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preaching article How John Piper Learned to Preach

How John Piper Learned to Preach

based on 9 ratings
Mar 21, 2012

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.



John Piper is founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For over 30 years, he served as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books, and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.

Talk about it...

John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
Amen and Amen brother!
David Buffaloe avatar
David Buffaloe
0 days ago
a good word, brother
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
Good article. I can so relate. I'm not eloquent by any means...but I just want to communicate what I've learned and get excited about.
Guillermina Grandt avatar
Guillermina Grandt
0 days ago
that is what I'm talking about. the God, and the Jesus from the Bible. through the Holy Spirit, direct to the heart of people. Amen.
Robert Sickler avatar
Robert Sickler
0 days ago
John, most refreshing to read a biblical/spirit based perspective on preaching, instead of an academic discourse on how to preach. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against academics: I have four college degrees. I believe a man is called by God to preach and no amount of training can replace that calling. Counterfeit it perhaps but never replace it.
Myron  Heckman avatar
Myron Heckman
0 days ago
What John Piper has says about "being blown away by what's in the Scripture" is something I have learned from him by reading and listening to his sermons. I have called it "looking for the glory in the passage." It's seeing truth not as routine, but as life-changing and freeing.
Hachimenum Amadi avatar
Hachimenum Amadi
0 days ago
John, you hit it hard there. No greater inspiration, no greater source for illustration than the Bible itself. You said it all.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.