Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Did you know that 2010 marks the 30-year ministry anniversary of a person whose fingerprints are all over Bethlehem? Did you know that this pastor and his wife have touched innumerable lives in many capacities? Their servant hearts have encouraged many of us on our journey to love and good works.
Many people, both in the church and outside the church, could recount stories of the hospitality of their home in Elliot Park. Many of us could tell of hospital visits, prayers offered, counsel given, support extended, Scripture opened, and generous love poured out from this man and his wife—all for the building up of our joy and the magnifying of God’s graciousness.
A brief biography
1980: He begins with college and university students as Minister for College and Young Adults.
1982: He is ordained and becomes Pastor for Students & Adult Education.
1983: Missions renewal begins at Bethlehem; in November, this pastor and his associates are awakened to the great missionary task of the church. His associate wrote:
In the middle of the night, [this pastor] couldn’t sleep, so he got up, put on a John Michael Talbot song, laid down on the couch, and he heard our theology translated into missions. (We are a God-glory oriented people, but we had not yet made sense of missions like we ought.) John Michael Talbot was singing about the glory of God filling the earth the way the waters cover the sea, and [this pastor] wept for an hour. … Everything came together to make an electric moment in the life of our church, and it all flowed from a passion for the glory of God.
1984: Bethlehem’s Nurture Program for missionary candidates begins, at this person’s initiative. He helps to bring the course Perspectives on the World Christian Movement to the Twin Cities. His job changes to Pastor for Students & Missions.
1986: Bethlehem’s Apprentice Program for Ministerial Candidates starts.
1987: What began as a group of 15 people he led in 1980 by this time is flourishing as a ministry of more than 200 college students and young adults, many of whom would later go on to serve in missions or full-time ministry.
1989: The Bethlehem Institute and Training Center (BITC) is birthed to equip leaders for ministry in the church and in missions. His job changes to Pastor for Missions & Leadership Development.
1990–91: This person, along with his wife and children, serves at Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary in Cameroon, West Africa, during a sabbatical from Bethlehem, touching the lives of many future Christian leaders in Cameroon.
1994: This person creates the District Pastoral Care model.
1996: This person becomes our first Executive Pastor, taking a year to help develop this new position in light of Bethlehem’s size and complexity and world-wide ministry.
1997: This man is given a study leave for work at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois, where he designs The Bethlehem Institute (TBI) for Bible, Theology, and Missions.
1998: TBI begins with three tracks: Track One for lay leaders, Track Two for vocational, seminary-level training, and Track Three for missions.
2002: This pastor’s job becomes Pastor for Leadership Development and Dean of The Bethlehem Institute when Bethlehem’s first full-time Foreign Missions Pastor is hired.
2006: INSIGHT program begins with first college cohort.
2008: TBI Track Two and the INSIGHT program become Bethlehem College and Seminary, with this person serving as Academic Dean.
If you ask the staff about this person, they describe him with words like, “beloved, encourager, integral to Bethlehem, gifted, contagious lover of God, Bible-saturated, wonderful, great lover of the glory of God, overwhelmingly valuable to the church, ministry-minded, student of the Word.”
Hundreds of stories could be told of this man’s ministry, but we’ll highlight one story below to show you how this man plants ministry dreams not limited by typical ministry spheres, rallies the greater staff to team together to carry the vision, and travels to distant countries to bless others in need. In 1991, his associate wrote about Bethlehem’s first “Praise Procession,” a parade witnessed by 1,000 people which the full congregation was invited to march in, designed to declare Jesus to the neighborhood:
Beyond all our expectations and dreams God gave us a parade of power! What can I say? Lord, you are great! You are kind and good beyond all our deserving. You have blessed us. O how you have blessed us! … We were blessed that hundreds of people on the parade route might know Christ’s saving power. …
[This pastor] was not here to see the birth of his dream. It was he that planted the seed of a praise procession in our hearts last August on a staff retreat. I prayed for him early last Sunday morning as he was leaving Ndu [Cameroon] on his way home, that God would bring the procession to his mind and move him to pray for us with power.
Saturday, November 6, from 3:00 to 5:00pm, at an Open House at the Downtown Campus, we will give thanks to God for this pastor and his wife, celebrating these 30 years of committed service, friendship, teaching, mentoring, leadership, visioning, and love for the body, Christ’s church here at Bethlehem.
Please join us in honoring Pastor Tom & Julie Steller.
—Ross Anderson, Wesley Hill, and Joby Morgan, friends of the Stellers