Preaching Today: The (Almost) Forgotten Task, Panel Discussion

Tom Steller: Well, I think this time of discussion, question, and answer sometimes is as important as anything we do, because asking questions is the key to understanding. We really welcome your questions, and none of the men up here want to be known as people who have all the answers. So there might be lots of deflection of questions. CJ asked me to make sure to channel all the questions to him, but we’ll probably share them around.

We want you to come to a microphone, and please do that, even if you have a booming voice. I’ve heard some of the most booming voices from one side of the sanctuary, and as it came all the way across the other side. It was booming but not clear. It’s so that we can get the questions on the tape. We would appreciate that. Feel free just to come to a microphone and keep your questions brief, and then we’ll let different people answer them.

While you are thinking about your questions, I will direct this one to Dr. Boice. The question says, “If Scripture truly is sufficient, then do we need to read books like those written by our speakers to stir our passion for God? Would the reading and study of Scripture alone adequately stir that passion?”

James Montgomery Boice: Yes. No, I’ll add to that just a bit. When we say the Scripture is sufficient, it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to benefit from anybody and their assistance in understanding it. God has given the gift of pastors and teachers to the church, and that’s because the church needs it. Even when you had the Ethiopian on the way back home reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, he still needed Philip to go down there and explain to him what it meant. And when we talk about books, all we’re really talking about is benefiting from the teaching of those who are not our immediate teachers geographically or our immediate teachers chronologically. And we would be far poorer in our understanding of the Bible text if we didn’t have the insight of those of previous generations. Anything short of that is arrogance.

Questioner: I want to jump on that comment and build on it, although I didn’t know you were going to ask that question. I’m a pastor. I’ve been pastoring 10 years, and if I go away for a month on study leave and sit in a closet and read some books and pray, as well as my Bible, I would like to know what books that each of you would feel would be, from your perspective, helpful and insightful for developing a passion as a pastor for the supremacy of God and all things, other than the regular stuff that is regularly on the market that we see all the time? If you’ve read some books that have shaped your pastoral leadership or your mission, what would you recommend?

Steller: Why don’t we start with CJ? And we’ll move down this direction. Maybe one or two books that have been especially influential.

C.J. Mahaney: I recommend you read The Cross of Christ by John Stott. I would recommend you read The Cross and Christian Ministry by Don Carson. I’d also recommend you read Volume Six in particular of John Owen’s writings on sin and temptation. Let me stop there. I’ve got a list that’s ever expanding in my mind, but I would recommend those.

David Bryant: The two books that come to my mind as I reflect over the years are The Sermons of George Whitefield. Many years ago, I was introduced to that first by reading Dala Moore’s two volume biography of the life of George Whitefield, which then got me into the sermons of George Whitefield, which was the first time I had ever heard or seen or understood what it was like to preach Christ. I can just remember way back then not really understanding what was going on in my heart, just weeping over his sermons. He just had a passion and love for Christ that has been one of my goals for the rest of my life.

The other book I would recommend is, and many of you probably have already gone through this in seminary, is Kenneth Scott Latourette’s History of Christianity, which runs about 1,700 pages. If you’ve read it 10 years ago, go back and read it again because there’s nothing that opens my heart to the message of hope in terms of historical writings more than Latourette and his vision of how the advance of the kingdom has unfolded in the last 2,000 years.

Boice: I always find it hard to answer a question about what books are best. I think God uses different books to stir you at different times, and certainly different writers, and I would think that would be different for everyone. It would be hard to answer a question like that without mentioning the reformers, people that lived through all that turmoil of the Reformation period. Anything Luther wrote or anything Calvin wrote, I would certainly recommend getting into that.

But I would say, just to add to it, that I wouldn’t neglect the writings or sermons of some of the great preachers, because they had a way of presenting the glory and greatness of God to a live congregation, which comes across in a way that some of the more academic material doesn’t. So I would say in my own experience, I have been greatly blessed by reading Spurgeon. He had a marvelous way of preaching the grace and glory of God. Martyn Lloyd-Jones would be another example. Anything he wrote is worth reading and studying. And in order to carry this one step forward, Jonathan Edwards.

John Piper: Thanks for the segue. I would recommend The Religious Affections in particular, and The End for Which God Created the World. If I understood the question correctly, what would stir you up to a passion for the supremacy of God in all things that would be it. In 1972, in a pantry in Germany, that’s what happened to me as I read every Sunday night instead of going to church. Since they don’t do church in Germany on Sunday night. I read the Religious Affections, and that is a life-changing book.

Questioner: I have two more recommendations, particularly along the lines of pastoral ministry: The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges, and The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray.

Questioner: Concerning the hallelujah mantra that you mentioned Monday night. I believe that you said then that might stir up some emotion, but it wouldn’t be worship. So my question for you, especially in light of the fact that it’s Desiring God ministries that has brought you here, what place does emotion have in worship, if any place at all?

Boice: I will probably never be invited back, so I can say anything at all. No, the only thing that I am concerned about is that worship, though it does not exclude emotion, is not worship if it doesn’t engage the mind. I think I would say along those lines, the same sort of thing that John Stott does in Your Mind Matters. And worship is ascribing praise to God, which means we are praising God for being God, and unless that has content, that’s meaningless. So emotion without that kind of substance is meaningless. It’s just an emotion. However, to understand the greatness of God and his various attributes should be an emotional thing.

My objection to the kind of music that’s merely repeating words, and I use “hallelujah” as an example because it’s only one word over and over again. I think that bypasses the mind. I don’t really think that that is worship in most cases, unless people are actually bringing more to it than is there in the song. So I say that’s the advantage of the hymns. The hymns have theology in them. When you say them, you’re actually saying something that has meaning and it has to do with God, and it should evoke emotion. If it doesn’t, it’s falling flat.

Piper: One of the ways to put the two together is that, what’s missing in the hymns is the opportunity to linger once the emotion has been elicited. So you preach or you read the scriptures or you sing a magnificent hymn, and God begins to manifest himself through that biblical truth. At that moment, I think most of us take an offering, or something else. You can pray, but there’s one person. But if you want to bring forth an expression to God on the other side, Edwards says that God gave men two faculties, the faculty of the volition and the faculty of the mind or the reason, and that when they both are active at their highest intensity, you have affections in the one and you have right thinking in the other. And you’re right, you don’t have worship without, I would say both. Right thinking is not worship.

Piper: Worship is right-thinking, making its way into that other faculty and bringing forth from it, right affections. And when the two meet and find proper expression, that’s worship. And Bruce Leafblad was very helpful to us here years ago. He teaches worship at Southwestern, and Bruce is a classicist, and yet he taught us these simple little repetitive courses. He taught us how to use them. And you can use them as a mantra. To begin with them generally would do that. Or, you can use them as a response to something so magnificent that you got to linger a little bit over this truth. You just said this magnificent truth, are you just going to switch off, and quick, go to another truth, then switch off and quick, go to another truth, then switch off? And you never have a chance to let it sink in, soak in, and then express. So, that’s the function, I think, of these simpler uses of words or refrains.

Boice: We are saying two sides of the same thing here, and I think are not divided, although in practice we might do it differently. I think those choruses serve a purpose, but I think the main question you have to ask with any music that you’re using in the church is not, does it whip people up or produce an emotion, but what is it actually doing in the service? How is it operating? And anything we do in the service, whether it’s the music or the Scripture or the prayers ought to be directing our thoughts to God, and we ought to evaluate all the music on that basis.

Questioner: For the three men that are pastors, could you share with us how the ministry of prayer is actually orchestrated in your churches? And then David, if you could share with us some of the things that you may have seen across the country and maybe even across the world that you’ve seen some of the practices that churches have engaged in as they seek the Lord in prayer?

Mahaney: I would say that in Covenant Life Church, the ministry of prayer is a weakness at present, and so I would not have a significant contribution to make on that.

Boice: It’s interesting to hear that. I think prayer generally is a weakness in evangelical churches, and I would include our church among it. We try to pattern something of prayer in the services where we have substantial pastoral prayers. That’s disappearing from evangelical churches. What you have in so many evangelical church services anymore are two prayers. One comes right at the beginning, I don’t know why, and that’s disappearing because we tend to start off now by being chummy. We say, “Hi, everybody, have a good time. How about that Super Bowl?” And then we only have a prayer before the offering, and that’s the only one I do understand because it requires a supernatural grace of God to get these stingy people to give some money. But we really don’t model it. I think one way to teach people to pray is to pray, and the pastors have a responsibility to do that. I suppose in our church, most prayer takes place in the small groups that meet throughout the week. I mentioned that we have quite a few of them.

Piper: We haven’t yet given up on trying to make corporate prayer part of our church. I think you’re right. It grows out from the leadership, and so it begins with the pastor alone on his knees every morning. And if that’s not happening, it isn’t going to happen anywhere else probably. And then, it comes to the staff. Do the staff meet for prayer? Do they devote not just time to fix parking problems, but to get on their face before God? We try to do that on Tuesday morning. And then out from there, we have five appointed times: Monday morning at 7:00 a.m., Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m., Friday morning 6:30 a.m., Wednesday night at 5:15 p.m., and Sunday morning 8:15 a.m. that all the people are invited to. Our biggest ones are maybe 30 people. I lead three of those. I go to four of them to try to model that. Then, we really try to work hard to get small groups to have significant prayer components in them, and then we’ll do little huddle type things in the services every now and then and try to model the way you go hard after God in prayer on Sunday morning. And then, there’s prayer training for prayer teams that pray for people after the service.

Bryant: I spend hours in seminars answering the question you just asked. But let me just throw out three things. We just finished a Pastors’ Prayer Summit in New York City last week. There’s at least one person here that was a part of that as well, and we do that once a year. It’s the seventh or eighth year that’s happened. It’s multicultural and multilingual. It’s quite an experience. But what it does is it revives the pastor’s prayer life. It does other things too. I would say, if it’s once a year and it’s once a year for the prayer summits for us, or if it’s a pastor’s prayer group that meets once a month, go somewhere where you personally can get revived with others who are struggling just like you are in your own prayer life. Then you follow through on the kinds of things that John mentioned, taking that back into your own personal prayer life and walking it out from there.

My second suggestion is a resource called The Praying Church Source Book. It’s published by the Christian Reformed Denomination. It’s very generic so it can relate to any denomination, and I know if I could have had that book back when I was a pastor, it would’ve made all the difference in the world. It’s basically the debriefing of about 25 or 30 of the major praying churches in America, and distilling the best of what you can learn from all of those churches. And it’s a loose-leaf notebook. You can order it from the Denominational headquarters in Grand Rapids, and it will just give you loads of things to work with. You can’t use all of it at any one church, but it’s rich with ideas.

I have one final thing I would suggest. We have been doing this for some years now and the reports from pastors are very encouraging. You say, “We can’t get our people to the prayer meeting.” Well then, the answer is, take the prayer meeting to the people. The place you can do that is the one time you’ve got them, and that’s Sunday morning. This may not work in every church tradition, but what I challenge pastors to try is maybe a six week experiment. Cut your sermon back by 10 minutes and take that final 10 minutes and help your people pray your message back to God.

You can do it a number of ways. You could have responsive prayers that have already been pre-written that you’ll work through. You could have a team of elders who have already been preassigned certain points that you’ll be making in your sermon that they’ve been meditating on, and then will come, and in that 10 minutes, maybe five or six of them will lead in prayer. You can do it in small groups and there’s all kinds of ways to work with people in small groups. So it’s very non-threatening. But here’s the idea. If you have a sermon with three points, you have the people begin in that 10 minutes by praising God for anything they’ve seen of him during the course of your sermon. Then, you walk them through your three points and give them a minute or two on each one to ask the Lord to bring it alive in your life, in the life of your church, and so on. And then you have a final minute of silence where they stand in that circle, and they just let God minister to them any specific next step they need to take in obedience to the word of the Lord that’s been preached and prayed that morning.

It’ll change your church in three ways. One, it’ll change the way you preach, because if you know that people are going to pray whatever you preach back to God, it’s going to change the way you preach. I guarantee it. Second, it’ll change the way they listen, because if they know when you’re done, they gotta take what you’ve said and turn it back to God they might even take notes for a change. And thirdly, it’s going to change your church because, probably, you will be collectively giving to God prayers you have never unitedly given him before. And if it’s based on his word and we’re in harmony with each other and we’re putting it back before his throne, it has to change your church too.

Questioner: I’m struggling to sort through the relationship between the apparent teaching of Scripture of multiple eldership and shared teaching and preaching, with the obvious benefit of churches like Tenth Presbyterian in Bethlehem, where one main pastor does most of the preaching and teaching. If the panel would comment on that issue, and maybe most specifically this question. Is it advisable in your opinion, would it be possibly fruitful, is it even viable to guide a small church down the direction of many smaller meeting places led by a team of elders, all of whom teach, rather than down the direction of one meeting place with one main preacher?

Boice: I’ll give some response to that. Multiple elder leadership and the elders doesn’t mean that everyone has the same gift and some have a gift of teaching. All ought to be apt to teach, but they’re not always gifted in that. We find different kinds of gifts. Some have particularly strong pastoral gifts. They are wonderful working with people in the parish. Others are more gifted in terms of organization. They’re great at chairing your committees and so forth. Part of doing the work well is to recognize those gifts and build on them. And as far as the teaching goes, that is also true. If God has called a pastor who is particularly trained and gifted at the exposition of the word, it would be foolish not to use him to do the exposition of the word. Over the years, of course, that’s been our pattern.

But now, what has happened at Tenth in recent years is that you try to be sensitive to what God is doing. What I sensed years ago is that there was too much dependence on my doing the preaching. I was doing two services in the morning and one at night. I thought that was getting to be even harder for me to do, and I wasn’t doing it as well as I could. We were led at that time to begin to diversify the kind of services we had. I felt the need for a backup preacher that would be able to do what I was doing, although in his own way. So we brought in a man who had completed his work at Wheaton Westminster, and then studied at Oxford. He had a degree from there in England. And now he does all the evening services and the mornings when I’m gone. This Sunday he’ll be preaching in the morning. We also created a diversity of services. We have an early one at 9:30 a.m., which is only an hour and a half long and we have a 15 minutes sermon there, plus we serve the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. I thought initially in our church, which isn’t particularly inclined to do the Lord’s Supper often, that wouldn’t be well attended, but it turned out to be very well attended. And the man who does that, who does the preaching, has content which I think is superb. I go to it myself. I listen, I take part in the Lord’s Supper before I do the big service at 11:00 a.m. But he doesn’t have the gift of projecting to hold a large congregation. It’s sort of a very calm, quiet kind of thing that fits greatly in that service.

We also have a missions pastor and he does a service every Sunday morning for internationals, which has its own kind of flavor. So we have a diversity of gifts there, even in the pastoral side of things. But we have structured, at least at the moment, services that seem to fit the particular distinctives of the gift of each of those various preaching ministers.

Mahaney: If you have either Dr. Boyce or Dr. Piper as your senior pastor, I’d recommend against team teaching, personally. We have transitioned to team teaching at Covenant Life a number of years ago, and that is because I don’t think there is a significant difference between myself and three other men who I share that responsibility with. That has also allowed me to concentrate more on the gift of leadership. But I would like to say that I do believe there needs to be in the midst of plurality, which I strongly believe in, a single individual exercising the gift of leadership. In this case at Covenant Life that is myself ultimately, determining the spiritual diet as well as the direction of the church.

Questioner: Is there a place within the sufficiency of scripture for the sovereign movement of signs and wonders? And if there is, what should be our expectancy towards that?

Piper: There is, and I would appeal to Martin Lloyd Jones here just to try to establish as much common ground as I can with the people in this room. I think Martin Lloyd Jones in Joy Unspeakable and The Sovereign Spirit has gotten himself into trouble with Reformed types without abandoning the Reformed position. He simply had a view of revival that along with the sovereign work of God in regeneration there were phenomena that sometimes accompanied these things externally in terms of healings or other things. He’s not really specific as I recall when he describes these. But Martin Lloyd Jones had a view that yes, there is a place for God to stand forth and do extraordinary things to get attention for his people in order that the gospel might be heard, which is the end of the ministry or the essential means of getting to the end of conversion and transformed lives.

So the place is a modest one and probably the reason some of us stumble over it, some less than others, is how prominent they become as and in themselves. Where you see controversy arising, it generally arises where falling down has become something you really must pursue. I’ve heard people speak out of both sides of their mouths on these things saying at one time, “Jesus is all that matters,” and by the end of the service they’re saying, “Everybody should do carpet time.” I mean those are exact phrases.

So it tends to make you lose heart that they meant what they said at the beginning, that Jesus is supreme and what he really matters is but really, really will have a successful service if just about everybody hits the floor here. And when that happens, you tend to back off and you want to say, “Okay, I don’t want to hang around with those guys too much.” And yet I don’t want to close off the door that somebody might in fact, under the weight of God’s conviction, fall down. They did in Edwards’s meetings. And yet turning falling into a thing seems to me to be the problem. So I have a qualified yes, there’s a place. I don’t think the sufficiency of scripture would be jeopardized as long as it stays central, it stays authoritative. It judges everything that’s happening.

Bryant: With the emphasis on unusual manifestations, I would completely agree with what John has just communicated. I think what needs to take place is a return to the quality and content of Edwards-like sermons which would make me more comfortable with the responses to those sermons.

Questioner: In your message, CJ, you stressed grace and divine perspective regarding the Corinthian church not overlooking sin, but Paul choosing to see the reality of the grace of God at work. And Pastor John, you stressed in your message on Bunyan the possibility of and need at times to confront our people with the possibility that the reason they struggle with so much sin and doubt is that they might in fact be unsaved. In my mind I was struggling with two tensions. I wonder if you both or any of you might address that from both the pastoral care perspective and also the preaching perspective?

Mahaney: Yesterday, John identified himself as a middleweight and I was sitting there thinking, “If he’s a middleweight, what would my weight class be?” I probably flattered myself by considering myself a flyweight. I think my friends spoke more accurately this morning when they informed me I was a deadweight. And by the way, Tom, I’ve noticed that one of my friends is in line at a certain microphone and I would seriously question his motives this morning as well as the content of his question. So if we could please have security standing by.

I will attempt an answer and then I will direct you to simply agree with whatever John says. I would be very concerned about anyone receiving false assurance. It just simply wasn’t a topic that I could address in the context of that message. But in the context of our church, we highly recommend Donald Whitney’s book, How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian?. We carry a great concern, particularly among parents of teenagers, that they not be communicating false assurance to their children. Actually the message contributes to I think the discernment necessary because where there aren’t evidences of grace, then one should question whether or not genuine conversion has taken place. For where there is genuine regeneration, there is undeniable change that takes place.

Piper: That’s a really good question. How to walk up to a person and express affirmations of perceived evidences of grace while warning them that they need to test themselves whether they’re in the faith or not. That’s a very good question. Because they’re both in the Corinthian epistles. I really haven’t poised myself quite that question, so it’s a disturbing question to me and will keep me thinking now for a while. But I wonder if there’s a help in that we as pastors can do both individual as well as corporate things. Corporately, we need to take the texts as they come. And where it says, “Test yourself to see if you’re in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), we say it with blood earnestness. And after that service there’s some particular kinds of trembling. And where the text says, “I thank my God always for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4), we drive that for all it’s worth, and they feel good at the end of that service.

We go to them individually and we thank them for the evidence of grace in serving this conference. I mean, there are 100 volunteers putting this thing on. I need to find ways, and John Bloom will work hard at finding ways, to bless them for evidences of grace. It is possible one of them is not converted. You probably don’t need to say that right after this conference. I see no evidence of it, but I will say it publicly and theoretically here. So maybe it’s just a balance of taking them as the text comes. Say them both and let the Holy Spirit use them both.

Questioner: Dr. Boice, would you address the issue of the unction of the Holy Spirit in preaching? Either your understanding of that exegetically from Scripture or your experience with that in your ministry?

Boice: That certainly is in Scripture and it should be experienced. But how it’s experienced, it strikes me as different in different contexts and different ways. I have learned in my preaching that generally speaking, when I think I’ve really scored a home run, very little has happened. And when I preach and think I just did not do that well, that text had infinitely more in it that I touched and I stumbled around, afterwards, somebody will come up and say that’s the thing that really touched them. So I’ve learned not to trust my experience or sense of it.

I’ve also learned that in different congregations you get different responses. For example, in Philadelphia we have many African-Americans. I occasionally preach in a black church. When you get through to the people there, I mean it gets louder and louder and louder. I mean, they say, “Amen.” They say, “Preach it, brother,” to everything you say. In our congregation, when it’s really coming through, it gets dead quiet. The only real sense I have of the unction of the Holy Spirit in any experiential way myself is when I’m preaching and I just know they are hanging on every word. It’s very clear to me that the Holy Spirit is there in that gathering. Then I try very hard not to do anything to manipulate it. I just try to be as clear and as steady and direct as I can be, and I pray and sit down.

Questioner: I wanted to ask you a question that really germinated from Dr. Boice’s comment about being away from Monday morning to Thursday. Many of us laughed, not at you, but at that possibility. I would love for all of you men to reflect for just a moment about how you grew in your study of the word. How did you choose books early on for secondary reading? And even speak of the length of time that you determined in your schedule when you were contending with bulletins and people calling and that balance between people and preaching. I’d love to just hear any wisdom that you’ve gathered along the way.

Piper: It’ll change with the chapters of your life. It’ll change with children. It’ll change with the size of the church. It’ll change with age and energy. It’ll change with crises in your church. It will just change. So if any of us were to tell you what we’re doing now, you’ll all get a distorted notion of what we do. But here’s a little thing I would suggest with regard to recommendations. Early on, I took the people I trusted and loved and considered wise and read what they told me to read. That’s why I did. With regard to time, try this. This is general for all of you. If you’re not reading much right now, find 15 minutes a day. Just find it. Find it from the television, get up 15 minutes earlier, find it right after supper, before supper, go home, or whatever. Find 15 minutes a day and resolve that for the next three months, five days a week, 15 minutes a day you’re going to read a fairly substantial thing you’d wish you could have been reading and never get around to.

You will be amazed. Let’s say you read slowly, 200 words a minute or something like that, and the average page is 350 words. Well, if you do a little computation at 15 minutes a day, five days a week, you could get through probably 10 to 15 moderate sized books a year, and you’re not doing that right now. Can you find 15 minutes a day? So there’s just one little suggestion, but you have to be ruthless at it. I mean ruthless with these 15 minutes because it’s the regularity that will encourage you. And 15 minutes in Calvin or 15 minutes in Edwards is better than five hours in the courts of the wicked.

Boice: I think I would just echo that. I am not sure I have anything to say. I do think in order to do substantial work, you need uninterrupted blocks of time. If you’re working on sermons and you can do three hours in the morning without any telephone calls, that is 10 times more valuable than those same three hours if you have phone calls interrupting every 20 minutes. And you can find that time, you just have to be determined to do it. You say, “Yeah, but I’ve got problems in the parish and what if people call?” Very few things are that urgent. Even a death, which is about the most serious thing. If you go at the end of your three-hour period, you haven’t lost much if anything. So I emphasize the ruthlessness and you have to do it.

I keep a stack of books by the bedside table and I work through those as I can until I fall asleep at night. I don’t watch television. You’ve got to stop that. Television is an enormous waste of time. You have to touch into it occasionally, you have to know the news a little bit, but we just lose hours and hours there unless you discipline yourself rigorously. I carry books with me when I travel. Flying out here, I read one on the plane. Going on to the West Coast, I’ll read another one and read another one, and I’ll read another when I come back. Now those are not the most substantial books, but they’re things I want to get through and I can do.

I also make a stack for my summer reading so when I’m off on vacation in the summer, that’s when I start through the heavy stuff. But that’s different. It’s what John said. It varies with your family, your assignments, your energy level, and all of those things. But you need to have it as a goal that you want to do substantial work.

Bryant: I agree with all of that you’ve said, and also the travel has been a real advantage for me to be able to find hours of uninterrupted time. There’s also a retreat center near my home, 10 minutes from my home that’s run by German Lutheran missionaries, and you can get a day room there. I can’t get away for three days to the beach, but a day room even for eight hours is great. I fast in the sense that I don’t stop at any point to eat or do anything else but to just sit and read and let it soak in and not feel rushed and meditate.

One of the ways I read that is most helpful for me, and it may not be for everyone in this room, is that I usually work through a book three or four times before I move on. I go through it the first time and underline all kinds of great things. Then I go through the second time usually with a highlighting pen and highlight the things that stand out to me. Then I go through it a third time to meditate on what I’ve highlighted. I’ll usually run right in front of the book, the page number and put a star beside a thought that has just gripped my soul.

I feel like if I come away with one thought from a book that is new and fresh, that’s a seed that’s going to germinate and it will be worth it all just to find that one thought. And then usually the fourth thing I do is I will xerox the pages I finally starred that I wrote at the front, and they’ll go in files under certain topics wherever they fit. So the next time I’ll visit that book is whenever I get around to that particular topic.

That leads to the third thing that I do again, that’s helpful for me. I’m a fairly eclectic person. I move in all kinds of facets of the body of Christ. I’m always wanting to be aware of what different parts of the body are saying because I really believe iron sharpens iron. So a lot of my reading is not books, but rather magazines, stuff that comes in over the internet, and things that are handed to me when I’m on the road. I keep files on different topics and I add into those files readings that may come from many different perspectives. And then there’ll come a period of time where I’ll pull that file out like on the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we’re talking about that recently. I have a file on that. I’ll pull that out and just allow myself to graze over all these different perspectives from different parts of the body and let God use that to sharpen my own thinking.

Mahaney: I would encourage you to educate your congregation as to the importance of your study and how ultimately it serves them. I think the average individual is unaware of all that’s involved and all that is necessary for the preparation of a sermon. I had a guy one time after a Sunday meeting come up to me and say, “So where do you work during the week?” He was obviously unimpressed with the message, but unaware of how many hours I had devoted to preparation. I’ve also had different individuals come and tell me that there’ve been studies done that the delivery of a single sermon involves energy expressed equal to eight hours of manual labor. I said, “I’m not sure if I can verify that, but it’s a rumor worth spreading.” So I would unapologetically educate your church as to the importance of study and inform them of your schedule so that they are less apt to be pursuing you at that time. And you will find it less difficult to say no to them if they do.

I’d also encourage you in something else. I’ve done this for years. I take two to four weeks every year as what I call a study break. I’ve informed the church of this, and they couldn’t be more supportive of it. I withdraw from day-to-day responsibilities. I’m able to immerse myself in study that is unrelated immediately to any preaching. So not only am I changing in my heart and relationship with God, but I’m also receiving in seed form much truth that I can then use in the coming year when I don’t have that kind of time to invest. I would establish some rhythm yearly where you can withdraw from daily responsibilities for a two to four week period. And your church will observe the change in your life and the benefits they derive as well.

Questioner: It seems like the revivals or the great awakenings in Jonathan Edward’s time had a pervasive effect in their communities. And in light of the urbanization and globalization of our society today, what would true revival look like in our society? I’ve also been struggling with the notion of trying to be a hopeful person, but being careful that we’re not relying on false hope and giving people false hope of revival or reformation when really they might not be. Also, we hear about transformations of cultures and societies in Third World countries, like Latin America or Africa or in Asia. To what degree do you feel like revival in the western world is possible and how would you evaluate the revival in the Third World countries?

Bryant: In terms of urban revival, I moved into the New York City prayer movement about eight years ago having worked with it some years before that because I felt like I needed to be close at hand at where I felt we were already seeing the unfolding of what I believe will eventually be a great revival in that city. I wanted to be near enough that I could really learn from it. So I’ve been thinking that question through for eight years now.

One of the things that fascinates me about the movement in New York is that it really is a multicultural, multi-ethnic, as well as multi-denominational movement. The pastors are learning to know each other, trust each other, work together, first and foremost of all in the movement of prayer, but in other ways as well. That, to me, is already the first phase of revival because there is a breaking down of barriers and I would even say of strongholds that the Lord is removing, that is bringing about a oneness and a vision for working together for the kingdom of Christ that is nothing short of really supernatural.

About five or six years ago, the prayer movement in New York City developed its own covenant. It has two sentences in it, but the four major aspects of what we’re praying toward are expressed in that covenant, and there are four R’s: revival in the church, reconciliation among the races and the churches, reformation of the society of New York, and the reaching of the loss. To the degree that we see that manifesting itself more and more in a cooperative effort together as the body of Christ within that city, I believe we are already tasting of the revival that will come.

In terms of assuring ourselves that our hope is not ill-placed, again, there’s so much to say here. In the book, The Hope at Hand, I have seven chapters which I call the “Seven Confidence Builders,” and there’s seven key areas that I discussed beginning with “A Decisive Person.” That’s a whole chapter on Christ. Then “The Divine Pattern” is looking at the pattern of revival in the Scriptures and church history. Then, “Looking at the Dark Prospects” is a whole chapter on where the world is headed and how anything short of revival offers no hope at all. Then another chapter called “The Disturbing Paralysis” looks at how the church is struggling to respond to the missionary cause, and how God has ordained that he will carry it out through his church; therefore, the deliverance of His church even out of that seemingly hopeless condition is ultimately inevitable because that is a part of God’s ordained purpose.

Then the last three chapters that deal with these confidence builders look at “The Dramatic Preparations” that seem to have no other explanation but God, and that’s a look at what he’s doing worldwide that seems to suggest he is preparing the church for a massive new advance of the gospel. Then, “The Distinctive Praying,” I already mentioned this morning, how God’s people are praying around the world, and that the origin of that prayer must be ultimately in what the Spirit of God is saying to them and through them. Finally, “The Determined People,” and I’ve met them by the thousands around the world, who are absolutely committed at any cost that revival will come and they have laid their lives on the line. If we put those seven chapters, those seven confidence builders together, and the accumulated effect of that is to buttress my hope in God because I believe every one of those seven areas are very God-centered.

Finally, in terms of revival in the Third World, I believe that in many parts of the body of Christ, things are way ahead of where we are and that we’re following in their train. To give you one illustration, theologically we may not be where this particular movement is at all points. But I look at the largest church in the world that has grown from a hundred members to 700,000 members in a space of 35, almost 40 years now. As I went to meet the pastor of that church and spend some time with him three or four years ago, and I looked up on the board, it was all in Korean. But the translator told me what it was saying, and among other things it said that he had 40,000 elders. Now I had 12 elders at one time and that was quite enough, thank you. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like with 40,000.

But when I asked him how he explained what was going on in that church, he gave me one of his key verses to explain what was happening, and that was Matthew 11:12, which says, “The kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, and people of force are laying hold of it.” Those 40,000 elders are really the leaders of 40,000 cell groups that take parish ministry very seriously so that they’re ministering, praying for, and bearing witness of Christ to the people on their street. That’s how that whole church has grown over the years. It’s by the multiplication of that. It’s all because they have a vision of who God is and where his kingdom is headed and they reach out and they lay hold of God’s initiative. It sounded like pretty good Reformed theology at that point.

What I see happening there and in a number of other churches in Seoul, Korea is what I’ve seen in churches all across the Third World. There is a strong God-centered, Christ-centered sovereignty of God-centered vision in the hearts of many of our Third World brothers and sisters who may not be of what we would call a traditional Reformed background, but who have a very strong sense of the overriding sovereignty and glory of God, and who are just laying hold of that and allowing the Spirit of God to take them where he will. Some of the manifestations and so on are very different from what I might expect in my own ministry, but I really believe if we’ll just take time to sit at the feet of some of the leaders of what God is doing in the Third World, we will learn from them a foreshadowing of what I believe God is also getting ready to do here.

Mahaney: Without endorsing what I would perceive to be theological deficiencies, I had the privilege to visit the church that David was just referring to. We went to learn not to critique. Their passion for prayer and their commitment to prayer is to say the least provoking. We were part of a pastoral party that had interaction with and time personally with the senior pastor, Dr. Cho. At the time, I believe the church was just 550,000. He was asked how they could possibly manage the counseling challenges in a church of over 500,000. His answer was classic. He said, “People come to us with pastoral needs in need of counseling. We say to them, ‘Three days for fasting per mountain. It leaves more time for pastors to play golf.” He was being humorous, but they have built into that church a commitment to prayer. It isn’t simply prayer for personal needs. It’s prayer for world revival that is quite impressive and quite encouraging.

Piper: I wouldn’t take any more time on this since it’s already gotten so much time except that I want to make sure that there’s another note struck here. If it comes — revival, reconciliation, reformation, reaching — and it’s phenomenal, my question is, then what? How long will it last? A year? Five? Ten? Then what? I’ve pressed David on this, and I think we’re both in process. I’ve asked him, “Are you post-millennial?” You can answer that later if anybody wants to ask you.

I’m not, and therefore I read:

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:6–14).

My optimism as a premillennialist is that Christ is going to triumph in getting the gospel to every people group, and it’s going to be glorious. It’s going to be glorious because it’s going to cost blood to flow amidst the wickedness of this world. So the notion that triumph will come by everybody liking Jesus makes me just want to be careful here. I look at this flood of revival literature that’s coming out and I could name names, and frankly I have just a little misgiving that it may not have been thought through all the way. Unless, of course, you’re committed to post-millennialism.

If you’re committed to that, fine. I’ll like you and I hope I’m wrong. But if you’re not committed to that, then you have to ask, “What are you going to say to people on the other side of the revival?” So I pray that in my little pocket right here, I can get those four R’s, David. Boy, I want this church revived. I want reconciliation. I want reformation in these neighborhoods. And I want to reach the lost. Wherever that happens, let’s call it whatever you want, call it revival or whatever, but I want my people to be ready for that text because it’s going to cost them their lives. Probably when they’re getting their heads chopped off, they won’t call it revival, though it might be glorious.

Mahaney: Could I make a book recommendation? The most recent release by Iain Murray is called Pentecost Today. It’s a theology of revival. It’s excellent.

Questioner: Dr. Boice, you identified that two of the ways that the church is failing is by doing God’s work in the world’s way and by not really believing in the sufficiency of Scripture. But then just moments later, it seems, you described referring believers to psychologists, and I would suggest that psychologists’ tools and techniques are rooted in anti-Christian assumptions and goals. How do you reconcile this, and what’s your position on Biblical counseling or nouthetic counseling? Finally, what are the counseling practices in your churches?

Boice: John was asking that question a little bit at the end of the session. I’m glad he brought it up because I think that is not only a valid question, but a good one to get on the table to qualify some of the things that I was saying. When I was talking about the sufficiency of Scripture, I was talking about the sufficiency of scripture to do the things for which God has given the Scriptures. That has to do, as I broke it down, with evangelism, growing in grace, knowing the will of God, and impacting society. Now, there may be more that can be said. That doesn’t mean that the Scriptures are sufficient for doing all sorts of other things for which they were never designed. I use the example of medicine. You break a leg, the Scriptures are not sufficient for fixing your broken leg. You need a doctor.

Now, when you get into psychology and psychiatry, that’s a difficult area because you’ve got a blending of things. You can, in my judgment, have mental and psychological disorders that have nothing to do with spiritual issues. Yet, many of them do because our sense of identity, purpose, and function, ultimately has to do with our being created in the image of God to glorify him. You have an overlap there. And when you are practicing counseling, in my judgment, requires a great deal of wisdom as well as knowledge to know how to separate the two — where people really just need what is essentially medical care and where they need primarily spiritual advice.

Now, I’m not a practice counselor and I don’t have any real expertise in that except to know that it’s a difficult area. In our church, we do counseling like anybody else would do because people come and talk to us. They have problems. We try to deal with them. But at the same time, we try to be sensitive to areas that we really are not competent for dealing with. Then we refer to some Christian counselors. It’s true that a lot of the practice of counseling today is built on non-Biblical and non-spiritual foundations. These counselors, sometimes even Christians, are trained in the secular schools and have imbibed a lot of that philosophy, but they don’t necessarily have it. I think part of the job is finding people that you have confidence in, that understand basic disorders and how to deal with them, have wisdom in handling those things, but as Christians are also sensitive to the spiritual part of it.

Questioner: I believe counseling is Biblically defined as a responsibility of local pastors in the context of the local church. I would be very concerned about the therapeutic influence on the church. I would be opposed to any attempt to integrate modern psychology and Biblical theology. I would highly recommend the “Journal of Biblical Counseling,” which is edited by David Powlison.

Questioner: Dr. Boice, when you preached on preaching the gospel, you gave us a definition of justification and you showed how it was the righteousness of Christ becoming our righteousness. I talked with John Piper about this last night. I’d like to hear you two interact about the Covenant of Works and Christ keeping the covenant of works for us. The reason I ask this, Dr. Piper, is because it is the doctrine of the standing or falling of the church, so I think this is a good format. Could you two discuss your views of justification in the covenant of works?

Questioner: Since Dr. Boice is not in on the discussion, let me set the stage. We’d really have to work to keep this short because this could fill up hours. The issue that you brought up and that I have been questioned and queried on by covenant theologians is not, I think, the nature of justification. I’m able to say it in terms of an imputed righteousness just as clearly and forcefully and biblically I think as the average covenant theologian. The issue is whether my repudiation of the so-called covenant of works with Adam before the fall destroys the Adam-Christ typology of Romans 5, whereby just as we were constituted sinners by Adam’s failure to fulfill that covenant, Christ constitutes us righteous by the fulfillment of that covenant.

Now, I do not believe that continuity is torpedoed or in any way ruined by saying that the way God demanded and wanted to be related to by Adam before the fall was not in terms of a covenant of works. That is, he did not expect Adam to earn anything from him. Just receive my definition of terms. If they’re wrong, that is they don’t accord with covenant theology, maybe we’re on the same page and everybody can be happy.

But my definition is that I don’t see God saying, “I put you out there. I’m like an employer. You’re like an employee. I have wages and you can earn them.” That’s the structure of works in Romans 4 and 5. You get what you are due because you’ve earned it. That’s works. I don’t think God related to Adam that way before the fall. I think before the fall, he wanted to be his Father. He said to him, “I love you. I’ve put everything here for you. I want you to rely upon me for all your wisdom, all your joy, all your hope, all your delight, and all your satisfaction. This tree, the knowledge of good and evil, represents independence from me. Don’t go that way. Be dependent on me. Rely upon me. I’m your Father. I love you.”

That’s very different than works. Adam failed in trusting his Father and broke that covenant of . . . Now here, if I call it “a covenant of grace,” I know I’m in trouble because there’s no demerit before the fall, and therefore, according to Meredith Klein, there is no grace before the fall. I define grace more broadly than the presence of kindness and goodness in the presence of demerit, but rather undeserved goodness. It’s not just ill deserved, but undeserved goodness. Adam did not deserve God’s kindness. He was created and he didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve anything. Everything was coming to him freely. He broke that covenant of grace by failing to trust his Father. He fell and we fell in him, and we’ve been trying to be independent people ever since.

Jesus Christ came into the world not to relate to his father as an employer from whom he would earn wages. He came to be a faithful Son and to trust his Father and love his Father and fulfill every right affection and every jot and tittle of the law. He did that perfectly for us by faith; and therefore, he fulfills what Adam failed. We can in him have a perfect righteousness that he obtained in that way. So if we’re saying the same thing, I glory. If we’re not, I need to be corrected and shown why what I just articulated is less Biblical than the covenant of works. I don’t see a covenant of works in the Bible. That’s why I don’t talk in those terms. So if you’re a classic covenant of works theologian, then you need to correct me here.

Boice: That’s interesting. I do think that’s different from what Meredith Klein is saying. That is clear enough. But I find myself very sympathetic with John. I haven’t been part of this kind of a discussion, so this is sort of interesting to hear John say that. But I did my foundations of Christian faith some years ago when I tried to make a comprehensive theology. The criticism I got from some of my Reformed brethren is that I did that whole thing and I never discussed the covenants. How could I do that? It’s a comprehensive theology. My answer to that is that, as John said, I don’t find that as a major theme in the Bible, certainly not the covenant of works. I just don’t see that phrase used of Adam at all. Now how you understand it is another thing, but I think the way John has done it is not bad. I’d have to think through that.

Questioner: Well, the phrase that I’m referring to is the obedience of Christ. You used the phrase the obedience of faith. Does the active obedience of Christ become our obedience, or does his perfect love for the Father become our perfect love for the Father? Is that what you’re saying?

Piper: Yes.

Questioner: It’s not the obedience of Christ but the obedience of faith is what you would hold to?

Piper: That’s a switch of categories. Those are two different genitives. I mean, Christ’s obedience is his obedience of faith. It is perfect. Mine is very imperfect. I could never get right with God on mine; therefore, mine attaches me to Christ. He is willing to take my faith, which expresses itself in obedience in other ways, and make a union with Christ. Then, Christ’s perfection is my standing with the Father.

Questioner: Mr. Mahaney, I noticed that the other panelists have names followed by letters. But with your name, the letters come at the beginning. I’m just wondering if CJ is a seminary term with which most of us are not familiar. If it isn’t, could you just comment briefly on your formal training. Then in particular, and really for the rest of the panelists, just to comment on the idea of formal training as a part of our experience within the context of pastors as a local church, the necessity of it, how much it needs to continue.

Mahaney: Thank you Buck. Thank you very much. We’ll talk when we get home. Yes, I have no formal educational training. I have not had the benefit of higher education. I did graduate from high school. Well, I think that should be investigated as well. I would strongly support the pursuit of it, but I think the priority for anyone should be involvement in the local church level if possible simultaneously, but if not eventually. So for myself, I haven’t had that benefit. I wish I did have that benefit. The church that I have the privilege to serve today, I started 23 years ago and participated in that simply it wasn’t possible to pursue formal education. I was receiving my education through the pastoral experience of serving that church, caring for those folks. I do have a voracious appetite to read and seek to read as much as I can and as often as I can.

I also take advantage of various courses. Just last week I was with the pastoral team I serve with and we were at RTS in Orlando enjoying a week of being taught the Gospel of John by Don Carson. That would be a regular part of our training is pursuing courses such as that course, and I will now defer to these other men who can answer you more specifically about the importance of that question.

One other thing. My close friend Jeff Perswell is here. Jeff is a graduate of Trinity Seminary. He graduated summa cum laude, by the way, and I didn’t even know there was a summa cum laude. When I went to his graduation I thought there was only cum laude and I thought magna was the biggest deal. So that’s how ignorant I was. And all through the time I was there visiting with him, individuals assumed I had some educational training. He introduced me as the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church. I was just being asked politely, “So what’s your educational background?” Finally, I just started answering pharmaceuticals, and that I was preparing for a career in pharmaceuticals. I was involved in more of the research side.

Questioner: Dr. Piper, you made a comment about love in saving faith after Dr. Boice finished his first lecture. I’d like for you to explain how you see love fitting into saving faith and then for Dr. Boyce to comment on the traditional Reformed formulation of saving faith, especially in light of the Evangelicals and Catholics together and the gift of salvation documents and how they’re trying to come together on some of these issues.

Piper: I don’t know my Latin well enough and I don’t know my church history well enough to know if this is so, but I hope that historically what the reformers meant by fiducia (the third part of saving faith) is delight in the character of Christ. If it isn’t, we need to expand the definition. That’s my program. I think it is biblically, and Edwards definitely saw that. If you want to read some of the best stuff that’s ever been written on faith, go to the second volume of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, go to the five dissertations and take the one called “Of Faith” and read it and you’ll read some of the most penetrating, thoughtful exegesis of biblical passages. I can’t stay with the word love. That word is just huge and ambiguous. What I meant when I referred to, “Do you have to fall in love?” is you do. Dr. Boice used the analogy of marriage and the stages of marriage. And I think that you do need to.

Let’s take 2 Corinthians 4:4, which says, “The God of this world has blinded their minds to the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” That’s why they’re not Christians. They don’t see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. That is a magnificent and important phrase — “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” The way you relate to glory is to taste it and delight in it, not just to talk about it, not to just have thoughts about it, not to just have ascent to it, and not just to trust the one who has it to do good things for you, like get you to heaven. That’s not saving faith.

Saving faith must have an element by which you have apprehended spiritually the glory of God in the face of Christ. That’s 2 Corinthians 4:6. And the corresponding inner response to that is something. You grew up for language here. Edwards used “taste,” like, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I am willing to use a whole range of words like pleasure and delight and satisfaction and joy. That at least a seed of it has to be there or you’re not born again. That’s what the new birth does. The new birth awakens a new sense of affections and priorities by which you apprehend a spiritual beauty and reality that was only in form before. Now you see glory and you taste it and it is delightful. It’s worth dying for now. That’s what I was getting at there.

Boice: I really don’t have anything to add to that. I’m glad to hear it. When I’m talking about the classic definition of faith, using those three Latin terms, the classical theologians were not so inclined to talk about love at that level because they would regard faith and love as fruits of the Spirit. And when they’re talking about faith, they’re trying to describe what it is actually to trust Christ personally and it’s more than intellect.

So when I use those three terms, that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s not just understanding the gospel, it’s responding to it, it’s affirming it and it’s trusting Christ. But now I think most of your classic theologians would say if you examine yourself to make your calling on election sure, and you ask, “Have I done that?” They would say the measure of that is not to say how thoroughly have I understood the gospel, but do I love Jesus? Because if we are born again, the regeneration produces faith, and it produces love as well and we will be loving him. Now that isn’t quite the way John is putting it, but I think your theologians, like Calvin and the others, would not exclude love as evidence of the work of God in your heart.

Mahaney: Could I just say that I don’t think it was very loving not to include Mr. Bryant and myself in that question. No, I’m just kidding. I just kidding.

Questioner: If you want to suggest a few books, we’d be glad to go get them.

Mahaney: I forgive you, brother.

Questioner: I have three questions directed to CJ. How do you define prophecy? How is it manifested in your church? And what purpose does it serve beyond Scripture?

Mahaney: I would define prophecy as Paul defines prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14 — edification, exhortation, and comfort. What was the second question?

Questioner: How’s it manifested in your church?

Mahaney: It can be exercised in the context of a Sunday meeting by certain individuals with proven character and proven gift. It is never equal in authority or to be compared with the authority of Scripture.

Questioner: I’m disturbed about the omission of the subject of Israel throughout our entire proceedings. I wonder what that signifies for us as serious-minded men occupied with the glory of God as I can hardly conceive of anything dearer to God’s heart than the restoration of his covenant people. Everything seems to point to that soon realization and yet there wasn’t a single reference in these entire days on the subject.

I’m not raising Israel as some ethnic consideration or some schmaltzy or sentimental consideration, but as an apostolic and end-time consideration. What does the absence of its mention signify for us and what does an attempt to rev us up on the subject of hope that omits Israel constitute, but a kind of however well-meaning pep rally. Because the identification of the church with Israel’s restoration, I think, is its most dramatic call and touches the issue of glory more palpably than anything else. If Paul speaks in Romans about what shall the return be, but life from the dead, what then does the mere consideration of Israel mean for the church now let alone its participation? So I repeat my question. What does the omission of the subject of Israel, so eschatologically significant at this very hour when every historic thing seems to point to its soon realization, mean for us? How is it never came up once in our consideration as if it is a non-subject?

Piper: It sounds like you’re staying at the microphone because you want to debate? Are you staying at the microphone because you want to respond to the answer?

Questioner: No, I’d love to hear a response from the panel about the omission of the subject. What does that signify for us? Seeing what we represent as being serious-minded men and ministers concerned for the glory of God?

Piper: It means nothing more than the omission probably of 25 other absolutely crucial things that have not been dealt with here. I believe with all my heart that Israel will be grafted in again (Romans 11) and so does James Boyce. There will be a remarkable turn and a glorious re-grafting as they are born again and brought to their messiah. That we did not mention that does not call into question the preciousness of the doctrine. I would guess that you have elevated that as a litmus test too highly. It can be precious, a truth can be precious, a truth can be motivating, a truth can be guiding and determinative and not find its way into every gathering. I don’t know that I’ve heard the second coming mentioned in this gathering.

Absolutely. I mean there are many things that we love that we would die for in this room that we haven’t mentioned. So please don’t put on us that we don’t esteem that doctrine and esteem the future plan of God because it didn’t assume a role that you would’ve liked it to assume. Is that okay? I mean I want to affirm as much as I can of where you’re coming from, but I feel like it’s a litmus that’s being way too strict. To say that David’s message as messages of hope is a pep rally because he didn’t include all the pieces out there. Maybe it would be good to let David respond to that.

Bryant: I just want to affirm my agreement with your vision for Israel and the thing God did for me in this whole area came in 1981 when I was sick with the flu and I had Xerox the copy of Jonathan Edwards book on concerts of prayer when I had been in the Wheaton archives and I had it beside me and I couldn’t do anything else but lay in bed and I read that. In his dissertation on concerts of prayer published in 1748, one of the things he argues for is the reasons for God’s burden for the worldwide advance of his kingdom is what God wanted to do with Israel. He appealed, and the concert of prayer movement appealed, for that to be a primary agenda of the praying that was to go on. So I thank you very much. I agree with John. There are many issues. I only got through half my notes of what I had planned to say to start with, so there are many other issues and I’m sure at another time we need to deal with that with the kind of earnestness that you’re suggesting.

Questioner: If someone is opposed to the sovereignty of God, either looking down the periscope of time or God flipping pages every day, do you believe that that person, church, or pastor is preaching the gospel? Depending on your answer then what is your view of fellowship with them and partnership and ministry with them?

Piper: Can you say what you mean by opposing the sovereignty of God?

Questioner: They’re fully aware of it, they’re informed, they understand that that’s the Bible. They’ve been exposed to the Scripture on the matter, but they’re still hostile to it in some form or fashion. Is that enough?

Piper: I’ve never heard of anybody rejecting the sovereignty of God. You must mean a particular aspect. Do you mean unconditional election?

Questioner: Any point that you would even take atonement?

Piper: You mean any of the five points? Can you fellowship with somebody who rejects any of the five points? Is that the question?

Questioner: Well, first of all, I think more importantly, are they preaching the gospel? Is it the same gospel?

Piper: Yes, you can be preaching the gospel and reject some of the five points, I think. It’s defective and when it becomes so defective in the balance and the orientation, it would affect my view of that. It’s part of a question on whether John Wesley should be rejected as a heretic. I think you need to ask about the spirit of it and about the extent to which they are grounding what they say in Scripture. I think you need to ask how they articulate God’s work in salvation and man’s work in salvation.

It is remarkable to me how many professed Wesleyans or Arminians, when you press them on the final ground of how a person gets saved, they don’t want to say the logic of their own conclusions. They just don’t want to say it. You say, “When you get to heaven and God asks you why you’re here, what will you say?” They say, “Because Christ died from me.” But you say, “Well, but you believe Christ died for everybody and they’re not all here. Why are you here?” They say, “Because I believed in him.” And you say, “Well, why did you believe in it and other people who heard the gospel didn’t believe in it?” I can never press an Arminian all the way to say, “Because I was smarter or more spiritual or wiser or more courageous. They all want to appeal to prevenient grace, but they just fudge at letting it be irresistible. So I just hope for more. You’re really pressing us because you’re saying they understand it and they’re hostile to it. That’s what you’re really asking.

I tremble about that. I really do. I tremble that I could get a person all the way to that point and he would say, “I’m the buck stopper here, and others didn’t get to heaven because they didn’t use their free will as brilliantly as I did.” I don’t want to use pejorative language. If there’s an Arminian in the crowd who could give me another way to say that’s not pejorative I would be willing to use proper terms. But frankly, I press Arminians up to that point and say, I want to use your language to interact with, I don’t want any straw men here. I don’t want to paint caricatures. But at that point of why you chose Christ and another didn’t, what’s your answer? And if they say, “I understand fully what you’re saying, and my answer is that I with my wisdom and my perception of what would be best for me and the glory of God used my free will to make this choice. It was not God who ultimately decided this,” I tremble for that person.