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John Piper urges preachers to avoid ‘drying up’ lest ‘thousands perish’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–The “drying up of the preacher” is one of the greatest enemies of the pastorate and of preaching, declared John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. “If the preacher drys up, thousands perish.”
The author of numerous books stressing the supremacy of God, Piper presented the annual H.I. Hester Lectures Feb. 16-18 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
In a lecture describing the source of preaching, Piper said the drawing of water from the wells of salvation leads to giving thanks to the Lord and proclaiming his deeds among the peoples.
“You will draw water and you will speak,” Piper said of the source of preaching. “God’s purpose for us every day for the rest of our lives is to draw water from the wells of salvation.”
Piper warned that churches are destroyed by pastors who fall out of love with God. “The highest priority for the preacher is … to find wells of salvation from which he can drink every day.” The preacher then will be able to say, “Great is the Lord,” Piper said, and mean it “because he has drunk it up.”
For too many, Piper said the ministry becomes mechanical. “They get excited about carving ducks in the basement for three hours every night. What was once a hobby of relief becomes a consuming escape.” Piper added, “They have to do the work of the pastor because they have no other training, but they are dry as a bone and the church begins to perish.”
As he examined the passage in Isaiah, Piper noted the plural form of the word “well” does not refer to multiple means of salvation. Instead, it speaks of multiple refreshings from God, he said. “If you are crossing a desert from Egypt to the promised land, there had better be more than one well,” Piper said. “Otherwise, as you walk through the wilderness of your life on the way to paradise, you are going to drop dead in the desert.”
Piper described the wells of salvation as “the places and the times where you draw near to God and drink from the fountain of living water that he is.” As a result, Piper said, “There are as many wells in your life as there are meetings with God.”
Encouraging Christians to be alert, Piper said such meetings with God may come in the most horrible places — emergency rooms, gravesides, hospital beds and counseling offices. “There are many places where God will bubble up for you if you will pause and drink from him.”
Piper continued, “So salvation is not just past and not just out there at the resurrection. It is everywhere you will dig into it. Dig a well and find it flowing underneath you.”
Piper further noted “there is space between the wells where we have to walk,” describing some spaces as short, while others are long. “In the providence of God, we don’t always know why it is short or long or why it is hot and as scorpion-laden as it is.” Piper said the lesson in this is that “without that space, not only will you not love the well, you will not preach from a broken heart to broken people.”
Piper added suffering is essential in the life of a preacher between the wells and around them. “God has a thousand ways to humble us, break us, make us tender and knock the hard edges off of some of us. I don’t think there would be the serious, pensive, deep strain in the music of our lives if there wasn’t pain in our lives.” He urged students to not begrudge the “seminary” of suffering. “Thank God that he is making a preacher out of you and a pastor.”
Acknowledging students will learn great things while in seminary, Piper added, “You are probably not going to learn the main things here.” He said those things will be taught “in the dark nights when the key things here either become real or you become superficial. As important as exegesis and language study is, there will come a time between the wells when all of it will explode and it will either become real for you or only superficial.”
It is only between the wells that a Christian discovers the nature of sustaining grace, Piper said. “So don’t murmur and don’t get angry. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.”
During times of discouragement and depression, Piper advocates patiently waiting for the Lord. “Call up from what he has given you in the past and taste the little bit that is left. Surround yourself with people to get their hands on you and pray for you and love you and ask God to lift the darkness from you,” he urged.
“There is an edge to the wilderness and there are wells in the middle and they will open to you,” Piper promised. “You will walk over the horizon someday and there will be an oasis and you will lie down and drink from your God who is your salvation and you will rise up and preach. Your people will be thankful for the wilderness wanderings you have walked through.”

    About the Author

  • Larry B. Elrod