We’re talking preaching gestures again. In the last podcast, we talked about the origin of your preaching gestures and why you use them. With all the gestures you have used, Pastor John, have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself preaching on video and thought to yourself: that was pretty good?
I have seen some and thought, that is pretty silly! (laughs)
No, I don't think I’ve responded that way. I rarely think that I have done a stupid one. Like saying, “Just as it is in heaven,” and your hand goes straight to the floor — just the opposite of what you mean.
Somebody asked me one time if I have any favorite gestures, and I thought, I don’t think so. Favorite implies like you have got a repertoire, and you pull them out according to how much you like them. I don’t do that, but if they’re wondering if there are ones I fall back on more than others, well, I must, because when people imitate me they do particular ones.
You know, I have seen people do joke reenactments of John Piper. We had my whole family sitting on a pew one time at my 20th anniversary, and Steve Witmer did an imitation of “John Piper” in the pulpit for five minutes. He had on the right glasses, the right coat, had his hair combed a certain way.
And that congregation, including my four sons, have never laughed so hard in all their life. My sons were falling off the bench with laughter all because he spotted characteristic moves. I mean, he pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and rubbed his nose back and forth like I did then — more than I do now, because now I am so self-conscious of it! (laughs)
But I must have certain common gestures, you know. And the ones that I am most aware of, I feel happy about, because I think they go hand in hand with the definition of preaching that I have.
Preaching, to me, is expository exultation. Expository means I am explaining things. I want to make them clear. And so my hands are trying to do in the air what I am saying with my mouth. And exultation means I am trying to get hearts up to God.
So my hands are going up a lot. They are up and they are out — up and out. And that is exactly what I want to say. I want to say, “Go to God, go out. Go to God, go out.” My hands are even doing it right now as I say it.
Does It Bother You?
What do you think about people who enjoy the entertainment that some of your gestures bring? Does it bother you?
It doesn't bother me, generally. I mean, every time I hear something done with my voice or something done with my words, I put the best face on it which is, “This is not being driven by ugly mockery. This is being driven by affection.” And if that is the way it is, I feel honored by it.
In a world of sin, to be a stock still, unmoving person doesn’t communicate the kind of life we’re called to live.
I wouldn’t want it to distract people. For example, sometimes people make a joke — I am not even going to tell you an example, because as soon as I do it I contradict what I am saying — they make a joke out of a phrase in a hymn that sounds like something else. You know, that sounds like “a donut” or something. And as soon as you say it, every time you sing that hymn now, you think of a donut. It ruined it. And so I don't want people to be so fascinated with John Piper’s arms or whatever that now that is all they think about, because that would really, really get in the way.
I would say one other thing about gestures. It seems to me that the Christian life should be a life of energy and that in a world of sin and opposition and the call for endurance, to be a stock still sedentary unmoving person doesn't communicate the kind of life we are called to live in this culture. You know, we should be a people of movement and a people of energy and a people of light and salt and doing in the world what the world needs to be done. And so it just seems to me that an energetic portrayal of the word of God fits what the Christian life is.