Most of the people who read this blog are very familiar with the work of John Piper. John is the pastor for preaching & vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also the author of many books and other resources, all of which I recommend to you without exception. He is most noted for the book “Desiring God” which asserts that the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.
Pastor John is in his final year in his current role at his church, and there is already a successor in place to continue the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist. He isn’t going to disappear, but with his ministry behind the pulpit winding down, I wanted to share just a few thoughts.
I first encountered “Desiring God” when I had been a Christian for less than a year. I was zealous and hungry and wanted to learn all that I could about this God who I had misunderstood for so long. A friend of mine invited me for coffee and began speaking things to me about God that I had no categories for. I understood God is good, for example, but this man was telling me that God is happy, God is sovereign, God is the one thing that we all must crave, and not just His gifts. We are commanded in scripture to delight in God alone and to seek our highest joy in Him. To be engulfed in the joy of the Lord.
For someone new to the faith, that was mind blowing. I had been reading my Bible and blogging through it, but these were things that defied my comprehension. So I went out and bought the book. The introduction alone challenged me so much that I actually made several unsuccessful attempts to read it.
Enter our good friend, Tim Challies. He came along beside me and offered to go through the book with me. He would post his thoughts to his blog and I would post mine. I could send him an email when I got stuck on a concept and he readily responded and helped me understand what was being communicated. As I look at my archives from this blog’s earlier days, there is a definite change in the quality of my writing before this event and after. And as those around me can attest, this change in writing was caused by a change in what kind of a worshiper I was becoming through the refining of my understanding of God. This would not have been possible had Tim not been there to answer my questions and my objections.
I have heard John Piper preach many times since then, mostly at conferences and on his podcast. The time that stands out the most to me, though, is when I visited his church to see him on a typical Sunday. His schedule had him at one of the satellite locations of his church in a high school auditorium. We sat in the room with 100 or so other people, sang with them, prayed with them, Pastor John took prayer requests and prayed for specific people in the congregation, including names that weren’t brought up that morning. After the service, he stayed at the front and anyone could go up to him just as your pastor makes himself available after a service. He was, and is, a pastor first and foremost. He is NOT a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.
John Piper is authentic. When you look at the core vision and values of his ministry of preaching the supremacy of God in all things, I can bestow no greater compliment. Thank you Pastor John, for presenting a joyful pursuit of God to us in your books, your messages and your life. I trust your retirement is only the beginning of a whole new chapter of ministry. You have had a profound effect on my walk with God and I praise Him for your joyful work. Thank you for teaching me that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.