Unfortunately too many who view the world through social media lenses know John Piper more for his "Farewell, Rob Bell" comment more than most anything else. I've been blessed by Dr. Piper's ministry for years. First discovering him through Desiring God and then a mad scramble to read the rest of his key books (Let the Nations Be Glad, Future Grace). Then Bruce Ware let me borrow boxes of John Piper sermon tapes, which I devoured while at work during seminary years.
I heard Piper speak at Southern Seminary where he called the seminary dangerous because it's beautiful and safe. I asked him about whether tax exempt status for churches caused us to not speak out more and he just said we need to be bold. I heard Piper speak at The Founders Conference in Birmingham where he spoke on mission and caused me to aspire to become a missionary to a Muslim country. I heard Piper speak on mission again at the International Mission Board gathering at Ridgecrest, NC where I asked him to sign his books for me during a youth event and asked if he felt odd signing books since it means he's a "celebrity." He said he doesn't seek it out but won't say no. We got to chat with Noel several times as during the conference as we dropped off our kids to the same place for childcare during the week-long event. She was dropping off Talitha. I've been to the Desiring God conference and the Desiring God Pastor's conference and got to sit at lunch with other young pastors and Dr. Piper and grill him on ministry, hot theological topics, and more.
Nameless other Piper podcasts, books, pamphlets, lectures, and sermons have blessed me over the years. I often talk about my favorite-ever sermons as Piper sermons. I love "Running With The Witnesses" because I so easily fall in love with things that don't help me run the race. I have been influenced by Piper on theology, fasting, mission, ecclesiology, how to deal with theological disagreements, sin, suffering, and far too much to even try to list.
I say all this to say I get to go with a church friend to drive to hear John Piper speak on Jonathan Edwards today at Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. So I've been thinking about how I got to this point, the point of spending several hours in one day to go hear one man speak. Am I so gripped by his celebrity? Am I just a fan-boy?
I've been around long enough to not see John Piper as a hero or a celebrity. I go to hear a wise and sinful man speak about another wise and sinful man who both know their sinfulness and need for grace. I go to hear a man who knows himself well enough to realize he must pursue pleasure in God because of his great propensity to pursue pleasure in anything else. I don't go to see someone who's popular, but someone who has poured his life into mine through various means and who is coming near. So I'm thankful I get to be poured into again.
I thank God for many saints, near and far, famous and completely unknown, who I owe so much. One will be speaking on Edwards. One will be sitting with me listening to Piper. One I have known mostly through books and sermons over years and the other I've known for a short time and we meet together every week to discuss theology, Calvin's Institutes, family, and faith. I'm blessed by and thankful for both, and both play an important role in my life. God is merciful to provide us such great gifts.