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June 22, 2021

A Prayer on Bethlehem’s 150th Birthday

Tom Steller

Elder & Global Partner, Bethlehem Pastor for 40 Years

A pastoral prayer from the Downtown Campus worship service on Sunday, June 20, 2021

We want to say first and foremost on this Father’s Day and this 150th birthday, “Blessed be YOU, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” You have chosen us, predestined us, redeemed us, called us, adopted us, and sealed us. 

You have brought us through …

  • the difficult aftermath of the Civil War
  • our first building burning to the ground in 1885 and the transition to this location on 8th Street & 13th Ave
  • World War I
  • the Great Depression of the 1930s
  • World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, our contemporary wars where some of our own members paid a horrendous price
  • the 40 years of struggle changing the language of our worship services from Swedish to English and the angst of changing our name from First Swedish Baptist Church to Bethlehem Baptist Church in 1945
  • the racial tensions and injustices of the 1950s and ’60s and beyond to this very day
  • the gigantic changes in our neighborhood when the freeway system was built and so many homes and neighborhoods disappeared 60 years ago
  • the multiple pastoral changes throughout our history, some happy, some sad
  • through the transformation of our church government in the late ’80s and early ’90s giving us a council of elders who love you and love this church
  • through the expansion to three campuses with all its blessings and complexities
  • and the list could go on and on … 

Having preserved us for these 150 years, we declare that we trust you to preserve us for years to come. You will preserve us through the perfect storm of 2020 with its worldwide pandemic, riots and increased crime, economic hardship, political confusion, and deep tensions within our own church body.

Amidst all these challenges and amidst our slow process of transformation, you have blessed us and given us the privilege of being active participants in your purpose of winning worshipers from every tribe and tongue and nation. Your Word has been faithfully preached without compromise for 150 years and through your grace is blessing millions around the world at this very moment; global partners have been sent out to the ends of the earth and more are in the pipeline; we have been drawn to seek the preservation and transformation of these Twin Cities, the surrounding suburbs and college campuses; you have brought our very own college and seminary into existence; you have raised up children through the godly and imperfect parents who are and have been sitting in these pews; you have made the nations feel welcome through the outreach of Bethlehem people. All this is of your amazing and abounding grace! 

Oh Lord, we confess that we battle with sin every day and we acknowledge the sins of our fathers and mothers. We freely acknowledge that we are clay pots with many flaws so that whatever good we are part of is obviously your doing, and you alone deserve the praise. We see our own sins not as clearly as we should, and we see your awesome mercy through a glass dimly. The day is coming when everything will be clear, when all the wrongs will be seen accurately. We will perfectly realize that they have already been punished in full at the cross or will one day be paid for in hell for those who have refused your grace.

In the meantime, as we wait for the consummation of your Kingdom, help us to abound in love for one another, to bear with one another in love, and forgive each other as we battle together indwelling sin, slowly but surely being transformed into the likeness of your Son. Keep our eyes fixed on him and the gospel of your sovereign grace.

On this Father’s Day, we pray for your blessing on the fathers and grandfathers and future dads of this church. Everyone of us has fallen short of your perfect Fatherhood. Help us to not be consumed by regret, but to own up to our failures, give you all the praise for our successes, and move forward in your grace and for your glory.

In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.