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John Piper taking leave of absence to reexamine his soul


Well-known evangelical preacher John Piper announced Sunday that he will be taking his first-ever break from ministry to reexamine his soul.

The long-time preacher apologized to his congregation for not a specific deed but for the “sins of my own soul,” “ongoing character flaws” and stresses that they have caused to others.

“I see several species of pride,” Piper told Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. “They may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry. Nevertheless, while I don’t think they do, I grieve over them.”

Piper, who is considered one of the most influential preachers among Protestant pastors, made the announcement after preaching about Jesus Christ and the cross he beared. It was the first of four final sermons before his eight-month leave from the church and ministry.

In the 30 years he has been preaching, Piper said he has never let go of his passion for public productivity – ever. That is, until now.

“In this moment (the leave of absence), I’m letting go of all of it,” he said.

That means no preaching, no book writing, no blogging, no tweeting, no articles, no papers and no speaking engagements…

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29 comments on “John Piper taking leave of absence to reexamine his soul

  1. I can understand the need to do that, we all do from time to time, I pray for our brother in Christ, God Bless,

  2. “Beared”? Looks like the Christian Post could use an editor! 😉

    I’m glad that Piper is doing this. The neo-Calvinist movement needs this “shocker” — no one would imagine Piper prideful. I mean, I can think of a popular preacher up here in my home state of Washington that I would actually think could use what Piper’s talking about. And I think that I myself could benefit greatly from “soul-searching” for what I put my pride in. But PIPER?! All the better that he does this because of the message that it sends: the condition of your heart is very important!

    But yes – because of the nature of the neo-Calvinist movement (i.e. we hold our convictions so strongly… often to the point of pride), it is good and necessary to reflect on whether we’re adequately humbled by God’s grace.

    Here’s a great article from TGC that I read this morning: http://bit.ly/9UlDZZ

  3. Hi PJ,

    I am deeply heartened by John Piper’s decision to refrain from the pulpit (and all other forms of public ministry, including blogging and tweeting)for this next while. By doing so, he sets an example to many who may or may not be so inclined. But what I do believe is that he is hearing from God and is allowing God to bring him under.

    It’s important to note that this is not an opportunity to speculate that there might be “other” issues going on, but simply it is a show of sincere dependency on the Living God as he endeavors to live out his life in utter transparency by making himself and his wife, Noel, vulnerable to those who walk alongside them.

    Taking the time for examination and securing priorities is truly the way to make one’s calling and election sure. May this good brother be adequately refreshed and well-supplied during this time, and made to be even more fruitful.

    -E

  4. He has given me hope in my own struggles, PJ

  5. Like you guys, i was heartened by John Piper’s announcement. As odd as it may sound i was also encouraged.

    There are only a hand full of preachers and/or bible teachers today i respect, Piper is one of them. By coming out with honesty about the reason behind his leave, it shows me we all can be called aside and away from ministry by God on occasion, to reexamine ourselves and our motives.

    Even old bloggers need to take a leave occasionally. 🙂

    God bless him… when God sends him back, John Piper will no doubt be returning with deeper insights to share with his congregation and his readers.

  6. John Piper’s announcement is heartening for sure. This will be a sacrifice for him, and hard on his flesh (which is the point), but very good for his soul in the long run. This also speaks volumes to those who look up to him (perhaps too much at times).

  7. He is a very good example to the saints by humbling himself. If any one of us obeys the lord and trusts in Him, He will cause fruitfulness and get the glory wether we are in the public eye or in obscurity. I get the sense that Piper’s decision is a very important incident, marker, or turning point for our day.

  8. Unless the man committed an act that would hinder his ministry, he needs to to continue on the work God started in him. I’m so tired of these wishy washy christians who can’t stomach the battle because they get tired of the war. Look, the enemy isn’t taking a day off, he’s not going to go and find some juniper tree to contemplate his weakness and failures, he’s on the hunt – for christians! Piper needs to go into his closet, seek the Lord and get over it. It’s time the church stop being the victim and start being the soldier they are! Seriously. Souls lay in the balance, millions are dying daily and this joe blow wants to go and cry himself a river. Once again, get over it and pick up that cross soldier and MOVE OUT!
    C. L. Gregory

    • CL, the most important action John Piper or any Christian can take is to obey the direction given by the Spirit of God. It sounds like this is what he is doing.

      Collin Hansen wrote a brief article in Christianity Today concerning Piper’s announcement. He is correct when we stated,

      Evangelical leaders serve out of their personal relationship with Christ, modeling the life of faith for others. Yet it is exceedingly difficult to tend to this most important relationship, not to mention our friends and family, when work consumes every day. To be sure, we’re called to toil for Christ, “struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works” within us (Col. 1:29). Even during the busyness of this Lenten season, though, we might follow Piper’s example and pause to examine the toll of our toiling and the state of our souls. Does our work truly point others to the power of Christ? If not, it may draw attention to the one who plants and waters, not the God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7). Ministers who lose this perspective are in danger… link

      We can’t second guess what the Spirit of God is doing in another person’s life. We can only hear and obey God for ourselves.

  9. I agree, Vicki. You said, “I get the sense that Piper’s decision is a very important incident, marker, or turning point for our day.”

    That was my impression also. I believe God is dealing with every pulpit of America, and in this instance, John Piper is falling on the Rock as opposed to having the Rock fall on him.

    God is challenging each one of us precisely where we live, shaking whatever idols exist from our hearts and though the stakes may be much higher when one is in the spotlight, ultimately,the only spotlight that matters is God’s.

    Surely, John Piper’s decision to step aside for a season is a sign and a wonder I can give glory to God for 😉
    -E

  10. C.L Gregory WHAT?

    Jesus himself took time away often, how can you say such a thing about a leader taking time away ESPECIALLY FOR THE REASON HE IS.
    It’s the men that DON’T take time away because they think they are pivotal to God’s blessing and think the whole church will collapse without them, that I grieve about.

    My prayer is: “Lord, Please bless John Piper richly, and meet with him in a new way at this unpredictable time of the history of YOUR Church. Challenge him, teach him and return him, renewed and enriched with your Holy Spirit – Amen”

    And I say this prayer for everyone else as a matter of fact, including ME!

    • Jesus went off into the wilderness to be TESTED for OUR sakes. Piper has done this twice now and for what? To go “find himself”? Did Peter go off in his years after the events in Acts to step down for a season? Did Paul? Did Timothy? Did Martin Luther? No. They were MEN who understood the call that they were in. I don’t buy for one minute the Holy Spirit led Piper from the pulpit, a good shepard PROTECTS the flock, doesn’t give up on them. Again, unless its for a momentary lapse in moral judgement, then Piper needs to quit his crying and buck up and lead his church into its destiny. Again, we’re in the army of God and this ain’t no cruise ship lolipop folks, the world is in chaos, we’ve got a President who is ripping the freedoms that we have to shreds, he’s disbanding our long held commitment to Israel and disasters are occuring like never before, and what does this guy do when the world is being turned upside down? He calls it quites for a season. Tell ya what, what he needs is a Holy Ghost kick in the butt and told to move out, there are souls that need to be saved, families that need to be healed and a church that needs to be taught, you can’t do that from the sidelines son, you do it in the thick of the battle! God has called SOLDIERS and he expects us to remain faithful to the call. Some people keep saying that he needs to examine himself, we do that in prayer, in our daily walk, we don’t STOP the walk, we don’t STOP the ministry just because we think we’re too tired. Remember Jonah, he got bummed out and found himself a juniper tree and then God took away somethings to get him off his butt.
      I don’t want to sound mean, but I’d be livid if my pastor had to take time off to go find himself, this is not our calling. And I will say this, I’d be fearful that I’d get demoted, see, God exaults and he lowers those in service, Piper might be best to remember that he answers to God and if God gets tired of this nonsense, Piper might find himself out of a church, a ministry and a calling. Get over it and move out!
      We need some General Pattons these days in this spiritual army.

  11. Once again I am saddened by what I am reading in the body of Christ these days. I re-read Piper’s whole discussion and his attitude for perfection (his words). We cannot acheive a sinless state while on earth, so this is crazy. Piper says that he has 5 more years of preaching…okay..then what?…….waiting….oh, I must have missed the memo that says we have a expiration date somewhere in our calling. Look, let me just say this and I’m done with this subject, but we do not retire from the call. The ONLY time when we retire from our call as preachers of the gospel is when God takes us home. Piper needs to shake himself and snap out of it.

    • CL, i find your obvious distress concerning John Piper baffling. Is it difficult to understand that we (each) are led by the Holy Spirit and subsequently will answer to God?

      Reading your comments i was reminded of Peter questioning Jesus about John, and Jesus’ reply,

      He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

      Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

      Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

      Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. John 21

    • Again, we’re in the army of God and this ain’t no cruise ship lolipop folks, the world is in chaos, we’ve got a President who is ripping the freedoms that we have to shreds, he’s disbanding our long held commitment to Israel and disasters are occuring like never before…

      That has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of John Piper taking time away to examine himself. Franky, it sounds like you are angry not so much at John Piper but at a lot of other issues.

      lets stay on topic…

  12. pjmiller :

    Again, we’re in the army of God and this ain’t no cruise ship lolipop folks, the world is in chaos, we’ve got a President who is ripping the freedoms that we have to shreds, he’s disbanding our long held commitment to Israel and disasters are occuring like never before…

    That has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of John Piper taking time away to examine himself. Franky, it sounds like you are angry not so much at John Piper but at a lot of other issues.
    lets stay on topic…

    Actually PJ, I thought we were on topic. Please understand, and this is why I hate statements on the web because they always come off as cold or harsh, but having said that, this has EVERYTHING to do with Piper. Let me say this; Piper is in bed with Rick Warren. That’s a red flag in of itself, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he does not accept Warren’s ideas, but still, he hangs with the man. The problem is this, when leadership leaves leading the people, people suffer. This sets a bad example to the body of Christ as it sets a tone that says, “I’m done for awhile, go fend for yourself.” Piper will stand in judgement for his actions as we all will. My point is this, we are raising a generation of believers who are soft – period. I don’t say that with any egotistical notion whatsoever, the fact is, when you are a spiritual leader and you have a work to do, then what does it say when that person simply jumps ship? You might not see the issue but some of us do. I would also add that he gave a very cryptic message in his statement concerning his marriage. It seems, by his own statement that quite possibly his marriage is in trouble, okay, but at some point Jesus said, that we are to follow him, forsake everything else, this might mean wife, kids, family. See, if mom won’t go, you must go. If kids won’t go, you must go, if the parents won’t go you must go. Let the dead bury the dead.

  13. For what it’s worth and in light of C.L. Gregory’s concerns, in a spirit of love for the Truth, I pose this question: Cannot the Potter do what He will with the clay?

    Remember, God is omniscient, and as far as what John Piper is doing, he is doing it in faith, and God is the ultimate Ruler and Overseer of his soul. Scripture says we know in part. Why, none of us knows what tomorrow may bring. What John Piper is doing may be perfectly clear in his mind, but is faith so low that we cannot trust that God is at work in a much grander way? Would he take a man in such high visibility so as to waste him now? I believe God is much greater than that, much wiser, and far more effective.

    In terms of what is happening here, I’m reminded of the prophet Ezekiel (Chapter 12). Did not God speak to him and tell him to go into exile in broad daylight so he would actually be seen by the Israelites? And why did he go into exile? GOD SENT HIM! Why? To use him as a SYMBOL of exile.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that although John Piper is taking a leave of absence from all visible ministry, he is availing himself to the One who matters most. Is not God sovereign? Cannot God use the life and ministry of John Piper in absentia? Absolutely! How? By using him as an example to those who have perhaps made ministry a god and by using this decision as a riddle to those who just cannot understand. Sola Dei Gloria!

    -E

    • Actually PJ, I thought we were on topic.

      CL, while its true that many topics concerning Church leaders in America (today) are political in nature by the fact they are involved (n politics), Piper isn’t one of them and his reasons given for his leave of absence have nothing to do with the state of politics in America, the churches involvement (in politics), or anything else beside his statement of taking a 8 month leave from the pulpit, writing, etc. to get alone with God.

      That was my point.

      Let me say this; Piper is in bed with Rick Warren. That’s a red flag in of itself, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he does not accept Warren’s ideas, but still, he hangs with the man.

      You contradict yourself friend.

      On one hand you are very very upset at Piper taking time away to fast, pray, and seek God for his soul, and on the other hand you accuse him of hanging with others who’s doctrines are ‘questionable’.

      Its like condemning someone before they sin, because they have the wisdom to step back, seek God, and pray before they fall off the cliff! 🙂

      E sums it up best,

      Cannot the Potter do what He will with the clay? Remember, God is omniscient, and as far as what John Piper is doing, he is doing it in faith, and God is the ultimate Ruler and Overseer of his soul.

      To question another’s desire to obey God by “working out their salvation with fear and trembling” (and taking time to do it) is wrong CL. Especially when any reasons we can give for the specifics are nothing more then speculations.

  14. PJ, you act like I’m hell bent on ripping Pipers heaet out…with a spoon (why a spoon? because it’ll hurt more) and it’s simply not the case. There is absolutely no anger or hostility whatsoever in my thoughts or feelings, so once you you’re reading into something that is simply not there. But I stand by what I said in my original post. Why? Because we are not talking or speaking of a prophet, an evangelist, a missionary, we are speaking about a man who is a pastor, a big difference. I have no issue with servants of God seeking God in prayer, in fasting for days to hear from God, these are good traits. I have issues with men who are called of God who, for reasons unknown, jump ship simply because they feel the need to go find themselves. Look, I won’t bother getting back into this debate, but the fact is, you feel about Piper strongly, fine, God speed. But I see it as failing to be faithful to the call. You see the glass half empty, I see it half full. I just don’t agree – WE don’t agree. Fair enough.
    But, there is this nagging feeling I get when one associates themselves with the likes of an apostate – and I refer to rick warren. If Piper is not in bed with this man (figure of speech) then why is Warren speaking at Pipers conference? Here’s the real deal, whether people like this or not, I call it like I see it, when a pastor opens their pulpit and/or church to the likes of Warren, then either that pastor is deluded, ignorant or worse – a wolf themselves and of the worst kind. See, there are many kinds of wolves, and the worst ones come in a shroud of secrecy. What’s worse is this, the years of work Piper has done is being underminded because of him aligning himself with someone who is not only radical in the wrong direction when it comes to our faith, as in the case of Warren, but he is also dangerous. Why in sam hill would any pastor worth their salt and favor of God allow a wolf such as Warren come into their flock and rip it to shreds by allowing warren to promote his heresy. Look, it’s like me allowing my niece to play with a python simply because I might like a python, the outcome is still the same. You can complain all you want about my post, but I’m tired of this nonsense that I am seeing in the body of Christ and in the church. PJ, you say i am angry, you betcha I’m angry, in a righteous way and every other living christian is also equally angry, they just won’t admit it like I do. It’s time to clean house. You game? Or are we all too busy in “finding ourselves” these days? I stand by my post.

  15. You know, the New Testament Scriptures never use the word “leader” in relation to the Church. There are gifts of men in offices given, there are those who labor among us, there are overseers and shepherds. There are no leaders, only servants. The closest thing is Paul saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

    The Church has one leader and Head, Jesus, whose voice we EACH are to hear; and being led by the Holy Spirit Who is given to us, submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God.

    Too much emphasis on “leaders” and on celebrities is an anomaly of our day, and one which in my opinion weakens, rather than strengthens, the Church for her calling. Apparently Piper has been a fine and blessed gift, yet Jesus continues to head His Church regardless of who may not be in the public eye.

    • The Church has one leader and Head, Jesus, whose voice we EACH are to hear; and being led by the Holy Spirit Who is given to us, submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God.

      amen Vicki 🙂

  16. Dear Vicki your comment was like music to my ears THANK YOU.

    ‘Leaders’ seemingly cannot (or WILL not) take time out, but SERVANT LEADERS certainly can and do. Leaders are called to lead not instruct (a subtle difference) and I have sadly seen so many lovely people completely change in personality and attitude the moment they became a ‘leader’.

    Of course there ARE some very Godly leaders, but they are fast becoming a rare breed.

  17. I have to say that I admire a man (John Piper) who not only hears God…but obeys what he hears. My prayer for John Piper and his family is that this time he is taking is a time of cleansing and renewal. God has used him mightily, and let it be as the Lord would have it be…John Piper’s life is not his own…he was bought at a price…and it is not he who lives, but Christ in him. May we all take time to examine ourselves and hear what the Spirit is saying in these days…and once we hear…let us be quick to obey.

  18. I’m new to John Piper, though God’s been putting him on my heart for prayer. Perhaps this is why.

    I pray that God blesses him in this. So long as he knows that God wants him to do this, I’m anxious to know what it is that God’s going to do.

  19. Wow. Sin is sin, but 8 months is longer than Jamal Bryant and a couple other philandering ministers recently spent reconciling with their spouses and Christ.
    Before the people started looking for new church homes, and the website visits started taking a hit. Donations went down….
    It definitely takes a person sincere in the Lord to step back and say I’m not right, my flesh is getting the best of me more often than I’d like, let alone God, and step away from the ministerial lime light. But if he was ever a good leader, teacher, pastor he has trained godly men to operate in his stead, and his sheep have learned to tune their ears to the word of truth. God bless him as he rests, recuperates, re-evaluates, repents, reconciles, and restores himself in Christ.

  20. I just came upon this link so I am sorry for the late-in-the-game comments. I think that can be very good reasons for a pastor taking a leave of absence. The pastoral calling takes a toll and there are often good reasons to step back for refreshment or to deal with personal matters. The office can take over the person. I know. And so I think taking a break every so often is a good thing. I wish I had done it more often. What bothers me about what I read above is Piper’s public display of humility in his public confession of pride. He should have just said it was for personal reasons or for soul care. As it is people are lining up to say, “Wow, what a humble and godly man who wants to go off and work on bis pride.” It comes off to be as, in fact, the height of spiritual pride, or maybe spiritually narcissism. Thus I agree with Piper’s decision. I just hope a new book and marketing campaign doesn’t follow the respite.

  21. When I hear language like “he needs to buck it up,” the message that comes through is tinged with man-centeredness, the very thing against which John Piper through the power of the gospel is so fit to fight. His time before God (however long that may be) is an essential part of that fight.

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