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How John Piper Learned to Preach
John Piper more from this author »
Although John Piper was completely unable to speak in front of groups from fifth grade until his sophomore year of college, and although he received a C minus in his seminary preaching class, God made him a preacher.
Where and how did you learn to preach?
I don't know. Watching my dad when I was six, eight, ten, twelve. Watching how not to do it in lots of places. Being unable to speak in front of a group from grade five to my sophomore year in college. I think I was learning to preach during that time because I was so hurt, so wounded, so discouraged, and so desperate that I had to go way down into God, and way into Scripture, and way into pain, and God was making a preacher of me by shutting my mouth.
You don't become an effective preacher by becoming a loquacious and effective communicator at age sixteen. You become a clever communicator, but you don't become a preacher of the holy things of God. So that was a piece.
I don't know. The courses that I took on preaching were marginally helpful. I got the lowest grade in seminary in my preaching class. I think I got a C minus in James Daane's preaching class at Fuller Seminary. We never agreed on anything except the principle that every sermon should have one point, he said that over and over again. So I made a terrible grade there.
I think the way that I became a preacher was by being passionately thrilled by what I was seeing in the Bible in seminary. Passionately thrilled! When Philippians began to open to me, Galatians to open to me, Romans to open to me, the Sermon on the Mount to open to me in classes on exegesis (not homiletics, but exegesis), everything in me was feeling, "I want to say this to somebody. I want to find a way to say this because this is awesome, this is incredible!"
So for preachers today who go everywhere but the Bible to find something interesting or something scintillating and passionate, I say, "I don't get it. I don't get that at all!" Because I have to work hard to leave the Bible and go somewhere to find an illustration, because everything in the Bible is just blowing me away. And it is that sense of being blown away by what's here—by the God that's here, and the Christ that's here, and the gospel that's here, and the Spirit that's here, and the life that is here—being blown away by this, I just say, "That's got to get out."
And then I suppose how it gets out. What is that? I don't know what that is. That's just the way I'm wired that I would say it a certain a way. It's owing in part to my being a lit major, you know, I studied language a little bit. Goodness, a thousand things go into your life and nobody can copy anybody else. I don't know. God makes us who we are. I don't think there is much you can do to become a preacher except know your Bible and be unbelievably excited about what's there. And love people a lot; that is, you want to make the connection with people and what's in the Bible.