John Piper: “Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals”

Today The Resurgence posted a great interview that Mark Driscoll conducted with John Piper. In it, Piper shares some of the lessons he has learned in his decades of pastoral experience on risk, leadership, and stereotypes. The whole interview is good, but the (slightly edited) excerpt below I found to be an especially excellent piece of wisdom and a great reminder for anyone in Christian leadership. The last paragraph is especially good for anyone involved in music ministry:

“Professionalism has connotations that don’t serve us well in describing the ministry. The ministry is supernatural, or it is not Christian ministry. The natural things we do—preach, teach, counsel, write, organize, visit—are not in and of themselves ministry. Unbelievers do all those things. Even unregenerate pastors do those things, and they may do them with great professional skill. But all of that professional excellence would be utterly in vain.

…the heart of the ministry is supernatural and our main aim and focus should be on that aspect of our work. There is no professional faith, no professional hope, no professional joy, no professional thirsting after God, no professional empathy with sufferers, no professional purity, or professional passion for the lost. You get the idea. The essence of what we are about is simply not professional, like raising the dead.

Of course, supernatural does not mean methodological stupidity. The people do need a place to park. The meeting needs to end in time to get some sleep. The sound system needs to work. But all of that sort of thing is pursued “by the strength that God supplies” so that God gets the glory (1 Pet. 4:11), or it is not Christian ministry. Professionalism doesn’t show us that.

Undistracting excellence is the way we talk about the natural wineskin of ministry that holds the supernatural wine. This means that we take seriously the biblical call to play your music skillfully and be apt to teach. But the aim is for a kind of excellence that does not distract from God or the spiritual engagement with God in all our natural acts. Both fumbling and finesse distract. This is why professionalism simply won’t work as a ministry aspiration. It is not the aim of professionalism to become transparent for the glory of Christ.”

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