Soon I will be heading out to speak at a Desiring God Conference for Dr. John Piper. He has asked me to speak on Christ, controversy, and cutting remarks, or something like that. Basically, the gist is that no matter what I say, the critics who forget the whole plank-speck thing Jesus talked about will make every effort to turn it into controversy with their cutting remarks. Should be fun.
Admittedly, the topic is not my first choice because it’s enough rope from which to either swing or hang depending upon how the session goes. But I took the invitation in large part to get some hang time with Dr. John Piper. To be honest, he’s even better off the stage than he is on. I mean that in no disrespectful way because he is one of the greatest preachers on the planet and I think he could hold my attention reading the phone book. But as a man off the stage over a meal when the crowds are gone and the microphones are off, I have found him to be even more enjoyable, encouraging, helpful, passionate, and compelling. As an example, we recently posted a long interview I did with him at the Resurgence and in it he was so genuine and honest that at points the interview is somewhat raw. I sent him the finished interview to get his permission before posting it out of respect, and true to form he edited nothing out. So, out of love for a man I consider a great mentor and friend, I thought it would be fun to share four reasons why I truly and deeply appreciate John Piper, before I head out to speak at his conference.
1. He is the most passionate guy I think I’ve ever met.
Of course, he is first and foremost passionate for the glory of God. But he is pretty much passionate about everything. For example, the first time we had him preach at Mars Hill Church the nuts we had out were unsalted. I learned that he is passionate about salted nuts.
2. He does not seem to really care about his approval ratings.
He does not own a television, and I would bet he spends less time checking what people say about him through Technorati and Google than he does watching television.
3. He has a father’s heart.
Unlike so many older men who are threatened by, competitive with, or critical of young men, I have repeatedly seen Dr. Piper have a father’s heart to encourage, exhort, and empower young men. The few times we’ve been able to sit down together have been incredibly transforming. On a few occasions he has been gracious enough to sit down with the young church planters in our Acts 29 Network with no microphones and very honestly answer the painful questions about life, ministry, and family. In those moments, from his heart and off the cuff comes pure gold that my brothers in Acts 29 still talk about. Especially noteworthy was the question from Jonathan McIntosh at The Journey Church in St. Louis, who asked what he would have to offer as final wisdom to young pastors. Piper buried his face in his hands to think and pray for a few minutes while the rest of us held our breath and waited. He then lifted his head and forcefully encouraged us to gouge out our eyes before looking at a woman lustfully (other than desiring our wives, of course) and chop off our hand before touching a woman other than our wife. Personally, I will never forget the time he told us about holding his stillborn grandchild around Christmastime as tears rolled down his face, describing how he prayed for God to resurrect the baby from death. As I looked around the room I saw dozens of young pastors, myself included, fighting back buckets of tears.
4. By not trying to be cool . . . he’s cool.
I cannot confirm it, but I think Dr. Piper may only have one jacket. I see him preach in it all the time and it’s a tweed coat with more than a few years of faithful service. I also think he may own one belt because I’ve only ever seen one. He drives a simple car, lives a simple life, does not have a tattoo (at least that I’ve seen), does not skateboard, and likes to read stuff by dead guys a lot. But by trying to just be himself rather than being cool, he has curiously become cool because he’s about Christ and that’s always cool.