Last week I was in a conversation with a church member I got to thinking about how John Piper's books are somewhat unique for me among the many books I've read. As I talked it out here's what I discovered but never really verbalized before.
When I read a John Piper book I come away with memorable sentences like I don't get from most other books. For example...
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. (Desiring God)
Missions exists because worship doesn't. (Let the Nations Be Glad)
The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever. (Desiring God)
"This much, O God, I want you." (A Hunger for God)
I read these books well over a decade ago and these sentences have been a part of me since. I couldn't shake them off if I wanted to. Notice that none of Piper's statements are cheap, cute, or clever. Piper's aim is the sharpness of the quote, not the cuteness. It's not that Piper is somehow a better guy, but he simply understands the importance of sharp, memorable sentences. Elsewhere Piper wrote...
I have often said, “Books don’t change people, paragraphs do — sometimes sentences.”
This may not be fair to books, since paragraphs find their way to us through books, and they often gain their peculiar power because of the context they have in the book. But the point remains: One sentence or paragraph may lodge itself so powerfully in our mind that its effect is enormous when all else is forgotten.
One lesson I learned from a few influential preachers like Mark Dever and Herschel York (as well as in preaching books) is to be able to boil down a sermon's point to one sentence. If I can't say the sermon in one sentence I'm not ready to preach it. At least, that's the idea. It's a similar principle.
For all who desire to change hearts, convince minds, to influence and teach, it would be good to consider the example of John Piper and his memorable sentences, with sharp barbs that lock them deep into our minds and hearts. We don't need to make every sentence memorable. But the rest of our sentences should serve our best sentences. It takes more work, but it deepens our impact.