Being A Christian Celebrity Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry…
We noted yesterday that John Piper’s “Desiring God” ministry had tweeted something both foolish and dangerous.
We had a lot of company…there was an overwhelmingly negative response on social media.
It demanded a response…and here it is.
Please note the the “apology” has nothing to do with what people were actually concerned about.
That would require the humility to admit error and the heart to actually care for people you just wounded.
That…ain’t gonna happen.
I’m going to tell you…
It’s a simple fact that some people conflate the person who brings the word of God with God himself, especially if the pastor is successful.
This idolatry is often nurtured by pastors both great and small.
Nurturing that idolatry means you can never admit wrong, because you’re like God and God is never wrong.
It also gives you the imputed authority to speak to issues you have no clue about, because… well.. God.
Todays DG article is about how to overcome sexual fetishes…
Let me say this again.
As a pastor my “expertise” is limited and I’m as broken and fallible as you are.
In some ways, maybe more so.
I don’t know how to fix your sex life, raise your kids, manage your finances, or treat your ills.
I’m not even that good at what I’m trained to do.
My job is to help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, just as I am growing as well.
My job is to be present when you need me, to the best of my ability.
My job is to pray with and for you, that God will give you wisdom about the problems that are beyond my scope of expertise…which are most of them.
Sometimes, my job is to give you a referral to someone I trust can help you.
My job is never to make you think more highly of me than I am.
Trust me, if you knew me in person, you wouldn’t have that problem. 🙂
I have to say “I’m sorry” a lot…but then I’m not very successful…
That’s ok…I’d rather be a pastor.
thank you for this. you put into words what I was thinking yesterday.
So sad that so many pastors equate their position as infallible in all matters.
And their flocks continue the man-worship.
Thank you, Richard…
I disagree with Piper, but I don’t think I should beat upon him too much.
He’s giving context for clarification. Let’s examine the context and then respond.
Michael, I really appreciate this (and related posts). As I get older my patience with some of the celebrity preachers becomes shorter. In 35 years of pastoral ministry I learned the hard way that sometimes you have to stand up and say Sorry
– for getting exegesis/theology/application wrong
– for being thoughtless and insensitive
– for just being a sinner who over-valued himself
Your title has it absolutely on the mark.
Two current situations grieve me sorely. I watched a friend day of cancer at age 60 and up to a few days before his death he was convinced by a word of faith preacher that God would heal him; and a man who is academically brilliant and has such potential for usefulness but is crippled by his mental health and the idea that if he were a “proper” Christian none of this would happen to him. He will have read Piper and plummeted into depression bordering on despair.
So glad you’re here and commenting!
You were a wonderful model for me as I was making my way…so thank you for that and for your comment.
“He will have read Piper and plummeted into depression bordering on despair.”
That is exactly why some of us have reacted so strongly to this situation.
If I remember correctly, at CCCM, as well as most other CCS and some other churches I attended, it was standard protocol for the pastors to pray prior to the sermon or bible study that the Lord would anoint them, or fill them with the spirit, speak through them etc as they delivered Gods word to his people. Also at the beginning of meeting privately for prayer or counseling. So, isn’t that a perfect setup to be led to believe you are hearing from the Lord through his servant who you must then in faith trust and obey? Especially as I was taught by the women’s ministry if you did not have a husband thus the pastor was your ‘covering’, and earthly ‘head’ as well as your pastor. Arghhh!!!
All that to say in #7 that pastors don’t have to be celebrities to be put on dangerous pedestals, to wreck havoc in people’s lives.
***He’s giving context for clarification. Let’s examine the context and then respond.***
I was not impressed with the article he linked to in his defense. It just seemed like a long list of things he thought people needed to do in order to not have mental health issues. It came off as a long way of saying, if you were more spiritual and did these spiritual things you wouldn’t be struggling with depression or whatever other mental issue you have. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/10-resolutions-for-mental-health
I like the 10 things he lists in the linked article. Obviously it was careless to use the term “mental health”.
I think JoelG is on to something… troubke is a pastor shouldnt be careless when he is pontificating … errr…. “teaching”. ?
Yes, the ten things he suggested were not bad in and of themselves, but the context and supposed purpose of them were pretty terrible in my opinion .
When DG put out the first tweet, my immediate thought was about people who have experienced trauma in their life or have chemical issues with their brain. These folks are not able to magically turn their depression or illness around by merely focusing on God. While this aspect of a person’s life should not be ignored, it is not the end all to healing.
My second reaction was, this is nothing new. I did some digging around DG’s site to find articles about mental health. I found several spanning many years that perpetuate the thought that if a Christian prays more, trusts God more, reads more of the Bible, or changes their outlook on life they can find mental health relief.
The church has done a fantastic job of stigmatizing mental health.They equate people’s mental health state with their spiritual state, which leads to more shame, blame, and guilt. It is time for this to stop.
I’m with Joel on this. The 10 things are quite good. IMO he has listed 10 things a person born of the Spirit should do to maintain their mental equilibrium. I get why he would use the term mental “health” in juxtaposition to the Analyses he pokes at. Not a helpful thing to tweet for John Piper or others. That’s the problem with twitter, you are left to assume so much.
This clarification is fine. He should rectify his use of “mental health”.
i know that we can renew our minds in Christ – our understanding – and our reactions also to a degree… but what wasn’t made clear is that there is quite a difference in healthy thinking and mental illness
and the observation that pastors should stay in their lane is spot on…
i was pigeon toed as a child and over time that corrected (I think), but i could run and walk and, sometimes trip over my own feet ….
and that is FAR different than having a broken leg… if i may make a crude comparison
It looks like the term “mental health” was Clyde Kirby’s term and Piper was quoting him. This seems like a big misunderstanding. Perhaps a better description would be 10 resolutions for “comfort”. These are things we can meditate on in the midst of sadness. I think one can have “comfort” in the midst of mental suffering by focusing on the 10 things even though the won’t turn you into a happy clappy Christian. Isn’t Jesus himself described as a “Man of sorrows”?
I agree with the broken leg analogy, Em. And yes Descended, Piper would do well to rectify the term “mental health”.
Here’s the problem.
DG knew that this tweet created a massive poopstorm.
They’ve had a couple of days now…and while they pump out tweet after tweet, there’s been not a hint of an apology.
See the article above…
Interestingly, in their second tweet they claimed their first tweet was quoting Clyde Kilby, but that “quote” never actually appeared in the article they linked to. And the article was just John Piper recapping what Clyde Kilby supposedly said in a lecture 30 years prior. So who knows how accurate any of it was. What were Kilby’s thoughts? What were Piper’s? We’ll never know.
My observation is this:
To convey many ideas and flows of argumentation to make a point, the tweet is the absolute wrong media to use. Classical logic and rhetoric do not mix with sound bites, tweets, and social media.
Maybe this a sign of a society that wants everything instantly. Instant answers, instant responses, instant gratification, instant sanctification, etc. We get impatient making instant coffee in a microwave. And in many ways, this has infected the church, especially the American church.
As we all know, patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Therefore a lack of patience, the desire for instant (name item here) would indicate something that is _not_ a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
One final thing: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Or if prefer Proverbs 17:28.
This is a good word. I don’t understand pastors who never admit to being wrong, and ones who NEVER APOLOGIZE. I guess if I were really successful I would have an underling to respond to my emails calling me out. I’m not mentioning any names. If you can’t easily access your pastor directly via email, telephone, or home address… they are not your pastor, they are a celebrity teacher IMO.
That’s quite a title. It’s clear the quote Piper originally tweeted was simply saying the obvious – It’s good for us to turn our attention off ourselves and towards God. We’re all too self-absorbed, and we need to be encouraged to turn our affections upward. Was the original quote insensitive towards those who have mental health issues? Of course. As a matter of fact, Piper’s second tweet shows that he understands precisely why the first was insensitive. Should he have included the words, “I am deeply sorry for offending those who are affected by mental health issues.”? Probably. Ultimately, though, we all make insensitive comments from time-to-time, and rarely are we able to correct those in a way that satisfies everyone – or even in a way that satisfies ourselves. Unfortunately, we simply can’t take words back after they’ve left our mouths (or gone out on a tweet).
Understanding this is so common among us, why should we so quickly assume that, in Piper’s case, it was because he sees himself as a superstar and doesn’t need to apologize to anyone?
Even more, let’s be honest about something. Insensitivity is something that frequently appears on this site, both from Michael and from those who add discussion comments. Apologies, though, are almost non-existent. Is that excused, because we’re not superstars?
We have to assume that because the need for clarification and the need for apology was made well known, that DG just chose to ignore the problem.
In terms of my own insensitivity, we allow people call me and others out and a response is generally forthcoming.
I’ve written full articles repenting for misdeeds and bad attitudes…