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John Piper Imparts Wisdom From His Five Decades of Ministry and an Article He Wrote Titled ‘Missions and Masturbation’

Dever asked when Piper knew he’d remain at Bethlehem Baptist Church his entire pastoral ministry, something that many pastors today don’t experience. Piper said that he received phone calls from other churches who were inquiring about his desire to leave his current church and pastor at another one. Those calls only came during the his “best of times” at the church; no one ever called during the “worst of times.”

Piper said, “God protected me and then I think after maybe seven to 10 years, I began to say, why would I want to go through those seven years and again, anywhere?”

“To bring a church to where you longed for it to be, to have the elders who believe the doctrines of grace and are thoroughly complementarian and passionate for missions and devoted to the Bible,” Piper said. “You can’t grow that overnight and we had grown it and I didn’t want to start over. I wanted to build on that.”

Piper was asked if there was ever a time he felt like quitting pastoral ministry. He shared a time six years into pastoring at Bethlehem Baptist Church when he almost did. In the pastor’s journal that he published on DesiringGod, he wrote, “I think I may be done.”

Multiple discouragements is what led Piper to entertain the notion of quitting. There wasn’t anything theological about it, he said, sharing that he was in a season of depression. “You lose perspective when you’re depressed—you just can’t see clearly. You need people around you to caution you from doing precipitous things.”

Part of the cause of Piper’s depression was a failed merger attempt with another church that would have given the growing Bethlehem Baptist Church more room.

“I had all these notions of what the ideal way to do ministry is and I just was very discouraged. But it didn’t happen,” Piper said. “God snatched me from that discouragement and kept me from resigning.”

Piper shared how discouraged he had been throughout his years of ministry, something he shared in his book “Desiring God.”

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“I have known discouragement so deep that on Thursday afternoon, I would sit cross legged in the grass at Nokomis Park and couldn’t remember my children’s names,” the chapter reads. “That was not unusual Thursday, at some seasons. And the reason I say Thursday is because that was my day off, which is usually the lowest day of the week. Because you’re tired and you’re too tired to enjoy your day off.”

The pastor used Fridays and Saturdays for sermon prep. “God, I think this is accurate to say, Never let me down on the weekend but restored to be the joy of the Word of God. So the answer is God—Not once but 100 times stepped in on Thursday or Friday,” Piper said.

God would tell him, “Son, shape up. You got to preach the weekend. I will be sufficient. And He was always was. I don’t think I ever stepped into the pulpit not loving what I was about to say. That’s a miracle.”

Piper’s advice to the younger pastors desiring to remain in the same church for thirty to forty years was to “plead with God to hold you fast.”

“The most frequent prayer that I have prayed concerning my ministry is keep me, keep me,” Piper explained. “Meaning keep believing. Keep me in love with my wife. Keep me a faithful father. Keep me a faithful shepherd. Keep me in love with your Word. Don’t drop me! Hold on to me. So I would say pray. Pray it like crazy. If you want to last fifty years, ask Him for another day and another day and another day. And then I would form the habit of every day immersing yourself for an hour or so in the Bible with a view to see me Him knowing Him and join Him and growing in your understanding of His ways. Make your encounter with the Bible and encounter with God every day.”

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