Recently, I have been reading the Festschrift for John Piper entitled For The Fame of God’s Name – Essays in Honor of John Piper, edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. While reading this book I came across a couple of different stories that go along with the theme that I have written about in the past, people who make a difference in the lives of others by asking them a question that changes their life, giving them opportunities to serve, etc. My desire is to share these stories to be an encouragement to others who may be searching and also to say thanks to those who have been a difference-maker in the lives of others. I have written about Thabiti Anyabwile and how Mark Dever made a difference in his life (not sure if either of them will read that article) and writing this one about John Piper (not sure if he will see this either).
The first story comes from Jon Bloom who is the President of Desiring God, he writes:
In 1991, about a thousand people were attending Bethlehem. Pam and I didn’t know the Pipers personally. So a phone call in January caught me off guard. It was Noël Piper. “Johnny and I would like to know if you and Pam would be interested in renting our basement apartment.” I think my jaw dropped to the floor.
In the spring of 1993, as we were preparing to move out of the Pipers’ house into our first little home, I heard from Jim that John was contemplating hiring his first full-time administrative assistant. He wanted a male, someone who could travel with him and uniquely care for the growing number of inquiries and ministry demands. This news landed on me with the same weighty sense I had about the apartment. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. At age twenty-seven, an administrative assistant position may have appeared an unwise career choice. But I knew I was supposed to do it. This was the next step. A few days later I walked upstairs to John’s home office and simply asked him to consider me for the job. He did. I began in July.(Pg. 502)
What a story! I am not sure that I would have the boldness to ask for a job like Jon Bloom did, but now he is the President of Desiring God. But it all began with a simple question regarding the rental of a basement apartment which eventually forged a friendship and relationship which has grown and been nurtured over these many years and still continues to thrive today. In my own world, I have sent unsolicited resumes for opportunities that I was aware of that I was interested in, but I did not receive those positions. The difference was the fact that I did not have a close enough relationship with the person making the hiring decision to warrant consideration.
The second story comes from Tom Steller. Tom is the Academic Dean at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He writes:
As much as Dr. Piper loved investing in college students, his growing desire to preach to all ages in all situations in life the glories of Christ that he was seeing in his study and in the classroom became overwhelming. A short while later, we received another letter from Dr. Piper, saying that Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis called him to serve as their pastor. The next sentence changed my life forever. ”Would you like to come and serve with me?”
There is a bit of a back story that I did not include in the above quote that I think will give some context to the overall story. Tom was a student of John Piper’s at Bethel College and had taken seven classes from him. He also attended Fuller Seminary because of John Piper’s influence. Tom was the one who founded The Bethlehem Institute which eventually morphed into Bethlehem College and Seminary.
Again another great story of someone making a different in the life of another person by asking a simple question. I like what Tom Steller said before disclosing the question that John Piper had asked him, “The next sentence changed my life forever”. As I sit here and write this post, I think about what that would be like to get a phone call, email, or have a personal conversation with someone that had the ability to put another person in a position that would eventually lead to unparalleled passion and fruitfulness and a great growth potential. If I received a call from men like John Piper, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, I would probably fall over in shock! I have never met John Piper personally. I met Albert Mohler once while on the SBTS campus in 2008, and I have traded a couple of emails with two of Russell Moore’s assistants, never meeting him in person either.
As a side note, I have answered a lot of questions this week regarding not being in ministry from various people (church members and co-workers). Never an easy question to answer, but one person that I spoke with this week got it. He said that it sounds like you are in a catch-22, churches refuse to interview or hire you because they say you do not have enough experience, how do they expect you get obtain the needed or necessary experience? I have had a lot of conversations on the subject of not being in ministry, but this person really understood what was going on.
Who knows, maybe one of these days I will get a call, email with a question like Tom Steller received? Until then….
Thanks to John Piper for being a difference-maker in the lives of these two men and in the lives of others who have not shared their experience in print.