7 Life Lessons from Dr. John Piper

John Piper Lessons

7 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM DR. JOHN PIPER

By Mark Driscoll

Recently Bethlehem Baptist Church hosted a celebration event to honor Dr. John Piper, who retired from the pulpit after more than 32 years of faithful service. I was genuinely saddened that I was unable to attend, as I needed to serve at Mars Hill Church.

While much can be learned from John’s life, I wanted to share seven lessons I’ve learned from his example that are especially helpful for younger leaders. This may seem basic, but it’s a lifetime commitment to some basic things, faithfully pursued day after day, year after year, and decade after decade, that makes a difference. It’s what Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction.”

1. STUDY THE BIBLE

Bible study will help deepen your conviction and clarify your confusion. But don’t just study to have great sermons or a great ministry—study to experience the love of God and grow in love for God. Out of that experience comes family and ministry.

2. STAY IN ONE PLACE

Many leaders, particularly young leaders, are like a husband with a wandering eye. They are never really married to a church or ministry, but rather only sleeping with one while they keep their options open, constantly looking for a potentially bigger and better opportunity. I recently spoke with a young leader and he asked me how you know which ministry opportunity is the best. I told him the best ministry is the one you marry. The family of God is like our own families. There is never an easy way to have a great family. It takes a covenantal commitment and lifetime investment.

3. TEACH THE BIBLE

The Holy Spirit, who wrote the Scriptures, is glad to anoint the man who opens the Scriptures to teach about Jesus. John was originally on a path toward a lifetime of professorship at a seminary when Jesus rerouted his life journey into a local church. And he’s been teaching the Bible ever since. A life spent teaching the Bible is not a wasted life but rather an invested life. Having a bit of passion never hurts either.

4. CARE ABOUT YOUNG LEADERS

I first met John when I was a young man. I have seen him demonstrate a constant concern and commitment to young leaders. His care for them explains in large part why a generation of young leaders appreciates him.

5. IF YOU CAN WRITE, WRITE

Very few are prolific enough to publish 50 books, but when we write down what we learn, we are forced to sharpen our understanding and we are blessed to share it with others. The first book I read by John was Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which he edited with Dr. Wayne Grudem. I was a newer Christian in college, and my pastor recommended it. It’s a big book. But I read it, and it was foundational to the rest of my life, influencing how I read the Bible, how I lead our family, and how we govern our church. Another one of my favorite books from John is Finally Alive. In simple, readable language, he explores the new birth that happens when the Holy Spirit regenerates believers.

Writing is a way to serve more people than you will ever know, possibly beyond your lifetime, even if the writing is something simple, like position papers and blog posts for your own church.

6. YOU NEVER REALLY RETIRE

While John is transitioning from leadership as the preaching and vision pastor at Bethlehem, he will still be serving Jesus and not playing shuffleboard for the rest of his life. Teaching and writing will be occupying much of his time, as he’s committed to investing—not wasting—his final years in God’s kingdom.

7. GLORIFY GOD BY ENJOYING HIM FOREVER

John once quipped in a conversation that he had only one sermon message and everything he’s ever taught was a variation of that big idea: God is greater than anyone or anything, and living for his glory in all things, by his grace, is why we were made and where we find our joy.

In this season, let us thank God for John and learn from his example to walk in God’s grace and invest our lives in what Jesus invested his life in, the people who are the church. Let us pray for Bethlehem Baptist as they enter a new season with their new preaching pastor. And let us pray for John as he still has a lot of tread on the tires for the coming years.

Advertisements

Forgiving Grace in Christian Leadership

In recent news, Westboro Baptist Church (which ” is no more a church than Church’s Fried Chicken is a church” ala Jon Stewart) decided to picket outside of a campus of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  WBC’s inflamatory language and abuse of the Bible and slandering of the name of Christ through their actions is enough to cause even the most passive Christian to bristle.  The pastor of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll, is not known for his reserved language when it comes to religious hypocrites.  Yet his church chose to extend grace to WBC through the form of free coffee, doughnuts, and a copy of Driscoll’s book Doctrine.  (More on the topic can be found on Driscoll’s blog Westboro Baptist Church, This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts.)  The graceful reaction of the leadership at Mars Hill comes across as abnormal and yet it is a great example of forgiving grace.

The latest free e-book through Grandview Christian Assembly, WARNING Contains No Sugar, spends a chapter touching upon the need for aspiring leaders in the church to learn forgiving grace.  Without the capacity to forgive and accept forgiveness relationships dissolve, offenses fester, and churches crumble.  Within every human being there is a large amount of sinful pride that seeks to self-justify rather than admit wrongdoing.  There is a tendency to harbor offenses (whether real or perceived) rather than extending forgiveness.  It is because of the fallen sinful condition of humanity that we need the grace of Christ to forgive others just as “God in Christ Jesus forgave [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).

In chapter ten of Warning John Myer writes:

Wherever diverse personalities gather together, the ability to forgive will always be a priority.  And it’s not easy.  Forgiveness is a grace, which means you often have to go deep in order to release another person from an offense.  As the Bible says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain grace ans mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Some grace has to be searched for and found.  It may feel as though we need to jackhammer down through a layer of concrete to access it.  Finding grace involves prayer and processing things in the Word for a fresh spiritual supply.  We will need plenty of it in order to get over squabbles and personality differences, especially in situations where “talking it over” will not help anything and may stir up even more offense.  This must be learned. There aren’t any alternatives to forgiveness unless you count resigning your leadership or quitting the church for greener pastures…

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you turn a blind eye to faults and problems.  We must continue to coach and exhort our people… Leaders have to deal with their anger and spirit of unforgiveness before ever handling other people (pp. 37-38).

For more on learning the grace of forgiveness, especially in Christian leadership, download and read WARNING Contains No Sugar: Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the Church by John Myer.

Make Your Word Mean Something

“Make Your Word Mean Something” is the seventh chapter in John Myer’s new e-book WARNING Contains No Sugar: Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the ChurchWhile working with upcoming leaders I have learned to heed the advice given in this chapter the hard way.  While I too must always be on guard to ensure that I follow through with my promises, I have too often encountered people who want to be leaders who say one thing but only follow through some of the time.  The result is a headache for me and the church as we have to pick up the slack or scramble to cover for the other person.

On my end, when an aspiring leader drops the ball I have learned that blowing them away with harsh words is not the best initial reaction.  But ignoring the error is not an option either.  Words of grace seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) is a skill that has to honed as to what to say and when to say it to the person who did not follow through with their verbal commitment.  It also takes wisdom to discern how much responsibility to entrust or withhold from the upcoming leader in the future.

I have learned to be extra cautious with those who demonstrate an extra dose of charisma or talk a lot and talk big.  It is not that they are less trustworthy than other aspiring leaders, but history has taught me that these aspiring leaders tend to think bigger than their abilities or their commitment levels.  Past experience has also taught me that these people tend to be able to inspire other people to do their work for them.  Unfortunately for these aspiring leaders, the other members in the congregation tend to fall for this (whether it is intentional or unintentional manipulation) only a couple times before becoming disgruntled and joking about the aspiring leader behind their back.

Those who desire to become leaders in life and in the church would do well to heed the words in the chapter seven of WARNING Contains No Sugar:

Take note: folks might follow talent or charisma for a while, but over the long haul, they follow commitment.  Everyone wants to follow someone who believes so strongly in what he’s doing that he (or she) backs it up with energy and follows through  You might want to say that to yourself twice a day…

Too many have the habit of volunteering an then sheepishly folding because at the back of their mind there’s always a fire escape.  If they become inconvenienced they can simply back out later with no ill effects.  Jesus will not fire them.  And aside from a little embarrassment, the church will not overly harass them.  No doubt we should find the best niche for our gifts.  The church ought to be a green house of grace, allowing us to find the best fit for our unique gifts.

In fact, our church allows for limited periods of commitment just so that no one feels stuck in any one place.  On the other hand, if you take it too far by dancing in and out of promises every month, you’ll come across like the person who routinely dates around and flirts with commitment, but never gets married.  Don’t go there.

As a leader, when you say, “I do,” try to make it count (pp. 24-26).

“WARNING Contains No Sugar” Review

WARNING Contains No Sugar:  Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the Church by John Myer fulfills its title.  There is a lot of honesty and the closest a the book comes to having sugar is in the final chapter.  That is not to say that the new (and free) 43 page e-book is harsh or mean-spirited.  Warning is neither.  What Warning does convey is an honest appraisal of what a current and aspiring leader in the church should have in regards to a godly character.  As Myer states in the first chapter:

Most folds who aspire to leadership have little understanding of what they’re getting into.  The nutshell version of it all comes down to people entrusting their souls to you.  They trust you won’t lead them down a dark alley into religious extremes or doctrinal error, wasted time, or worst of all, a wasted life (p. 4).

Too often people desire the title of “leader” without demonstrating the character and consistency of a leader.  The thought appears to be that “the title makes the man” rather than the reality that man should already embody the title.  The eyes are attracted to the “big” decisions of leadership and often overlook the “small” details that make the big difference.  Myer draws this out in his description of the book:

The Devil is in the details. That’s what new leaders need to remember as they aspire to  become effective in the church. Those who are just beginning to navigate leadership roles usually pay attention to critical big box items like vision, style, and methods. Meanwhile, a multitude of smaller issues that go undetected may be undermining their service.
  Symptoms include: 
         • Not being taken seriously
         • Getting little or no cooperation
         • Failing to inspire others
         • Ideas that fizzle out
         • Toxic team dynamics 
With a decided emphasis on honesty rather than sweetness, “Warning” gives a diagnostic tour of areas that leaders commonly overlook.

The eleven short chapters, it is only a 43 page book, are well worth reading and prayerfully considering.  The chapters are:

1) Get Your Head on Straight
2) Learn to Value a Following of One
3) Be the Man
4) Love Your Meetings and be Prompt
5) Decide What You Want to Do With Your Life
6) Nail the Reason Why You “Don’t Get No Respect”
7) Make Your Word Mean Something
8 ) Have a Jalapeno Faith
9) Value Effectiveness Over Busyness
10) Get Along With Your People Famously
11) When Am I Not in the Wrong?

Upcoming Free Book Giveaway

A new book by John Myer will be coming out soon and you will have an opportunity to get a free copy through this blog.

The new book in the Big Ideas-Little Books series, WARNING Contains No Sugar: Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the Church, promises some honest words for those involved in or interested in getting involved in serving Christ in their local church.

 

Humility in Leadership

“Yes, leaders are vital to the church, and it’s appropriate to thank those leaders who have been used by God as a means of grace. But we’re to ascribe glory to no man.  Glory is ascribed exclusively and entirely to God. Only He can regenerate a heart. Only He can change a life. Therefore, only God should receive glory.”
-C.J. Mahaney (Humility p 81)

Leadership in the Church Team

“This is a sick world that hates leadership. Everybody thinks they should be able to text message the president and boss him around. It’s a weird day, from social networking to continual comments to consumerism. People don’t want to follow a leader, all they want to do is criticize a leader. They don’t want to even recognize leadership. And some Christians will even say, “I don’t believe in leadership.” Really? Do you believe in God? Because God’s in charge. So you’ve got to recognize at least one leader.”
(The Resurgence Blog: Every Team Needs a Leader).

Over the past few years I have been in conversations and received a bunch of emails from Christians about the topic of leadership in the church.  Mainly from Christians trying to sell me about the need for no clear leadership or leaders in the church.  Some have been from people who felt hurt or were disciplined by a church, some were from people who didn’t want anyone to tell them what to do or disciple them, and some, ironically, from church leaders.

One funny email declared that there is no command or example of leadership in the church in the New Testament.  Another person was declaring that there was no formal leadership in the church using 1 Timothy 3.  I found that odd because in 1 Timothy 3 it talks about the office of overseer and the qualifications to oversee the local church (v 1-7) as well as the qualifications and testing of people before they are allowed to become deacons in the church (v 8-13).  Granted, there isn’t a handbook in the New Testament going into detail about these two offices, but it is clear that there was an established leadership structure within the local church in the first century at the times of the apostles.

The Resurgence blog Every Team Needs a Leader is well worth reading as it expounds on this subject.  I have put two more excerpts from the blog below, but encourage the reader to go to the Resurgence link to get the full context and the full argument of its writer.

So this plays itself out in the government of a home. Mom, dad, the kids are equal, but dad’s supposed to lovingly, humbly, sacrificially lead. In the church, elders, members, deacons are equal but the elders are supposed to lead. In a community group, everybody’s equal, but the community group leader is supposed to lead. In a redemption group, everybody’s equal, but the redemption group leader is supposed to lead. On a worship team, everybody’s equal, but the team leader is to lead. In a serving team, everybody’s equal, but the team leader leads. So there are teams that have leaders, and leaders, according to ministry, they do doctrine: what do we believe and not believe? Direction: where are we going and not going? And discipline: what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior? That’s what a lot of leadership is: doctrine, direction, discipline…

So every team needs a leader. In this day when authority is jettisoned and leadership is despised, and everybody thinks that they’re smart, and everybody thinks that they should be obeyed. Everybody still believes in leadership, they just think that they should be the leader. So we have a day of complete anarchy. It’s like the days of the judges, everybody did what was right in their own eyes.