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Aug 22 2007

John Piper on the Greatest Need of the American Church

Question: What is the greatest, most crying need of the church in America today?

Response:  John Piper, Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

One could answer at different levels of ultimacy.  I choose to assume the urgency of the two ultimate levels (heart-felt passion for Christ, and radical obedience to Christ ), and move one level down: To the end of pure and passionate lives of Christ-exalting mercy and world evangelization, the greatest need of the church is to know and understand the full biblical witness of God’s love (including the grace that raises the spiritually dead, Ephesians 2:4–5; and justifies the ungodly by faith alone, Romans 4:4–5; 5:8–9), the full biblical witness of God’s wisdom (including the knowledge of all future events, Isaiah 41:23, 26; 42:8–9; 44:7–8, 26–28; 45:21; 46:10; 48:3), the full biblical witness of God’s power (including his rule over every bird that dies, Matthew 10:29, and every role of the dice, Proverb s 16:33, and every act of man, Jeremiah 10:23), and the full biblical witness of God’s justice (including his everlasting wrath upon the impenitent, 2 Thessalonians 1:9).  “My people go into exile for lack of knowledge” (Isaiah 5:13); “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3); “A people without understanding shall come to ruin” (Hosea 4:14); “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:3).  The assumption here is that American Christianity is plagued by truncated views of all God’s attributes.  And a truncated view of God will give raise to truncated Christian living and truncated awakenings.  Therefore the awakening and revival that I pray for will be not just for the fullness of the Spirit’s power, but for the fullness of the Spirit’s illumination of God in the word. 

Ron Sider’s recent article in Books and Culture, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience,” contains the too familiar stats on how evangelicals and born-againers live lives a millimeter above the pagans in America, or sometimes below, in the Bible belt.  Nine percent of born again people (who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus which is still important in their lives) have Biblical world view (absolutes exist, God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches).  However, this group of people stand out with significantly different behavior from the worldly “born-againers” and “evangelicals.”  Here is Sider’s comment:

“Barna’s findings on the different behavior of Christians with a biblical worldview underline the importance of theology.  Biblical orthodoxy does matter.  One important way to end the scandal of contemporary Christian behavior is to work and pray fervently for the growth of orthodox theological belief in our churches” (Jan/Feb, p. 42).

Indeed, orthodoxy was the only factor the article pointed out correlated with a significant difference in Christian behavior.

Truncated theology > truncated lives

Responses graciously facilitated courtesy of The Gospel Coalition

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