hub church”). Campus Outreach Minneapolis has operated since 2003 with Bethlehem Baptist Church as their hub church. Elsewhere in the CO world, it’s common for a CO franchise to have both a hub church and partner churches. These partner churches are other like-minded churches in the region with a desire for campus ministry. They partner with the hub church and act as a ministry base for Campus Outreach staff who serve on nearby university campuses. These staff attend and work closely with the partnering church but continue to report to the hub church.

Because this model exists and works well for Campus Outreach, CO Minneapolis feels confident replicating it so that Campus Outreach can continue to function at the new independent churches located in Minneapolis and Mounds View. Mounds View (North) will become the hub church and Bethlehem Baptist Church (Downtown) will be a partner church. The CO staff serving out of both locations will continue to operate as one staff team, blessing each other with partnership, encouragement, and accountability.

In this new model, we are anticipating with excitement that Pastor Ken Currie will shift from his role as Pastor for Strategic Implementation to Campus Outreach Ministerial Area Director at the Downtown church. In this role, Ken would oversee CO staff at the University of Minnesota and the University of St.Thomas, as well as ministry to graduating high school students and all other college students at the Downtown church. This new role would report primarily to the CO Minneapolis Director, Reid Jilek, and secondarily to the Downtown Pastor for Preaching & Vision, Kenny Stokes. Ken would function as a member of the Downtown pastoral staff team, overseeing college ministry for the church. For the first year to two years, Ken would not be an elder in order to give this new role the time and attention it needs.

—Jake Wood, Coordinator for Vision & Operations

What about CityJoy?

CityJoy is a gift to the Downtown Campus. Their leader has an office in our building. We value their ministry and partnership, and we are eager for that partnership to grow and deepen. At a practical level, the Downtown church will maintain “ownership” of CityJoy as the North and South churches are launched as new legal entities. CityJoy will remain an independent auxiliary of the Downtown Campus. We are working with the CityJoy Board of Directors to position the organization to serve as a Neighborhood Outreach resource for Downtown church ministries.

CityJoy has undergone recent transitions in leadership; they have a new Interim Executive Director, Heather Elting-Ballard. 

—Chuck Steddom, Pastor for Worship & Ministry Development

What about church planting?

God has been kind to us in the area of church-planting. You can visit this page to see all that God has done in the past few decades and through the entire history of our church.

During 25 x ’25 Bethlehem has approved 15 new churches.

As Pastor Dave said so well, each of these church plants represents another gospel light post and outpost, positioned where God has determined for them to dwell (cf. Acts 17:26). Each of these churches shares our Elder Affirmation of Faith. What an encouragement to think of faithful, fruitful churches planted and growing for the Name of Jesus in their respective contexts—sharing our theology and yet with their own distinct flavors, passions, and strategies based on their unique locations, congregations, and situations.

Currently, we have one part-time staff person in the Church Planting department serving the whole church. He will continue to serve the Downtown church, Lord willing, and ultimately church planting will be embedded in the Outreach ministries of each of the three churches. All three Pastors for Preaching & Vision have voiced a priority to continue to plant churches through the TCT Network as the Lord gives us resources.

—Kenny Stokes, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, Downtown

What will our three campuses be named as they become churches?

In many ways, this transition feels like the creation of three new churches. But in reality, the church called Bethlehem Baptist Church (which has existed for more than 150 years) is planting two new churches—what we now call the North Campus and the South Campus. Therefore, the North and South campuses will rebrand under new names, while the Downtown Campus retains the name Bethlehem Baptist Church.

The reasons for Downtown to keep the original name are both practical and historical. We have no reason for the Downtown Campus to reinvent its name, since it will be continuing in the same location under the same governance documents as it has for 151 years. The church should continue to benefit from various operational aspects of the building and property that are already set up under the name “Bethlehem Baptist Church” and the address 720 13th Avenue South, Minneapolis. 

The North and South Campuses have begun the process of reviewing possible names with a hope of choosing a name in the near future. 

—Jake Wood, Coordinator for Vision & Operations

How can we partner together in the future?

In the past, the three campuses have benefited from collaborative partnerships in many ways, such as hosting events and seminars, joint training, retreats and camps, emergency response teams, global outreach efforts, and church planting. The transition plan presently does not spell out specific ministry partnerships. However, mutually beneficial ministry partnerships may certainly be formed by the ministry leadership on each campus as needed.

—Kenny Stokes, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, Downtown

How can I support this transition?

So many people love Bethlehem Baptist Church and want to know how to support the current transition toward three autonomous churches. Here are just three significant ways to “lean in” to the current transition. They will probably seem obvious, but that does not make them less important.

Prayer

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.—2 Corinthians 1:11

The context of this call for prayer from the apostle Paul comes out of a period of significant difficulty. Paul says they “must” help by prayer so that “many will give thanks” as God blesses them. Notice two significant things Paul assumes about prayer:

  1. God hears and answers the prayers of his people and grants blessings through them.
  2. If many more people pray, then when God answers those prayers, many more will give thanks to him.

With these in mind, will you join us in prayer during this season of significant transition on the heels of a season of significant difficulty? Your prayers matter, and through them God grants help. Your prayers matter, and through them many will give thanks and glorify our God, which is the ultimate aim of everything we do. We get the help; God gets the glory. So, would you set aside 5–10 minutes to pray every day? Reach out to your elders and ask for specific requests.

Participation

Please make it a point to come to meetings, read materials, and engage in the process with us. We want you to be informed, and we believe your feedback will help this transition go better and be more fruitful. Lean into this process with us as we present more information. Reach out to one of your campus elders if you have specific ideas or questions.

In addition, all of this transition is happening even while our current ministry rolls on. So, please also continue to participate in glad generosity of giving ( see 2 Corinthians 8–9) and serving (see 1 Corinthians 12) to keep the church ministries strong. This is not a time to pull away and wait. It is a time to lean in and participate. 

Patience

As you pray and participate, please be patient with us as we seek to respond, clarify, and engage. We recognize that many people have deep investment in many different aspects of ministry and philosophy. We assume questions and concerns come from a place of love and care for Bethlehem. Your elders and leaders love and care for Bethlehem as well.

So, let’s seek to bear the fruit of patience through the Spirit so that on the other side of this transition there will be great unity, clarity, love, and joy in walking forward together. Let’s seek to be flexible and full of grace as we interact with one another, seeking the Lord’s leading as we move forward in every aspect of church life together.

—Dave Zuleger, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, South

How does giving impact this transition?

Bethlehem is currently one church with one budget. Financial Secretary Steve Walmsley tracks individual giving by campus, which has historically mirrored campus worship attendance fairly closely. This information is especially important as each campus prepares to be launched as an independent, self-sustaining church with its own 2023 budget. 
 
Ongoing giving now, in 2022, directly impacts Bethlehem's ability to transition well to three churches in 2023. We annually aim for an operating reserve of 10% of our budget (about five weeks of giving) at the beginning of each year in order to cover costs during many months of the year when expenses exceed giving. This is done with the expectation that year after year God provides enough through your generosity to make up the difference in December and replenish the reserve. If we use up our reserve this year, prior to transition, and do not replenish it, each church will start in a less healthy position, possibly without reserves to start the year.

Consider how you may be part of sustained generosity during challenging economic times to allow Bethlehem to finish 2022 financially strong and to provide a solid foundation for transition to three healthy churches in 2023.
 
—Jon Grano, Pastor for Operations

Does this transition mean we’ve failed at our multicampus vision?

Not at all. It is a strategy in keeping with our mission statement, “To spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” Transitioning to three churches is an expression of the Treasuring Christ Together vision that began our multicampus and church planting strategy in 2002–2004. That multicampus strategy included a commitment that Bethlehem Baptist Church would remain in downtown Minneapolis. From the beginning, we anticipated this possibility of transitioning to three churches as a gospel-spreading strategy—that of planting two new churches.

We are trusting God that the multiplication of Bethlehem from one to three churches will result in three healthy churches from which gospel preaching and biblical discipleship will multiply and increase. By “healthy” we mean biblically faithful and sufficiently resourced to move into the future, confident in God’s sustaining grace, with the hope that each church will remain viable until Christ returns. That objective is the goal of our plan.

—Kenny Stokes, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, Downtown

What opportunities does this transition provide?

The opportunities provided by this transition in no way take away from the grace that our sovereign Lord has poured out on Bethlehem over these past decades. The reality is that in every season we must ask for wisdom to best steward our time, energy, and resources for the sake of the Name of Jesus in these Twin Cities and to the nations. 

One main opportunity provided in this transition is a right-prioritizing for the elders, staff, and congregations of the three campuses. A lot of time and energy is required to keep all three campuses connected. The more each campus has developed a heart for their particular congregation and the communities they are situated in, the more tension is felt in the constant time divided between the local and the all-church expressions of Bethlehem. 

With this transition, the elders have a burden to spend more time knowing, caring for, shepherding, and equipping the congregations they serve and the global partners assigned to each campus. The staff can focus completely on serving their own church body, and the congregation (of which elders and staff are a part) can focus on loving one another and loving their neighbors, while also better knowing their global partners. Pastors can give time to getting to know and partnering with other faithful churches in the areas for gospel impact in their communities. 

So the opportunities provided in this transition are consistent with and an extension of all we spoke of in our 20/20 Vision. We believe God is positioning us to Multiply for greater faithfulness and fruitfulness in the stewardship of our time and energy in the years ahead. 

—Dave Zuleger, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, South

What are the primary losses with this transition?

God is sovereign over all. Jesus is the head of the church. As fallible but Spirit-filled followers of Jesus, we plan our way and trust that God is directing our steps. Change can be simultaneously encouraging and hard. Since we don’t all process change the same way, one member’s loss may be another member’s gain and vice versa.

With that said, we want to acknowledge that, although the leadership thinks this proposed change brings much good (we believe it will lead to greater faithfulness, more congregational involvement, better shepherding, and an increased ability to fulfill our mission), we also see that it comes with losses that some will feel keenly. Though I’ll list only a couple of items, other aspects of the transition may also be felt as loss by some members of our body.

We anticipate that we will lose some economies of scale currently enabled by our all-church Operations staff (who provide infrastructure help). Additionally, we will lose the shared camaraderie some ministries have enjoyed by regularly working together across campuses. We will lose our all-church identity and some long-standing relational bonds that have been sustained across the campuses. We will lose routine collaboration on shared strategies and ministries. 

We want to acknowledge these losses, thank the Lord for his kindness and blessings to us for the last 20 years, and trust him to continue to refine and build us as his Bride. In the ultimate and final analysis, there are no losses for the Christian because God is causing all things to work out for our good.

—Ken Currie, Pastor for Strategic Implementation

What did we learn from the congregational surveys?

The congregational surveys (in-person and online) were extremely helpful and provided two main data points. 

First, it showed us that the congregation was generally in favor of moving toward this change to autonomy at an extremely high percentage. That helped us to know that it was good and right to keep moving forward. Thank you for walking this new path with us. 

Second, it showed us that the congregations had many of the same questions we did. How will Global Outreach function going forward? What about the Operations departments? How will you handle the debt? How will you relate to Bethlehem College & Seminary? Will all the campuses be OK financially? 

So these two things have given us motivation and a mandate to seek to move forward and provide initial answers to those questions that we believe are filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help us flourish as three healthy churches going forward. Those initial answers are the purpose of this website. 

—Dave Zuleger, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, South

How do we guard the doctrine of the three churches?

The Elder Affirmation of Faith is part of our current church Constitution and By-Laws. Each campus has indicated they intend it to continue to be a part of their new Constitution and By-Laws. This safeguard was designed to make it difficult for our core doctrines to be changed without good reason. Any formal change in doctrine requires a change to the Constitution and By-Laws. This requires a congregational vote.

The new churches will be drafting their own governance documents. Congregations will vote on these same built-in doctrinal safeguards. Each of the churches has the freedom to decide on worship practices such as frequency of the Lord’s Supper, manner of distribution, etc. But we will share the Elder Affirmation of Faith in common.

This is true of all of our Treasuring Christ Together Network churches.

—Kenny Stokes, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, Downtown

What are we learning from other churches who have made this transition?

Throughout Bethlehem's history, we have learned much from brothers and sisters in other congregations. When we face something new, it isn't unusual to pick up the phone and talk to others who have gone before us. These connections have been a tremendous gift to us, saving us thousands of dollars and hours of work. 

Regarding this potential transition, we've learned that several other churches have also made the transition from multicampus to independent churches. We've learned that we need to pay careful attention to the details, to care well for our staff, and to keep the congregation updated. We've learned about ordering the tasks on our list and adding new tasks to cover things we hadn't considered. We've learned no two churches will go through this process in the same way. We've been reminded that we have an extended family ready to help us and a Father who oversees and meets our needs. 

—Jon Grano, Pastor for Operations

Will there be upcoming campus Family Meetings to help prepare us for this vote?

The elders at each campus are seeking to shepherd their respective flocks in such a way that the congregation is fully informed and involved in the process of preparing and voting on the recommendation to become three churches. This includes campus Family Meetings, correspondence from the Pastors for Preaching and Vision (and others), informal conversations, and preaching relevant to the transition. Currently the following meetings are scheduled: 

Downtown Campus: 

  • August 28: Downtown Family Meeting, 5pm–6:30pm
  • September 25: Downtown Family Meeting, 5pm–6:30pm 

North Campus: 

  • August 28: North Family Meeting, 3:30–5pm
  • September 25: North Family Meeting, 3:30–5pm

South Campus: 

  • September 11: beginning 15 minutes after the worship service and lasting about 45 minutes
  • September 18: beginning 15 minutes after the worship service and lasting about 45 minutes
  • September 25: beginning 15 minutes after the worship service and lasting about 45 minutes
  • October 2: beginning 15 minutes after the worship service and lasting about 45 minutes

The Vote: 

  • The vote will be a part of our October 16th Quarterly Strategy Meeting, held from 5-7:30pm on each campus. 

—Ken Currie, Pastor for Strategic Implementation

Are we ready for a congregational vote?

While the answer to this question is subjective and perhaps different at each of the campuses, let me venture a few reflections that can serve us all as we embark on this journey. Our 20/20 Vision really began this trajectory near the end of 2019. So transition has been taking place for some time now. At the same time, we recognize that each process transitions differently and at varying speeds. So while we want to give each congregant ample opportunity to engage, ask questions, pray, and reflect, we also recognize that at some point we need to ask for the congregation to participate through a formal vote.

The elders, over the next several weeks, will seek to engage congregants at each of their campuses to listen, learn, and dialogue about this proposed transition. Please note the various Q&As that will be available at each of the campuses or reach out to one of your elders. We are eager and glad to engage you on this proposed transition. The elders will keep one another informed to ensure that each campus has had adequate time and opportunity to engage this proposed transition, and we anticipate that by October 16, 2022, we'll be ready to have a congregational vote for this proposed transition. We welcome your input, prayers, and engagement between now and then. Join us in praying that God would unite our hearts, deepen our love for each other, grow our zealousness for making Christ known, and glorify himself in and through his church for our joy.

—Steven Lee, Pastor for Preaching & Vision, North

 

Get Involved

We need your help to move this vision forward! We ask that you engage in each through prayer, giving and volunteering.
 

Pray

Pray individually and corporately for God’s help to establish three healthy, gospel-proclaiming churches reaching their neighbors and the nations for the glory of God.

Give

Consider how you may be part of an outpouring of generosity during challenging economic times to allow Bethlehem to finish 2022 financially strong and to provide a solid foundation for transition to three healthy churches in 2023.

Give Now

Volunteer

As God has given each member of the Body gifts of grace for service to others, seek out how you can deploy your gifts at your campus as it transitions to an independent church.

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