Preach the Word Panel Discussion

Together for the Gospel Conference | Louisville

Mark Dever: On expositional preaching, what is bad expositional preaching? Is there bad expositional preaching? And what is it?

John Piper: Well if you use my definition of preaching, I define it so that it has to be good.

Mark Dever: And does that work with all the guys you teach?

John Piper: Well it just means they’re not preaching if it’s bad. But I know what you’re asking, so let me answer the real question. Yes, of course there is, and it would be taking a text and treating your sermon like a commentary. That’s the bad image that comes into many people’s minds when they think about exegetical preaching. For example, the first word is “for.” So it’s a ground clause. A ground clause means there’s a cause. Then comes “the gospel,” and you take a little while to define the gospel, and you go to the next word. And it becomes very mechanical, pedagogically academic. It feels classroom-ish. You might even use an overhead. I would never use an overhead on Sunday morning. It militates against the feel of preaching. It feels like a classroom if you do that. I don’t want a classroom feel on Sunday morning. I would use it Wednesday night, but not Sunday morning. So turning a sermon into a verbal commentary like you would read, would be bad.

Having affections that are either false to or out of proportion with the truth would be bad. Preaching on hell with a little grin on your face like I’ve seen done, would be strange. It’s a mixed message going to the people. They think, “Why are you smiling? This is awful news. Why are you flippant about this?” I think you want to bring your demeanor into it. It works the other way around too. If you’re talking about joy, you better not look hellish. What I’m summoning is a kind of person. You can’t teach preaching. That’s the end of the Homiletics department, right? You can help improve preaching, but we need kinds of people whose affectional breadth and sense of proportion is healthy.

Do you know my biggest fear about this message? It’s that my summons for earnestness will enhance pathological seriousness. I know people at my church who are pathologically serious. They’re sick. They don’t know how to measure. There’s a constant intensity that doesn’t have any flavor of reality about it. So that’s what I mean. I’m asking for God to do the impossible when I say that pastors have to have affections that are proportionate to the reality they’re dealing with in the text. Because some of those realities are simple, sweet, and tender. Jesus takes a little child and putting him in the midst. You don’t thunder that one out.

But then if there’s a thundering text, like, “Fear him who will cast the soul and body in hell.” Now you can either do that with a kind of fierceness, because it is fierce, or a broken-hearted tearfulness, which would also be appropriate. But there are guys in the pastorate who have no emotional breadth.

Mark Dever: So should brothers like that just not be pastors?

John Piper: Probably not, though maybe associate pastors. This is no joke. I’m going to give you a very concrete example. I was at Lake Avenue Church during seminary, and Ray Ortlund Senior was the preaching pastor. I hope it’s okay to say this. Marvin Jacobs was the Pastoral Associate. Marvin, I don’t think he’s still living, but if he is, he wouldn’t mind me saying this. He wasn’t a good preacher. He was the most tender, warm, kind, gentle man. Proclamation would never come out of his mouth. There would be text after text for which he could not rise to the occasion. It would be a contradiction. But my, he could love people. He’d just get all over them. I need people like that around me at Bethlehem, because not everybody likes to get near me.

I think there is a certain kind of person. It’s not a duplicate of me, or any of us here that we’re talking about. It’s not clones, because truth through personality is going to be different. But though it comes through different personalities, good preaching will have an affectional proportion to it that conforms to the truth that we’re dealing with. I think the people resonate with that. They can tell when a pastor is in touch with the reality here, or if he’s just talking.

Mark Dever: So Al, how do you raise up preachers with that kind of passion?

Albert Mohler: I don’t believe I can raise up preachers with that kind of passion. I believe God can, and I believe it will happen more through being infected with the kind of passion of a John Piper. The closer you are to him, the more likely that is to be. This is something I tease my students about, because my students, by and large, are a bunch of 22-year-olds who look ridiculously healthy. I told some of them just the other day, “When you go home with spring break, I want you to look at your dad in the recliner, because there you sit 20 years from now, and there is your future.” Try as we might, we end up looking like our fathers. That’s just the way it works.

I think in ministry it’s much the same way. The people who surround you begin to reflect many of your passions, even some of your very strange eccentricities. You become like a father in the ministry. I think that’s true for all of us who have a leadership responsibility. I was convicted as I was listening to John tonight. I hope all of us in our own way are conveying some of those kinds of passions. I spoke to John and to C.J. later. God’s given both of them a gift in that their faces, their morphology shows their passion. I am just afraid that something will break. Or like my grandmother used to say, “If you make that face, God may freeze it.” It is a different thing. I just was convicted as I was just listening. The last five to eight minutes of what John Piper did tonight is a thing most Christians will never see. That’s kind of heartbreaking to think about.

Mark Dever: Ligon, for pastors, do you have any wisdom on trying to encourage what John is saying here with the passionate preaching that reflects the passion of God?

Ligon Duncan: I do think that good preaching is better caught than taught. So I think putting yourself under good preaching and making it a habit to be there will help you. Thank God for the technology that we have today. You can put yourself under John Piper’s preaching every week. You can’t be there incarnationally, or he can’t be there incarnationally with you, but you can put yourself under that ministry. You can hear the words of truth. You can hear the passion for the truth. After tonight, I’m wondering if I’ve ever preached a sermon before.

And that’s a good thing for me to be thinking about. What am I robbing the people of God in my own congregation? But I think that’s very important. We do need to be listening to sermons ourselves, and learning, and scavenging for everything that we can give back to the people of God. I also think that when the Lord prepares to bless his people in an extraordinary way, he does raise up a confraternity of preachers with a shared passion for the glory of God. We do need to pray with all our might that he would do this because we cannot do it. Only he can do that.

John Piper: It is amazing who you can sit under. You can sit under Martin Lloyd Jones every week. Did you know that? It’s absolutely incredible that you can have that privilege. If I jog on my treadmill in my office, he’s my default preacher. Listen to Martin Lloyd Jones. Now you can’t listen to too much of MLJ, because you will probably preach poorly if you do, because he was absolutely unique. He could sustain a level of seriousness that probably the average one of us can’t without sounding stilted. So do a little bit of MLJ.

C.J. Mahaney: Who else do you listen to? Who affects you and inspires you?

John Piper: I would listen to any of these guys in a minute, including you. Anything you send me I listen to, and I would listen to Sinclair Ferguson. Sinclair Ferguson has the same issue that Martin Lloyd Jones does. He is relentlessly serious, and he tries to be funny.

C.J. Mahaney: True.

John Piper: I would also listen to Alistair Begg in a minute.

C.J. Mahaney: You would or you do?

John Piper: Well, I don’t have time to listen to all these people. I’ve listened to some. If you say, “If you had 10 CDs on the floor in front of me, what would they be?” I’m talking about the ones I’d pick out. I listen to MacArthur as well. You can easily get him on the radio. That’s enough to get the flavor.

Mark Dever: So C.J., what do you guys do to help encourage pastors? Is it a matter of identifying issues? Because you and I were having a conversation the other day, and I think you were agreeing really with all the things John was saying tonight. You were saying that rather than this teaching training question, it’s just like you were saying Al, that we maybe as pastors need to do a better job identifying those young men who have that gift and pursuing them.

C.J. Mahaney: I was at a parent youth meeting in our church, and 20 of the graduating seniors were giving a challenge to those who would remain in youth ministry. And as I sat there with my son, observing these individuals address the assembled congregation, I noticed that three or four of the young men were obviously gifted in their communication, and they provoked the attention of everyone who was present. Now there was substance in every presentation, but these three or four young men when they spoke, there was an evident charisma in their life. And I was saying to you that you cannot teach that, but we need to identify that, we need to raise the profile of that, and then we need to train those individuals to become the kind of preachers that John was talking about.

Mark Dever: John, when you were talking about exulting, do you mean to say that it’s by definition not exalting if you’re doing it in a narrow emotional range?

John Piper: What’s flowing in the natural channel might be the perfect thing that needs to be flowing. So the answer wouldn’t be yes to that question, but exultation is not happening if the affections that are fitting for this text are not being felt and displayed over it. If it’s a joyful text, there should be manifest delight in it, and in the substance of it. If it’s a horrifying text, there should be some measure of horror that the people can see and feel. If it’s a longing and yearning, like “as a deer longs for the flowing streams” — if you can read that text without manifest longing, something is wrong. The difference between an authentic, feeling Christian and a preacher is that the authentic, feeling Christian does not have to have the gift of contagion, but a preacher must. It has to show. Get out of the pulpit if you’re a blank book and people can’t read you, if people can’t say, “I don’t know when he’s happy or when he’s sad. I can’t tell when he’s mad or when he’s glad. His whole demeanor is lying about most texts.” Preaching is a whole thing.

C.J. Mahaney: Isn’t there a relationship between what you do in private in relation to the text, and experiencing that affection in private prior?

John Piper: Yes, of course.

C.J. Mahaney: That’s my role here, pal. I’m asking all the questions on behalf of all those who are below average here, all right? Many of whom are wondering whether they’re called after hearing some of the comments you’ve made. I’m trying to give them hope.

John Piper: The right question is, “What is the connection?”

C.J. Mahaney: Yes, John, what is the connection? Slip the questions to me, and I will ask you.

John Piper: Thank you very much, that’s a very good question. Did y’all understand the question? We all assume it’s so obvious that there’s a connection between what’s going on in private and what’s going on in the pulpit. The question is, what is it? But maybe they don’t assume it, and so maybe your question is not so obvious.

C.J. Mahaney: I don’t think we should assume it. I think it’s possible to walk through a whole process of preparation and be unaffected.

John Piper: It is. I was hoping that everybody knew that, but maybe not. So the main battle is not fought in the pulpit. That’s evidence that it’s there, but it happens as you take hold on Christ, and say, “I have to have you. I can’t do this without you. I can talk, but I can’t change anybody. I can’t bring anybody to life. I can’t raise the dead. I must have you.” So when I sat there on my chair, my last little effort before I stood up was doing APTAT. Everybody knows APTAT, right? No, of course not. You shouldn’t. It’s A-P-T-A-T, and it’s my pre-sermon desperate acronym.

  • A — I admit, Father, that without You I can do nothing (John 15:5).
  • P — I pray for your anointing and your help. I need you (Mark 11:24).
  • T — I trust a promise.

You heard me say that in my initial prayer. I said, “Thank You that you promised, ‘At the end of your life I will be with you John Piper, I’ll be with you behind that pulpit. I’ll be with you on the plane tomorrow night. I’ll be with you in your room. I will guard you from pornography. I will guard you from death until my time to take you home. Nothing can befall you but what I ordain. Go preach this message. Trust Me.’” So on that third point, I go for a specific promise. I don’t do a general kind of trust, like, “Trust God.” My brain and heart do not work that way. I do not get encouragement, strength, and boldness from vague trusting. I get encouragement, strength, and boldness from trusting specific promises from the Bible. So I look for some on Sunday morning. And then I continue:

  • A — I have to act (1 Corinthians 15:10).
  • T — Then, finally, I thank him.

The last thing you do when you sit down, when you step down from the pulpit, is that you say, “Thank you.” That’s APTAT. That’s my inner wrestling to get ready, to just plead for power.

C.J. Mahaney: Would you also say that just the practice of the spiritual disciplines, apart from the formal preparation of a message, is critical in the creation and cultivation of affections?

John Piper: Yes, that was a well-said answer to the question.

Mark Dever: That’s a conference highlight.

John Piper: What he just said that is so crucial, is that you don’t get ready to preach on Saturday. When people ask the question, “How long does it take to prepare that message?” do you know what I say? 30 years.

Ligon Duncan: It’s true.

John Piper: So that is the answer to becoming a preacher. There’s so many young guys here. Take heart. I’m 60. You have 30 years to become something, to go with God every morning of your life and every night, bending the arm of God to change you. You pray for change every day: “Make me more humble, make me more kind, make me more bold, and make me more effective in evangelism.” You have 30 years to cry out to God, will he not hear his elect? So take heart.

Mark Dever: Amen. John, one question that comes to me as a pastor is not just about my own preaching, which is what we’ve been pursuing, is that I also have a responsibility for other young men in the congregation who want to be raised up. With this standard, what do you do to those young men who come to you saying that they think they’re pastors? Or maybe they’re brought up in your church, but as you watch them, you don’t think they are gifted to be preachers? What do you do? I think all of us face this, and we don’t want to pass our problems along to Al at Southern Seminary. We want to try to deal with them in our congregations.

John Piper: This is really tough, because I get them early. They haven’t had any formal training in preaching. I have a little preaching class of 12 guys, and this is the first time most of them have ever tried it. So I’m really slow to make decisive final judgements at this stage.

Mark Dever: I think somebody could have heard some of your comments and thought you might be a little faster to make decisive judgments.

John Piper: I have suspicions early. And I say that very plainly. I could name guys, because they’re all here. If this person who’s so remarkably advanced in ability, and this person who’s brand new preached next to each other, there is a world of difference. In the class I will say, “Be encouraged because this person has had remarkable experience and is remarkably gifted, and you may progress remarkably toward that. Here are some strengths that I saw, work on this.” At this stage, I have not felt like passing decisive judgment on any guy. I did one time I think say to Tom, my sidekick, “What’s the plan for so-and-so? What’s his plan?” He wasn’t preaching and I said, “Well that’s probably best.”

Mark Dever: I’m surprised after 20 years at Bethlehem, or longer, you can only think of one time when you have discouraged a brother from moving into preaching ministry?

John Piper: Well, we’ve only had this program for five years.

Mark Dever: Well, but there would be people in the congregation presumably apart from that formal program who have an interest in and some desire for it?

John Piper: It seems to me. I can’t remember, maybe I have, that guys pick up on that themselves. And I haven’t had to say, “Don’t do that.” But I can’t remember. I mean my memory of what I’ve said to people over the last 20 years isn’t very good.

Mark Dever: Do any other brothers have wisdom on that? Maybe I’m the only pastor that faces that, but my guess is there are other pastors who face that.

Albert Mohler: No, I think you have, even in Spurgeon’s Lectures To My Students, he speaks of those ministers with “slender apparatus” — very little obvious ability to preach. I think he’s talking more about the voice even there. He is very clear. He is talking about a physical apparatus to preach. There’s some people that just do not have some basic equipment. But I have to tell you that I’m not certain that God doesn’t confound the wisdom of the wise in a lot of these people. They can end up in a very specific situation, displaying the glory of God in a way that I would never anticipate. I do think that there are persons whose qualifications of heart are far more important to me than qualifications that people in the congregation may look for first.

If God puts the passion in a man’s heart, and it’s really there, and he has the marks of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, I have to assume that the Lord’s up to some good sovereign purpose in him. This is where it really is reminding us all the time that we’re congregationalists, and congregations will call people, and we hope it will be out of the guidance of God, and it can surprise us. But I know you do take this very seriously. I know you do speak to people very clearly about this, but you’re not saying — and I think it’s important for us to press you on this — they don’t have important work to do in the kingdom.

Mark Dever: Certainly not, no.

Albert Mohler: And you’re not even saying they shouldn’t teach. You’re really talking about the pastorate?

Mark Dever: That’s right. I agree very much with what John said tonight. I think it’s a very helpful word, particularly for young men who are still evaluating, or being evaluated, and for churches that the Lord is using to raise up ministers. Because a wise, honest word from an older brother and a pastor can be very helpful, and save a lot of time and heartache, I think. We can never know what would’ve been, that’s true. But we certainly see a lot of things that are, because somebody hasn’t said what John has said.

C.J. Mahaney: Describe your evaluation process and give an illustration of someone you have informed that you don’t think it appears they are called to pastoral ministry.

Mark Dever: I don’t know that we’re as good at processes as you are brother, but I can certainly think of times when that’s happened. I think what happens when there’s a preaching ministry that God blesses in a church and it grows is that it tends to encourage young men to think about preaching, and it tends to draw other young men who want to preach. I assume, Ligon, you found that at your church and certainly you brothers have. I think there are times when I have given opportunities for men to teach, either in smaller settings like our equivalent of a Sunday school class, or we have our Sunday evening sermons which are shorter, and they’re very carefully slotted. They’re not that difficult to do. A very specific brief is given. If after two or three tries out on something like that, I think it’s sometimes obvious that this brother is not particularly gifted in this way.

Furthermore, if there’s no fruit, not even the kind of fruit that John was talking about — with the one brother who had great fruit in these other ways — and if God doesn’t seem to be using that person as a life-changing agent, either evangelistically with non-Christians, or with Christians being discipled who are beginning to grow markedly because of that person’s leadership and influence in their life and teaching, and if they approach me about going to seminary, I just decline to receive a memo like that for the elders. I say, “Brother, let’s work on these areas. Let’s see if we can see some fruit, some more evidence. And then when there’s some more of that, then come back to us.” There’s not much more of a process than that.

Albert Mohler: Just because of the context here tonight, I’d like to encourage our pastors who are here on a couple of things. One of them is where there really is a strong expository preaching ministry, I’m convinced that God raises up young men out of those congregations to take this up, because it is magnetic. The great preachers, whom I greatly respect, are like that. John has a seminary and R.C. Sproul is surrounded by young men who come to study at his conferences.

By the way, as a seminary president, all I can say is — I don’t often quote Mao Zedong — “Let 100 flowers bloom.” Please start a seminary in your church. Give me some competition. I say that tongue-in-cheek. I want you to do this. We want to raise up pastors who will go do this.

The other thing I want to suggest would be some positive examples. I visited Covenant Life Church several years ago and was meeting with Josh Harris when he was an associate. There was a 16-year-old young man who was walking through, and he was identified to me as someone who was going to pray in your Sunday service, I’m not sure exactly when. The point is that someone was picking out a 16-year-old young man and putting him in a position of testing him for public leadership. That I think is very important. I appreciate that there are some teenage guys who are here. God bless you, and God bless whoever brought you. That’s something I really wanted to ask.

When I speak to pastors, I often say, “Don’t flatter yourself thinking you’re like the apostle Paul if Timothy is not with you.” We can exhort them tonight to make certain that, for instance, the next time you come, you bring someone with you to this, some young man in whom you see that kind of passion, and you see that kind of calling, replicate yourself.

C.J. Mahaney: Excellent.

Mark Dever: Ligon, any thoughts on this? Because I know you have a very active internship program at your church.

Ligon Duncan: It’s not as good as yours.

Mark Dever: Oh please brother, just go ahead?

Ligon Duncan: There’s nobody that does internships and weekenders and mentoring like you do, Mark. And I aspire to that, I really do. My interns here would testify to that, wouldn’t you? They do an incredible job.

We probably aren’t evaluating preaching gifts as early as you are. We’re looking at life and doctrine, mostly at the level of taking men under the care of the elders of the church in preparation for ministry. Then there will be a longer period of time when their public gifting will be assessed, and that will probably be a three to four year period. But it’s life and doctrine first. And by life and doctrine, I not only mean Christian experience, subjective sense of call to the ministry, consecration to holiness, and to the service of God and the sense of a definite call of God to serve his people, but I also mean at least the rudimentary evidences of the kind of discernment that a pastor needs to have, the maturity that a pastor needs to have. That’s what we’re looking at first for a period of time.

Mark Dever: John, you said that there is a “famine of seeing and savoring the glory of God in our land.” When you were saying that, did you mean so many non-Christians in our land? Or did you mean it’s in so many evangelical pulpits?

John Piper: The latter is what I meant. I meant that I don’t perceive here, or now in Britain where I am for a few months, a sense of the weight of glory. It relates to David Wells’ four books, especially the first one. I just don’t think it’s gotten any better than No Place For Truth. I would like to commend that to all of you. His thesis there was that God rests lightly on the American church. Lightness is the opposite of glory. Glory (kavōd) is weight. So there should be, I believe, in a gathering for corporate worship, a sense of the majesty, greatness, and holiness of God. That’s what I don’t see. I see almost all contemporary church growth strategies telling us to go exactly the opposite direction.

C.J. Mahaney: Sadly true.

John Piper: They think, “Lighten up. Do slapstick for the first 10 minutes.” It’s just incredible how much we are driven by the need to make people laugh. It’s the only language it seems that we have for getting things rolling. I think it’s very hard to turn that corner and say, “The first 10 minutes we do slapstick while we welcome the people, and then we try to have a sense of the glory of God.” I don’t think it happens. So whatever it is out there that is making us afraid of seriousness, we need to be aware of it. I say afraid consciously. I’ve been to my denominational gathering and felt this. I’ll just tell the story from maybe 20 years ago, lest I name anybody. Both there and at an ordination service, it looked as though God were moving. There was an unusual stillness, a sense of seriousness about something that was being said. In both situations, the leader snapped it with a pun. He snapped it intentionally.

I wanted to ring his neck and say, “What is wrong with you? What are you afraid of? Why do you think that the only atmosphere that’s healthy is funny? What’s wrong with you? What are you going to do when you meet God? Tell him your latest joke? Tell him, ‘Lighten up, God. I know it’s the judgment according to works, but lighten up.’” I just don’t get it. When I call it insane, I mean that I find it like dancing on the brink of hell, whistling Dixie while Rome burns. It just seems insane to me what’s being said and done today. So no, I don’t mean unbelievers. That’s obvious for them. I mean the churches. It’s Church Light.

Mark Dever: Ligon, do you agree that as you look around the pulpits, even of evangelical churches, that you see a famine of this seeing, savoring, and treasuring God’s glory?

Ligon Duncan: Yes, and I think it’s not just in that 70s model, management style sort of ministry that’s aimed at unchurching the churched, but I think it’s even in the guys that are attempting to react against that. Maybe it’s because everything is focused on cultural communication and enculturating our connection with the audience. The things that are sought for transcendence are candles and labyrinths and ancient readings, and not the presence of the living God.

Albert Mohler: I find myself getting convicted sometimes from the strangest sources as God uses unexpected things. For a very different reason, I was rereading recently soaring Søren Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon Christendom. And Kierkegaard is not a trustworthy authority. Let me be very clear about that so that you can footnote that little point. But his attack upon the Danish church convicted me, thinking about evangelicalism in America. He wrote about the church, which apparently had everything, and he was talking about in his church, the vestments and the stained-glass and the beautiful buildings and all the rest. I’m thinking of evangelicalism with everything from the technology and the 108-inch screens, and all the rest. He comes down and he says, “But the one thing missing is the one thing most needful, and that is passion.” I thought about that actually when John was preaching tonight. I don’t think Kierkegaard had even a clue of the kind of passion that John was demonstrating and talking about tonight, but he was right in saying that appears to be the one thing missing.

If we really did believe in this kind of God, we’d have to be much more passionate about him. A. W. Tozer had some of the best comments about this, like the joy-bell boys bouncing on to stage. I don’t think this is a new problem in evangelicalism, John. I think in every generation it comes back again and again. And I think in the comfort of our bourgeois, middle-class society, it shows up as the norm. Because we watch television that has a laugh track. We are basically entertained, “amusing ourselves to death.” I think what is the aberration now, at least in terms of the statistical norm in evangelicalism, is to find that kind of passion. But I think in the New Testament, that’s the norm.

John Piper: I just have a clarification. I do not, you all probably have a picture in your head of the kind of worship service I’m talking about, and my guess is it’s not the same picture I have. I do not mean to equate a service that is sensing the weight of the glory of God with traditional or contemporary. Those are not correlative realities. There can be a totally contemporary worship music morning service that has a weight of glory. You don’t have the cheaper, lousy songs, but the kinds we’ve been singing, and others. There can be a weight to that whole form, and everybody is in an open-collared shirt, or no-collar shirt, including the pastor. That can happen, and it can happen in a very formal, more traditional way. And this formal traditional thing can be slap-happy, and this thing over here can be as well. So don’t hear me equating a sense of earnestness and seriousness and passion and a sense of God drawing near in power and earnestness with any particular form of service.

Mark Dever: If I can push back just a moment, when I hear us thinking about the famine even in the pulpits of evangelical churches, in one sense of course it is true, but isn’t there another sense in which we are seeing more people who would agree with exactly what you’re saying self-consciously now than probably when you went into the ministry? I mean, you can look at the Sovereign Grace churches that have been raised up, or what the Lord has done in so many parts of the PCA, or even in renewal in the Southern Baptist Convention. You can look at 3,000 guys gathered here. I certainly agree that there are a grievous number of pulpits where ministers mistakenly lead people to lightness, feeling that humor or casualness shows intimacy with God. There’s no doubt about that. I guess, what I want to say for this more complete story is that it’s my perception that there’s a growing number of ministers that would agree with you, and a growing number of pulpits that reflect that, and services that reflect that.

Albert Mohler: I think there’s a reason for that though. I think the reason is the same reason why cultural Christianity is disappearing, and it has to do with the generational reality. Those guys who are here in their 20s and certainly those who are younger, have been fighting against a very strong cultural tide. There really is no market for cultural Christianity there. There’s no cultural value in being church-identified. And there’s no reason to get up early on a Sunday morning and go to watch something that’s basically better on television, in terms of the kind of experience that people are evidently going for.

I think in this younger generation, what you see are people who are actually a recovery generation. I hope so, that’s what I pray to see. And of course you can’t generalize an entire generation. But I do sense less ambition to follow the kind of path John is so helpfully lamenting among younger pastors. Some of it may be you have been there, done that, saw it, and don’t want it. Some of it’s just people saying, “Why do I fight to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ if when the church gets together, this is all there is?” I think there is a hunger for something a lot deeper.

Mark Dever: C.J., are you seeing any recovery of this? Are you encouraged?

C.J. Mahaney: Yes, I think I’m a little more encouraged than John, but I can be affected. I try to ignore that which is discouraging as much as possible. Also I carry a concern that I would easily become self-righteous if I was studying too much of that which is worthy of criticism. I want to study it. I want to impart discernment, but I also want to be encouraged by the evidences of grace that I think are present right here and draw encouragement from God’s work in the hearts of so many, particularly the 20s and 30s that stood here.

Mark Dever: John, what about this idea of there being a growing number of people like this?

John Piper: It goes hand in hand. I think that’s true. It doesn’t abrogate the truth of the famine, but it is encouraging because of trajectories. And what we are seeing in the most remarkable way, are outcroppings of the awakening of the supremacy and glory of God, theologically — that is, Calvinism. Whitfield said that he hoped that men would have hearts treasuring the doctrines of grace. We are seeing that amazingly, and these outcroppings don’t even know each other exists. It’s not anybody making it happen. You have groups in the northwest, and groups in the northeast, and groups in the south, and groups all over the place who are coming into the recognition that God is God. And it feels right to let him be so. How that’s going to be translated into worship forms, we may be on the front edge. I think if theology precedes doxology and ecclesiology, then we’re in for some happy developments.

Mark Dever: One of the things that I certainly want to see happening through this is Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, other Baptists, and still other Baptists, and Sovereign Grace folks, and independent church folks, and Bible Church guys getting to know each other. They’re saying, “Look, I may not agree with them on absolutely everything, but I’ve got allies on a lot of matters.”

C.J. Mahaney: Yes, the most important matters.

Mark Dever: If we can point out to those of you who go to Desiring God conferences, that there are great conferences at Ligonier and at Shepherds that you might want to take advantage of; or those of you who go to Ligonier, there are great conferences at Shepherds and Desiring God that you might want to take advantage of; or those of you who go to Shepherds, we can say there are great conferences at Ligonier and Desiring God that you might want to take advantage of. We’re together for the gospel. So we’re trying to encourage you all to realize resources there are, that there is an even larger movement perhaps that the Lord is working more than you’ve yet noticed. If we can encourage you by drawing your attention to that, we think we give glory to God and encourage you in your work. So that’s part of what the thinking is here with this meeting together.

C.J. Mahaney: Amen.