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Why I stopped listening to John Piper sermons

December 21, 2015

I love John Piper. His book “Desiring God” transformed my life and because of his sermon, “Boasting Only in the Cross,” my life will be leveraged for God’s glory among the nations and I will never, ever, ever have a shell collection. But a few years ago, I realized I had stopped listening to his (and others’) sermons and stopped reading blogs (except, of course, this one). I don’t think it was as much of an intentional, thought out decision as much as it was a gradual lifestyle change. I’ve seen young people get really passionate about following someone they’ve never met and listen less and less to the voices God has sovereignly placed in their lives. Some become teachable only to “experts” they’ve never met. I still utilize talks and podcasts in discipleship, and connect people I’m investing in with teaching I trust (especially from John Piper). However, I try to use the Internet less and connect them with flesh and blood people when I can. Here are five of the top reasons I’ve found myself listening to less podcasts and reading less blogs.

I have a pastor I can approach.
That pastor is not John Piper, Matt Chandler or any other Christian celebrity. His name is Jeff, and he loves me and cares about me. I want the shepherd God has appointed over me to be the main voice in my ear. He will give an account for me (Hebrews 13:17), and I want to honor that by making sure I learn from him. I’ve re-listened to sermons, gone back to ones I’ve missed, and gone over notes I’ve taken in church. I’ve asked him questions about messages he’s given, and he’s lovingly and patiently responded. I haven’t reached that point in my relationship with John Piper (but I’m open to it).

I reject the Christian celebrity culture.
Not the people, but the culture. When a quote about the Bible carries more weight than the Bible, we’ve got a problem. “All authority in heaven and earth” has not been given to David Platt. Christian celebrities are not a new thing. Spurgeon’s sermons were widely circulated. Whitfield drew a huge crowd. Ever heard of Billy Graham? I remember listening to John MacArthur tapes in the 90’s. This isn’t new, but there has been an increase in accessibility to sermons and voices of popular preachers. There is a danger in finding primary authorities outside of your local church. Hebrews 13:7 says to consider the outcome of the “way of life” of our leaders. Later, in verse 17, we are told to obey our leaders and submit to their authority. We can’t do that with people we hear online. And I don’t need baptized idols in my life.

When a quote about the Bible carries more weight than the Bible, we’ve got a problem.

I have their books.
I haven’t disconnected from the community of faith outside of my area code. God has blessed us with men and women who encourage the universal Church with the way they explain and challenge others to apply God’s word to life. But I would argue the best thoughts the greatest thinkers of our faith have developed have historically been written in their books. I’m amazed at the number of people who consistently listen to “Ask John Piper” but have never read “Desiring God.” Don’t just listen to the latest spoken word piece by a 20 year old with 10 million views on YouTube. Read, “The Life and Diary of David Brainerd” or “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” by Jonathan Edwards. Don’t limit your learning to the latest clips or blog posts your friends put on Facebook.

I have enough drama in my life.
I know young leaders who love to know the latest gossip in the Christian realm. Honestly friends, I do not need to know how John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll feel about each other. I’m not going to spend time reading up on the latest blog-fights between the leaders of American Christianity (which, may I remind you is a small minority of global Christianity). Maybe this is just me, but nothing stokes my critical spirit more than reading critical comments at the end of critical blogs.

I’ve got too much work to do.
I found the more I immersed myself in the Christian subculture through blogs, podcasts, conferences, etc., the less I engaged the lost or spent time in prayer and scripture myself. It became a time issue. Often I would use my “work time” to engage this media, or substituted that for my own time in the Word. My time is limited and while others may fit in 15-30 minutes a day on reading their favorite blog or listening to their favorite pastor they never met, it’s one thing I can cut that used to consistently take up my time. Now, instead of passively taking in the regurgitated Word, I spend time feasting on God’s word on my own or with guys I’m discipling.

With all that being said, it’s probably time to stop reading this and go text your pastor or other spiritual mentors in your life to get coffee.

Reflection questions:

What makes it easy to neglect teaching of local church leaders by listening to podcasts from teachers you’ve never met?

What is the danger of falling on either extreme (listening primarily to “celebrity Christian leaders” or not engaging media from them at all)?

How can our intake of social media contribute to the erosion of our submission and teachability to local leaders?