Saturday, April 19, 2008

Piper: How My Pastoral Ministry Shapes My Pulpit Ministry

I have a love-hate relationship with John Piper. I know that is heresy to many who read my blog.  But it is true. I (even as a male) find his views on women in the church not only unbiblical, but offensive. I would like to just ignore him.  And yet, when I listen to him I am incredibly blessed.  What he says is good. It is (usually) highly biblical. It is passionately felt. 

In February, Piper spoke at the Resurgence Conference in Seattle. The theme for the 2008 conference was Text and Context. 

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While there he led a session of "How My Pastoral Ministry Shapes My Pulpit Ministry."  He began the session in such a way that I almost quit listening.  He kept emphasizing that it was an assigned topic and he rather degraded the idea of his pastoral ministry affecting his pulpit ministry.  In his desire to be God centered, he neglects that men & women are the focus of God's love.  It basically came across as "I'm going to teach what the Bible says, but whether or not it has any relevance to your life is irrelevant to me." 

And he led out with "Sixteen Foundational Convictions That Shape How I Preach." 

But he followed that with sixteen observations on how his pastoral ministry informs his pulpit ministry.  The change of wording from "shapes" to "informs" is my change...not his.

But today and tomorrow, let me share just the headings of his sixteen ways in which his pastoral ministry informs his pulpit ministry. I will add a comment or two where the heading is not self-explanatory. 

Piper says,

1. Two pastoral experiences confirmed deeply in me in the early years of my ministry that the sheer greatness and holiness and glory of the sovereignty of God unfolded with rich biblical explanation and illustration and minimal personal application can have powerful personal, pastoral effect for good.

(Both had to do with Piper preaching on the greatness of God and being approached by people (in one case parents who had had three daughters molested by a relative and the other by a woman whose husband had died that very morning) who spoke of the helpfulness of his declaration of a vision of God on that particular day.) 

2. I find that in talking to people that many do not have a heart relationship with Christ but only a head knowledge. They tell me that over time my passion has awakened theirs.

3. I am aware in my pastoral life that we are surrounded by a sea of postmodern relativism that belittles propositional truth and justifies it by pointing to dead churches that love their propositions. The effect this has on me is to confirm my commitment to be alive and passionate in my use of propositions.

4. How my pastoral ministry effected my commitment to Bible memorization.

(He speaks of making an emergency hospital visit to a powerful man in his church without his Bible. The man wanted Scripture read and Piper did not know any and was embarrassed. He determined to memorize scriptures that would help people in crisis situations like that.  That was particularly convicting and helpful to me, but I don't know that it had much to do with his PULPIT ministry. )

5. My awareness of the context of American wealth has moved me to return fairly often to the New Testament emphasis on a wartime lifestyle that highlights radical generosity for the sake of the kingdom’s advance and for the sake of your own soul.

(He has an excellent section on the difference between the Old Testament concept of "Come and See" to the New Testament concept of "Go and Tell".  I may blog on that separately.)

6. The suffering of my people has a huge impact on my preaching. It has driven me to think and pray and write and preach about the sovereignty of God in suffering over and over again for the past 28 years.

7. Two weeks ago I was preaching on the role of the word in the new birth from 1 Peter 1:23 and that week had two encounters with the issue of Yoga and Mantra. Those encounters totally shaped how I approached that sermon.

8. I live in a state where about 40% have a Roman Catholic background and about 40% have a Lutheran background. So Garrison Keillor is totally intelligible. The effect on my preaching is that I am keenly aware as I talk about some things I want to make clear, especially as regards the sacraments, and the nature of the new birth.

(I will conclude Piper's list here tomorrow)

You can find the expanded notes of this lecture here.

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