Monday, September 10, 2007

No, I am *not* a fan of John Piper...

This is an exercise in nuance.

I was asked the other month if I was a 'John Piper fan'.

I said -- "Oh, no -- of course not." And then kept going: "I'm not, insofar that I don't want to be a fan of anyone but Jesus. Like many people, Desiring God really gave me a vision for joy and delight in the glory of God. That book alone shaped much of who I am, and still does. But, put bluntly, I'm not, and will never be, a Piper 'fan'.

I don't think that John Piper wants me to be a John Piper fan".

Then a few days later, I posted this link to a Piper sermon. And my correspondent read my Blog, and then emailed me:
I will enjoy reading your blog. Amazing clip from Piper. I inferred from our conversation that you were not a Piper fan. It appears to be the opposite (at least on this point).

And my response was this:

Re Piper: I think Piper is great and gifted by God. Desiring God really helped. I listen to and read Piper when I get a chance.

But, still, I’m not a fan. ☺

My point is nuanced (but not merely semantic): If someone asks me 'Am I a fan of Piper?' my answer is "No, of course not. I’m a 'fan' of Jesus". (I’m not really a 'fan' of him either. Jesus needs followers, not fans.)

And it's even further nuanced by this: that when we always link to our favorite preacher, and then download, talk about, love, follow, go to conferences to fawn over, get a photo with, compare to, rate, hire because of fame, join a mega-church on the gifts of a single personality, make a Facebook group to express your appreciation for your favorite pastor-teacher, then… it may just be possible, without even realizing it, to 'empty the cross of it power'!

It’s all in 1 Corinthians 1-2. 1:17 in particular. What does it, in this text, mean to 'empty the cross of its power?'

I’m very nervous about the fact that even the good guys are going down the same route, in principle, as the followers of bad televangelists of the ‘80s: running after their favorite preachers. We just do it in style, and with good theology.

In fact, 1 Corinthians 12 asks us to make much of the one who is given less honor, so that the Body of Christ will be united.

Are we not simply being worldly?

And so in the same vein, I am also *not* a fan of Don Carson, Mark Driscoll, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Philip Jensen, Peter Jensen, Ravi Zacharias, Kent Hughes, etc. (As godly and as gifted as these men are.)

I'll listen to them and read, I'll learn from them and respect them, and I'll even obey when it is appropriate.

But I'm not, and will never be, a fan.

And I'm willing to wager that each of these men (since they all honorable men) would wholeheartedly agree. They would, I suspect, be uncomfortable with celebrity status, a 'fan-base' and a Facebook group.

Tell me if that's true.

______________

Pic of John Piper from Sola Lumina Captura.

24 comments:

Christopher said...

I agree. I have said elsewhere that I think CS Lewis would be horrified by the way he is adored and used. The same goes for Piper. However, I do wish Piper was as semantic/nuanced as you in the way that he chooses his words/concepts i.e. Christian hedonist.

Justin said...

Chris -- actually, the reason I could be tempted to be a fan is precisely because he is bold. However, I have resisted, and I am not a fan.

SamR said...

Thanks Justin. great post.

william said...

How did people express their admiration before the age of celebrity?

In my mind, the concept of a fan is very much tied to the international obsession with sports: the sort of irrational loyalty to a certain team or player.

Can I call myself a student of those I admire? Is there a better term to express the a sort of humble gratitude, admiration, and respect (as distinct from veneration or celebrity worship) that is due to someone who is older and often wiser than I am?

Let me know if you can come up with anything.

Justin said...

William -- Now that is a great question and a thoughtful challenge.

It is worth saying that immature fan clubs that divide are as old as the Corinthian Church.

But, that having been said, does anyone have an answer or a reflection?

Anyone want to talk about how they express their thankfulness?

I have some thoughts, but am happy to let others interact.

Christopher said...

If you were a true fan you would have described him as modestly bold :)

Lunch said...

Justin -- you have managed to express very clearly exactly what I have been thinking about recently, in regards to the growing popularity of Mark Driscoll around these parts.

Your No. 1 fan,

Lunch.

[Just kidding.]

Gordon Cheng said...

Facebook fan groups are indeed a sign of silliness and immaturity.

Join mine here.

CraigS said...

I'm a total fan of both Piper and Driscoll, and a whole heap of other cool preachers, past and present.

I reckon it's ok to have heroes...

Kate said...

Forgive my ignorance, Justin, but who is Piper?

Luke said...

A fan - as an avid appreciator, is surely different to a follower.

Isn't 1 Cor about followers & not appreciators.

I am a big fan of U2 (like everyone else in the bland Christian world!), but I don't follow them. I don't agree with all their ideology, if they told me to jump I wouldn't jump (unless it was in time with the whoo-oohs in Elevation).

Lunch said...

I don't care for U2.

Mandy said...

This made me smile Justin as on Sunday night at church I outed myself as a fan of you in drumming up support for people to come to ENGAGE!

Why am I a fan? Because you, amongst others like the wonderful Jo, were influential in me becoming a Christian 20 years ago.

I think you rightly point out the danger of blindly following those we admire or who have had an influence upon us, yet I suspect that there is a place for 'fans'. I reckon that Paul had fans who joined in imitaing him as he imitated Christ.

Gav Perkins said...

Some reflections from 1 Corinthians 1-4 which I have been preaching on recently...
We all have parents in the gospel... people whose ministry has impacted us in a particular and special way (cf. 1 Cor 4:15). There's nothing wrong with identifying and honouring such people. We don't have to all join the super-spiritually/pious "I follow Christ" party (1 Cor 1:12). We can rejoice in the servants God has used to shape us. I suspect that people who maintain that 'I follow Christ alone' are simply unaware and un-thought-through re the ministries that have had profound spiritual impact upon them. The danger of course is when we forget that such people are to be regarded only as "servants of Christ" accountable to Christ alone for their ministry (1 Cor 4:1-4).
Another 21st century issue is that those who impact us may live and minister on a different continent in a very different context. Appropriating what we learn into our own context can clearly be fraught with danger.

Justin said...

Forgive my ignorance, Justin, but who is Piper?

Kate -- I included several links to Piper pages in my post. Click on anything yellow and bold, and it will take you to where you need to go. That'll let you know who Piper is. Hes a godly man who preaches Christ boldly (and he has lots of fans).

Justin said...

A fan - as an avid appreciator, is surely different to a follower.

Isn't 1 Cor about followers & not appreciators.


That's a good observation, Luke. Clearly the text says: 'I follow...'. But its good to ask in what sense were they 'following'. I suspect that it was more in the sense of our use of the word 'fan' -- comparing one to another and saying which you liked more, and then creating divisions over it.

But still mulling that over.

Justin said...

This made me smile Justin as on Sunday night at church I outed myself as a fan of you in drumming up support for people to come to ENGAGE!

You are kind, Mandy! And I didn't mean to put you in an awkward situation! I shall be praying that they come to ENGAGE.

(But, like all the preachers in my post, would prefer people to come as seekers as well as followers after Jesus, not as fans.)

I can't believe it was 20 years ago ! Praise God for Jo Harris, right?

Justin said...

Craigs, Mandy and Gavin (and William before you) -- Of course we recognize and appreciate those who profoundly impacted us. We could call them 'heroes', or 'fathers' in the Lord (1 Cor). We could describe ourselves as their 'students' as well. We may even use the word 'fan' because thats the word we simply chose in a moment.

A few thoughts on Gavs post that may be relevant to all:

We all have parents in the gospel... people whose ministry has impacted us in a particular and special way

Isn't Paul's point here that he personally was the person who spoke to them, and not the more spiritually remote uber-preachers whom the Corinthian church are fawning after? This is particularly relevant in our iPod/download culture where we can fawn after an international giant (Your last observation, Gav.)

We don't have to all join the super-spiritually/pious "I follow Christ" party.

We certainly do not have to join the 'super-spiritually/pious' branch of the party (bad cousins, huh?), but in the end, 'I follow Christ' is the only way forward, right? Click Here and Here. That having been said, I take your point -- that we 'rejoice in the servants God has used to shape us.'

The danger of course is when we forget that such people are to be regarded only as "servants of Christ" accountable to Christ alone for their ministry (1 Cor 4:1-4).

Yes! My question, then, is this -- Is the current language of being 'fans' of pastor-teachers (and maybe even remote uber-preachers move us dangerously down the path you speak of?

And do we do a disservice to the preachers themselves? Waiting for them to implode in an ocean of worldly popularity? (Now that was a mixed metaphor.)

Gav Perkins said...

Justin... you asked "Isn't Paul's point here that he personally was the person who spoke to them, and not the more spiritually remote uber-preachers whom the Corinthian church are fawning after?"
That certainly was the case for the first century Paul... download speeds were really slow on the ancient dial-up networks. However, the reality of the current download phenomenon is that the people who do impact and shape us don't necessarily have to be those who are geographically near us. Now that may not be healthy... but it is the reality.

Ian said...

well said, sir!

this is just one reason i started to attend a smaller church. not because i don't want to hear what is being preached, but because i wanted a fresh perspective and to get away from any chance of becoming a "fan" and those who already were.

Justin said...

Ian -- Thanks. May I ask: Do I know you? Which Ian are you? You can email me personally if you like:

jmoff / hotmail

Andrew & Jessica said...

The only 'guru' I haven't spotted around Regent College in my last year is Eugene Peterson (J.I. Packer, Gordon Fee and Bruce Waltke are around a bit). I have heard that he stopped dropping by the college because he felt uncomfortable when people asked him for his autograph. Eug is a wise man! But it's a bummer I haven't been able to hear him speak in person.

For work, I may have to call Dr. Packer at home today... cool ;-)

Justin said...

Eug is a wise man!

Indeed.

Imagine being asked for an autograph for preaching Christ? How does a godly man like that respond to a request for an autograph? It must be difficult for these men. We ought not to make it any worse -- thats my call.

Good to hear from you A or J.

Ali said...

Oh bother! Just when I wanted to be your facebook friend because you're kind of famous, and I could be kind of famous by association :). Anyway, here I am - waiting for you to come back to blog land.