Sorry for such a plain title for this post (hopefully the first of a brief series). I recently mentioned John’s 30th anniversary in the pulpit of BBC, and was asked this by a blog reader:
What was John Piper like on a personal level, how did he influence or change your perspective on ministry, and what would you say is the most important thing he taught you?
John Piper, and the people of Bethlehem Baptist Church (downtown Minneapolis) changed my life in profound ways in the late 1980’s. I had a fine internship at Wooddale Church — one of the largest churches in the BGC, in the suburbs of Mpls — serving under Dr Leith Anderson (now President of the NAE). I learned a lot (!) about “how to do ministry” there, and will always be grateful. Yet my soul longed for a greater connection between my reformed theology and my ministry.
Enter John Piper. Some old friends encouraged me to check out what was going on at BBC (downtown). We did. It was 1987, and I recall he was preaching through the sermons which would later become his book, “The Pleasure of God.” It was all that my soul craved — sound, reformed theology driving the preaching and shape of ministry. Within a few months Laurel and I started attending BBC; within a few months more, we moved into the inner city (that’s a great story in itself!).
What was it that captured us in the preaching of John Piper? First, (what is now obvious to the world) was his passion for the Lord and His Word. He is a preacher set on fire — heart, mind, soul and mouth — by what he sees in the Word, and desire to spread that glorious sight to others. Or perhaps I should say GOD was marvelously present in those services, in every part of them! [I’ll have more to say on worship].
Second, when John preaches the BIBLE text is always front and center (unlike so much of what passes as evangelical preaching in America). This was a messenger who was faithful to the Word, and obligated to deliver it (like Paul in Romans 1, “…I am under obligation … I am eager to preach the gospel …”).
Third, what drew me to John’s preaching was the clarity of application. Everything had purpose and presented opportunities to grow in faith and to exercise faith in the Word. And as we settled in at the church, we saw a growing body of believers living out their professions in powerful ways (eg, being genuinely connected to the neighborhoods downtown).
I might add that John is much the same in person as in the pulpit, except (of course) for the volume and the mannerism that attend his preaching. The passion for God is ever on his lips and in his interactions (even in his volleyball playing!).
Thank you, Lord, for Pastor John Piper, and the saints at BBC who have been such a blessing to me, my wife, and so many.