Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
John Piper’s Recognition of Paul Johnson
as Bethlehem Financial Secretary
I never knew a Bethlehem Baptist Church without Paul Johnson as Financial Secretary. He was there when I came in 1980. And he was there when I stepped down from preaching in 2013. He was like the electrical wiring in the building—just as quiet, almost as invisible, and more reliable. The current of finances flowed through his hands like electricity bringing power to our ministry.
For those of you who don’t know what a financial secretary does, the simplest way to make the job real to you is to say that he keeps a record of what everyone gives and sends them their yearly receipts. There is more to it than that, but that’s the heart of the matter. It is massive, meticulous, highly confidential, and utterly essential.
The apostle Paul said, “It is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Indeed it is. God has been good to us to give us such a steward. I will just mention a few of the ways Paul Johnson has been a gift to us in managing our gifts.
First, he has been steady. There were many ups and downs in the life of Bethlehem during the three decades we served together. But the steadiness of financial accounting was unwavering. There were no ups and downs in Paul Johnson’s consistency and steadiness. The wiring never broke. It never deteriorated. It never shorted out. Never overheated. It always took the current where it was supposed to go.
Second, Paul has been honest. That is, he has shown unimpeachable integrity in the handling of millions and millions of dollars. His fingers were never sticky. The numbers were never fudged. Paul remained content with the lot God had given him and was never overcome by greed. He spared us the tragedy of financial scandal and held sacred the name of Jesus and his church.
Third, Paul was accurate. Not only did he not steal intentionally, but neither did he stumble unintentionally. During all his tenure there never has been a financial crisis owing to dishonesty or incompetence.
Fourth, Paul has been appropriately analytical. What I mean is that there have been seasons of capital fund raising in the life of the church when the leaders needed wisdom about the giving potential of the church. At crucial points Paul did the analysis of the church and reported to the leaders his assessment in helpful, appropriately sensitive ways.
Fifth, Paul has been consummately confidential. I loved to say in those days that under God one person knew what everyone gave in this church. There has never been a safer place for such knowledge to reside than in the mind of Paul Johnson. For over three decades he maintained this information with the utmost integrity, without any sense of favoritism. Only Jesus knows our hearts—when the widow’s mite is a greater gift than the rich man’s thousands—and Paul’s commitment to confidentiality fostered a healthy giving environment at Bethlehem.
Finally, Paul was available. It always amazed me that Paul’s email and phone number were public knowledge so that anyone who had any question about the management of our money or about their own personal records could call Paul. Amazing.
Personally, I thank God for this partnership. Many pastors have been embarrassed or even ruined by the moral failures or the incompetency of their colleagues. I was spared that. Thank you, Paul, for trusting Jesus; for being content with honest gain; for quiet, steadfast faithfulness; and for your unwavering integrity. You were a gift to me and to Bethlehem. Well done.