Teachers change the way you see the world, and they often change the way we understand ourselves (The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters, 2012, page 67).
If this was the only sentence in Albert Mohler’s excellent book, it would have been well worth the price of the book. Even though this may not seem to you like an earth-shaking insight, it gripped me when I read it. Let me explain.
I am reading Mohler’s book during a very significant and heart-wrenching year of “lasts.” I just attended my last staff meeting with John Piper as my 27-year pastoral colleague. I just heard my last sermon from him as my 33-year pastor. He has been a true comrade in ministry. The sound of his absence is deafening.
John Piper is undoubtedly as much a leader as he is a preacher. At the turn of almost every page in Mohler’s book, my heart has soared with thanksgiving for the influence John has had on my life and ministry. Mohler’s statement could not be more true for me. When I was 26 years old, John changed the way I was seeing the world and myself. I have not been the same since.
A recurring question began to occupy my thoughts in those early years. How could I have grown up in a Christian home, attend church all my life, graduate from a Christian college and a respected seminary, and be hearing and understanding such things for the first time? With nearly three decades of Bible-based Christian influence, why did I not see it before?
Part of the answer to this question came home in bold type on the top of our daughter’s Sunday school paper commemorating the Feeding of the 5,000: JESUS NEEDS HELPERS. How could this square with the God we were rediscovering as we sat under John’s ministry of the Word? We were seeing a God who is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25 ESV)? Do we really need to wait 30 years to understand what is true? Do we really need to mislead our children in this way? Can’t they understand what is true from the start?
These recurring questions were shaping a recurring conviction: We must raise a generation that will not need their teacher to change the way they see God and the way the understand themselves. Let’s give our children God-centered teachers who are equipped with God-centered resources that support biblical understanding of God and ourselves. Let’s change the message on the Sunday school paper to read “JESUS THE BREAD OF LIFE PROVIDES BREAD FOR 5,000” (He Has Spoken By His Son: New Testament Stories for Young Children,Lesson 79).
Children Desiring God was born out of this God-centered vision and a God-centered passion to pursue it. Every point of this vision grew out of John Piper’s faithful proclamation and instruction in the truth of God’s Word. The fingerprints of John’s ministry are on every page of every CDG resource.
It will take every minute of eternity for me to sufficiently give thanks to God for the blessing and influence of this man’s life. Consequently, every attempt I have made to pay tribute and express my gratitude to God for John’ faithful ministry seems woefully inadequate. My best effort was included in a collection of essays in honor of John Piper entitled For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper.
In The Conviction to Lead, Mohler asks, “what could be better than seeing people learn to receive and embrace the right beliefs, seeing those beliefs take hold and then watching the organization move into action on the basis of those beliefs?” (page 73)
John has been delighted to witness the development of CDG and watch us move into action on the basis of beliefs that have been shaped by his ministry. What could be better than this? I can think of something even better: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4 ESV)