In light of the 2012 year being the end of John Piper’s tenure as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church, I wanted to share how John Piper was one of the main catalysts for my passion for God’s glory and helped me to see that God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him. Here’s a bit of how John’s story and mine intersect:
It was only the second time I had been to the great arctic civilization known as Minneapolis. I had traveled there once previously with my parents to view the campus of the University of Minnesota, thinking it was merely a formality before I went there for my undergrad degree. I was shocked when I didn’t get in, my ACT was fine but my GPA was too low, and I had never been back, and honestly thought I would never have a reason to go back. For all I knew, I would never enjoy the winding maze of the skywalk (is it cool or completely passé to call people in the skywalk, “skywalkers”?) or see a Vikings game (Why would I want to anyways, unless it was to watch them get stomped by the Packers?).
However, through events already set in motion at the foundation of the world, God’s sovereign will would bend my very being to Minneapolis and the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church and the ministry of John Piper through Desiring God. By God’s kind grace I met Jesus Christ on the campus of the school I ended up at (University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point) and became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU, which was the cool thing to call it before they changed the name to the cool thing). It’s where I met my wife and I also owe it as the place where my passion for pastoral ministry started.
On a cool week at the end of December, after the close of my first semester as a sophomore, my friend and mentor Chris Tillman and I made the 3 ½ hour journey to Minneapolis for their Christmas Conference know as TCX. We made only one stop, to fill up and to enjoy some Cousin Subs on the way (I had the BLT on Asiago Cheese Bread). I was anxious to get there, since I was excited for my first real big conference as a believer, and was excited to spend the time with my friends.
Also, being a big Packers fan, during the beginning of the conference, the Packers and the Vikings were fighting for the Division Title, and the Packers were on their way to a shellacking of the Denver Broncos and were waiting the outcome of the Vikings game. Before the start of the main session, Josh McCown of the Arizona Cardinals threw an 18-yard TD catch to Nathan Poole as time expired and the 3-12 Cardinals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and sent the Vikings home for the playoffs. I remember screaming my lungs out at all the Vikings fans a big chant of “Go Pack Go”. Crazily enough, Poole’s touchdown was the result of him being forced out, a rule that no longer exists in the NFL and would be an incomplete pass if played today.
That night, after the main session, which was a great talk by Bryan Lorritts, I was not feeling the best. I went to sleep early and when I woke up in the morning I felt like I had been hit by a truck that was on fire and full of dynamite. I was down for the count, and came to find out after I got back from Minneapolis that I had mono. I had a 105 degree fever, could not keep down any food and was totally dehydrated, despite my best efforts. And remember that BLT with Asiago Cheese Bread? It was the only thing on my breath or in my stomach for the next 5 days. It took me a solid 10 years to even want to eat at Cousins again, much less eat the Asiago Cheese Bread. Surprisingly, it did not stop me from eating BLT’s, but I think it was due to the overwhelming influence that bacon has on me. (Yay Bacon!)
I was totally bummed. I had asked for money to come, my Aunt Kathy had been extremely generous and given me most of the money for it, and now I was stuck in bed sleeping and feeling miserable. Not to be deterred, I had heard a lot of rumblings and positive things about a local pastor named John Piper speaking in the afternoon of the second day of the conference. I wanted to go, and it was the only session I made it to the rest of the time, but it forever changed the trajectory of my life. In God’s sovereignty, he challenged me to not waste my life, which I had been doing up to that point. He spoke of the recent, at the time, earthquake in Turkey that had killed thousands of people, and spoke directly to my new, fleshly, Spirit-awakened heart to embrace a life of purpose and direction lived for the glory of God. I picked up “Don’t Waste Your Life”, and it was like 12 of his sermons all rolled together into a fist of conviction. I was pumped for studying the Word, loving the gospel, and living for Him.
And THEN I found his website, DesiringGod.org. I felt, at that time, I must be taking down the whole site by myself. I listened to sermons, biographies, and Ask Pastor John’s and read and listened to Taste & See articles. I bought books, tracts, and anything I could get my hands on from Desiring God. It exploded with a view of God I had never encountered. A big, sovereign God who is more holy and more majestic than I could put into words, but was also a kind, loving Savior who condescended into human history, came as a man, and died a death I deserved in my place. I was floored, picked back up again, and then cut down by a God so big would have chosen something so microscopic like me to be a part of His family and a brother and friend to His son.
And THEN I heard about the Pastor’s conference. My pastor at the time and mentor, Israel Haas, invited me and some other guys to go to Minneapolis for the Desiring God’s Pastor’s Conference. I had barely heard of him before this, but D.A. Carson was the keynote speaker. I think now I would have been there in a heartbeat, but then I was going because of Piper, and it had nothing to do with Carson (Sorry Don). It was there that I felt the full-heated passion to enter pastoral ministry. People had been giving me those opportunities and I had others suggesting it to me, but it was at the 2008 Pastor’s Conference that doused gasoline on the flames.
Ultimately, it led me to begin pursuing whatever avenues I could to enter ministry and become a pastor. I preached, I learned, I taught, I repented, but most of all I sough with all my fervor to find myself fully satisfied in God and thereby glorifying Him. That’s why we moved to Waukesha and by God’s providence to be a part of Waukesha City Church. I truly felt this was why I was here. To pastor God’s family and be a small scene in God’s big story.
Although I am walking prayerfully with Him into our next chapter, I owe a lot of that initial passion to the preaching and ministry of John Piper. I may have moved well past the “fanboy” stage and wouldn’t go out of my way to get a picture with him, but his passion for the glory of God did much to equip me theologically and raise my affections for the God of the Universe, and for that I owe immense gratitude.
You may never read this, but thank you John Piper for your ministry and for your allegiance and fervor for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our shared God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Joshua Crabb (that guy who was at Sam Crabtree’s house once and tried to look through your kitchen window from far off. Sorry)