Sometimes there’s nothing like a good bit of John Piper. Yes, I know that my CICCU roots are thereby made obvious. But even though I’m now far too charismatic and almost certainly not Reformed enough for them, I’m proud of having come to faith in that context. So, John Piper here we go…
Many pastors are not known for expressing deep emotions. This seems to me especially true in relation to the profoundest theological realities. This is not good, because we ought to experience the deepest emotions about the deepest things. And we ought to speak often, and publicly, about what means most to us, in a way that shows its value.
Brothers, we must let the river run deep. This is a plea for passion in the pulpit, passion in prayer, passion in conversation. It is not a plea for thin, whipped-up emotionalism…It is a plea for deep feelings in worthy forms from God-besotted hearts and minds.
I found this as I was flicking through ‘Brothers We Are Not Professionals’ again recently. I’d picked up the book because I had an experience recently where I’d wished I was a bit more professional at this church-leading business!
I’d spent about four hours one day being exposed to different people’s pain. And not just the small stuff that, as a pastor, you get to hear relatively often. This was all big stuff that day. Things which are the result of a living in a fallen world where even creation creaks. Pain-causing situations which seem to have no end in sight. The life-issues which demand patience and faith on a level like Job’s.
And I had come home and cried that night. Because I had somehow entered into that pain with each of those people. And, just for a short moment, I wished that I could be more of a professional. I wanted to be able to keep the passion and the pain at bay. Living my own life seems to have enough of its own troubles at times; I really felt that I could do without the pain of others, especially pain in situations which look utterly hopeless.
But with his title, Piper calls me back.
Brothers (I’ll add in ‘sisters’ as I suspect his theological position means he won’t!), we are not professionals.
Brothers and sisters, we must let the river run deep. I think Piper is talking more in the context of theological realities, but I think we can extend his plea to the context of pastoral realities. Paul says, after all, that as a minister death had been at work in him so that life could be at work in those whom he served. And so I think that sometimes it is enough for a pastor to experience the deepest emotions about the deepest things which are suffered by another.
I don’t understand how that will make a difference. But I think that there is something in identifying truly with the pain of another.
And I think that the day I become a professional is the day I cease to be a pastor.