Say it isn’t so, Pastor John…

I don’t suppose anyone could visit my blog and not assess fairly quickly that I have a sweet spot in my heart for Pastor John Piper.  I’ve been blessed in wonderful ways as I’ve sat under his teaching/preaching ministry for the past several years and as I’ve read a growing number of his books.  In many ways, John Piper is my pastor.

While any of us a few years past childhood will admit that noone is infallible, we do like to hold our heroes close.  The first time our hero is seen as actually fallible is a tough moment.  This has probably happened to many of us with respect to our dads.  From the view of a child, dad can do anything…until that day we find that he can’t.  When we come to a place of acknowledging human frailty in our heroes it can be a tough decision not to overreact and simply write that hero out of our trust and counsel.  I’m not willing or wanting to do that.

Back in June last year I blogged on Holy Emulation.   It was a response to several things coming together in my life at that time.  It was prompted by something John Piper wrote and it was made real by struggles I was working through wrt a ‘hero’ in my own life.  Fallen heroes can be almost as valuable to learn from as those we still keep on a pedestal; they at least become more real in our eyes, and so they should.

I’ve been hearing and seeing and reading about the decision that John Piper has made to invite Rick Warren as a speaker at the next Desiring God conference in October.  Admittedly I don’t get it.  I’m not a Rick Warren fan for several reasons.  I don’t know him personally or well, so I’m not hitting him with judgements.  Rather, I’m responding more from the few things where he or his writings or his impact have affected my life and beliefs.  Personally, it’s my opinion that his book the Purpose-Driven Church had a hugely negative impact on my local senior pastor and the direction and spiritual health of my church for too many years.

I try to consider how John Piper has influenced the lives of those who we might have considered ‘too out there’.  Mark Driscoll is someone I think benefitted from John Piper’s patient love and discipleship.  I don’t know where Mark Driscoll might have been headed.  Personally, he was not someone I liked at all in the past… but now I have my own children listening to his preaching and teaching as I also do each week.  Is John Piper simply trusting God and being patient and welcoming in order that the gospel impact might bear fruit in those who seem to have disregarded or corrupted the primacy of the Gospel?

I won’t be the one to resolve this dilemma, nor will I let it consume my attention.  But, I did choose to include it on my blog for my benefit and perhaps yours.  What will follow here are two youtube clips with John Piper giving his reasons for inviting Rick Warren to the conference.  I will also include a link to what I thought was a very solid, appropriately thought out, respectful and dissenting opinion regarding this matter.  It will come from from Phil Johnson of the Pyromaniacs blog.

… a dissenting response, Pyromaniacs – On the Piper-Warren Connection

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3 Responses to Say it isn’t so, Pastor John…

  1. teahouselj says:

    Tim,
    We are scratching our heads as well. A couple of weeks ago tickets were pretty low for us to fly out to MN in October for the conference. We almost bought them trusting that the conference would be good even though the speakers hadn’t been announced yet. The selection of speakers (other than Warren) is amazing! I just can’t figure it out. One thing I’ve noticed is that the reaction regarding Warren is either ‘wait & see’ or outrage. No one is out there saying ‘YES! I’m so glad that Piper asked Rick Warren, this will be great!” That’s telling. Ultimately, we feel like this conference will be overshadowed with Warren’s presence and its implications. It’s all anyone is talking about now. Soooo, we will probably stay home this year and watch online. Too much drama and it’s too expensive for us to go and get all worked up over Warren. We can do that at home for free 🙂

    I appreciate your insights and especially your perspective regarding the impact of Warren’s work on your life/church. Thanks for posting.

  2. teahouselj says:

    Oops, I just read the post from the link at the bottom of your post…”Kudos for Piper”. I guess there are some out there applauding the decision.

  3. TimWitten says:

    Hi Lisa, good to hear from you. Clearly we’re not alone in our head scratching ;].

    I suppose it could be hopeful thinking as I hear certain comments by Piper and realize, he doesn’t assume everything that’s being told him is real, but he does seem to be going farther than many to watch and see if it holds water. I know for me personally, I’ve had people tell me the answers I could hang my hat on, but their preaching and ministry was something altogether different… the profession of belief did not match up with proclaiming of belief.

    If I can sit in a face to face conversation and walk away saying, “he says he believes…” and then show up week after week, year after year and not hear it preached in his sermons, then I’d be a fool to think that he really believes what he professes. It’s been this very weekly trial over the past several years that has brought much pain and sorrow (and anger, self-righteousness, sin..). But, its also brought much needed and desired sanctification, growth, strength and faith in my life and so I find it hard to regret the process God has ordained to bring about His perfect will.

    I look at the philosophy of Warren’s PDC and the polling and seeker-friendly this and that and I simply believe it became a pragmatic solution for those who weren’t believing in God’s plan for the church anymore and needed something that might produce some level of activity within their churches… something to engage people with… something to point to and find affirmation for themselves.

    Regretably, their need for affirmation seems greater than their faith in God, who makes no bones about Who brings the increase.

    Who knows… maybe a few years down the road it’ll seem a little more clear than it does today. :]

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