The 76-year-old encouraged the 12,000 in attendance with words of wisdom from a lifetime of pastoral ministry. “It’s a great calling,” Piper said. “I love it. I loved it. God was so good to me.”
Piper, who stepped down from Bethlehem Baptist Church’s senior pastor in 2013 after 33 years and still attends the church as pastor emeritus, is currently the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary and continues to teach through books, conferences, and DesiringGod.org, which he founded in 1994.
The self-proclaimed “Christian Hedonist” also had the crowd of mostly pastors in an uproar of laughter when he discussed the time he released an article he titled “Missions and Masturbation” in his church newsletter.
Piper wrote the article after going to hear a message from George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilization, in the 1980s. In that message, Verwer preached about what keeps young people off the mission field. Verwer explained it was “masturbation and sexual failure,” Piper told the T4G crowd.
“So I come over fired up and I write an article for our church newsletter called “Missions and Masturbation,” Piper shared while Dever put his face in his hands and the crowd howled with laughter.
The “Desiring God” author told those in attendance, “It’s gets better,” as he asked Dever, “You sure you want me to go on?”
Dever replied, “I think they do!”
Piper explained that, at the time he wrote the article, his church was filled with older single women, saying, “One of them stopped at door the next Sunday, and she took my hand and she said, ‘You’re sick.’”
A leader in the church sat down with their pastor and told him, “John! What are you thinking?”
To the amazement and laughter of the crowd, Piper told said, “I think I would do it again,” elaborating that he received letters from all over the country, including one from the chaplain of West Point telling Piper he handed the article out to all the cadets.
“I said okay that’s good enough,” Piper said. Dever turned to his T4G co-founder Ligon Duncan sitting in the crowd asking him, “Are you sure you didn’t want to do this interview?”
As the interview went on, Piper shared that he misses the interactions with the church elders, that they used to energize him in ministry, and that he is saddened when he hears stories of elder conflicts within the church today.
“I never, ever experienced it that way. They knew all my marital problems. They knew all my kid problems. We had an absolutely glorious fellowship on that council,” Piper said of the elder board, which grew from 12 elders to 40 elders by the time he stepped down as senior pastor.
Piper said that the “greatest thing in the world” for him during his 33 years of pastoring at Bethlehem Baptist Church were the older people in the church.