SBTS alum helps Desiring God run efficiently

Communications Staff — February 9, 2009

John Piper has spoken in hundreds of venues and delivered thousands of messages over the last 30 years. And you want to listen to one.

You head to Desiring God’s website, doubting that you will find the one among so many. Arriving at the site, you click on Resource Library. Suddenly, there they are: six tabs, sitting side by side, looking neat and clean.

Your doubt fades away, replaced by marvel and intrigue: you can search for sermons by date, Scripture, series, topic, occasion and title. “Who created this?” you say to the air. Minutes later you have the message you wanted, and five
others that grabbed your attention.

Matt Perman, senior director of strategy at Desiring God, developed this feature and a dozen others in his work designing the ministry’s website. A graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Perman’s chief role is to help Desiring God’s manpower run efficiently.

“I am really interested in what it means to run a non-profit organization effectively,” he said. “There is a lot of room for figuring that out better and it is one of my passions right now. Running an organization well is a way of serving people. As a Christian, a dominant focus in our life should be, ‘How can we serve people to the glory of God?’ Jesus talks about this in Matthew 5:16. We should be asking the question ‘How can we serve others?’ and not ‘What is in it for me?’”

Perman was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and grew up just outside the state’s capital in Urbandale. Perman said he grew up regularly attending a church in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination. He recalls a Sunday when he heard Romans 10:9-10 read in church and the fight that ensued within him.

“I realized that I needed to believe that Christ had risen from the dead, which I did, and that I needed to submit to Christ as Lord,” he said. “I struggled with acknowledging Christ as Lord, because I didn’t necessarily want to give up control of my life, even at age 12. I wrestled with that for a few months, and I came to the point where I wanted to submit to Christ and enter into a relationship with the Lord.”

In high school, Perman was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Urbandale High, where he played baseball and football and ran track.

After graduating from high school, Perman enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). There, the Lord particularly began to shape his life into what it is today.

Perman knew he wanted to re-channel the time he devoted to sports as he entered college. The interest he chose was reading, in particular, books on theology. Perman would weight his classes toward a morning schedule, freeing up his afternoons for reading.

As Perman entered his sophomore year, he became friends with an incoming student named Justin Taylor. Taylor, who now serves as study Bible project director and associate publisher at Crossway, recommended several books to Perman and eventually the two started a website together. Perman said he used the website to better digest the books he read, writing around 100 articles stemming from his reading.

“The articles were basically about all aspects of theology, from Christology to the Trinity, to apologetics, to Christian living,” he said. “Starting up that website and writing those articles was a highlight for me in college.”

Perman was baptized at his local church in college. He served in leadership with Campus Crusade for Christ on the UNI campus, leading small group Bible studies as an upperclassman. During his senior year, Perman co-led a study on various points of theology, beginning with God’s providence, that had 20-plus regular attendees.

While in college, Perman was introduced to, and developed a love for, the writings of John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Perman said Piper’s “Pleasures of God” and “Desiring God,” as well as Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” were particular instrumental in his spiritual growth.

While at UNI, Perman also met his wife to be, Heidi Holroyd. In 1998, Perman graduated and the couple got married. They then headed to Minneapolis were Perman enrolled in The Bethlehem Institute for Leadership Development (TBI), a ministry of Bethlehem Baptist.

Taylor also attended TBI and informed Perman of a job opportunity with Desiring God. Perman began working as a resource consultant for Desiring God, and eventually became the ministry’s bookstore coordinator.

Perman and Taylor planned to attend Southern Seminary together upon finishing at TBI, but Taylor’s plans changed when he accepted a full-time position with Desiring God. Perman headed to Southern in the fall of 2001, while staying on part time with Desiring God.

Wanting to finish seminary quickly, Perman took 48 hours in one calendar year: 18 hours per semester in the fall and spring, three in the winter term and nine in the summer. Perman said he particular enjoyed his classes with Tom Schreiner, Bruce Ware and Stephen Wellum.

“One of the most amazing classes I have ever had was a class with Ware, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “He had us do five book reviews, 20 summaries of scholarly articles and an extensive term paper. That was a great experience.”

Schreiner’s effectiveness in teaching classes, pastoring and writing with excellence, while leading a family and rearing children, impacted Perman.

“It is amazing how much Tom Schreiner does, while remaining calm and not stressed out,” he said.

“He knows the theological side of things and is also very good exegetically. He is able to apply the text more fruitfully because of his theological knowledge. He was a good example of a holistic model there of how to be faithful personally and in ministry.”

Perman returned to Minneapolis in the fall of 2002. He and Heidi welcomed their son Jake, now 6, into the world after the move, and Perman continued to take classes from Southern online. He graduated with his master of divinity in 2003.

When Perman returned to Minneapolis he became director of the Internet and radio departments at Desiring God. In the fall of 2006, Desiring God launched its new website and ended its radio ministry to focus on the online ministry.

Perman now serves as senior director of strategy at Desiring God, a role he said he enjoys because he gets to work in two areas of interest: theology and business.

“My job is to make sure things coordinate well and have the best possible management, where people can call on their strengths in the work they do,” he said. “My seminary training is relevant because of the nature of what we do and I am also able to act on the management side of things, thinking about how to manage an organization in the most effective way.”

Perman has a particular interest in work productivity. His blog, “What’s Best Next” — www.whatsbestnext.com, is devoted to helping individuals, organizations and society function more effectively.

“The whole, overarching idea [of the blog] is how to make things better. I think Christians should be about how to make life better for others to the glory of God,” he said.

“There are the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. I want to think about how I can make life better for others, first, before I think about how to make life better for myself. You need wisdom to do this: there are certain approaches that are effective and others that are not.”

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