I received my December edition of Christianity Today magazine this week. As as I read through the letter “Readers Write” section, as I usually do, a named jumped out at me – John Piper. Yep. That John Piper.
The October 2008 edition of CT featured an article on several prominent churches in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul (MN). John Piper, who pastors the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and whose congregation was featured in the article, wrote the the following letter to CT in response to the article:
I apologize for a sentence quoted from me in the recent CT article about churches in the Twin Cities [“Fire and Nice,” October]. The following sentence contained at least one falsehood: “The people who are attracted to Bethlehem are people who love their Bibles and want their Bibles to be taught with uncompromising forcefulness. The others go elsewhere, and they have lots to choose from in the Twin Cities.”
The truth is: (1) There are people who come to Bethlehem who don’t love their Bibles and would be happy not to hear its radical message; (2) There are thousands of others who do love their Bibles and want it preached with conviction who go to hundreds of other churches in the Twin Cities besides Bethlehem; (3) There are indeed lots of non-Bible believing churches in the Cities, but there are also hundreds and hundreds of churches that take their stand squarely on biblical authority.
That is what I believe, and I apologize for saying differently.
Always needing grace,
Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church
This is one of the reasons why I admire and appreciate the ministry of Dr. John Piper. The humility to admit a wrong is godly and honorable. And to affirm the other churches in his city, while being honest about the strengths and weaknesses of his own congregation, is rare. And praiseworthy. And challenging. And encouraging. And… dare I say, Christian.
I am convinced and confident that the congregation I serve here in Jacksonville is the church of Jesus Christ. It is the true church. But it is not the only church. That is, it is not all of the church. Every Christ-confessing congregation that is committed to the fidelity of doctrine, holiness of lifestyle, and unity of fellowship is the church.
The Lord is bigger than your church. And he’s bigger than my church. And it takes many and all kinds of churches to reach this world for Jesus Christ. Every true church is important to the work of the kingdom – no matter its size, location, or differences on secondary matters.
May the Lord deliver us from the “us-for-and-no-more” mentality. We are in this thing together. So we need courage to loving confront one another when we stray away from the faithful way. But we also need much Christlike humility to praise God for what he is doing in other churches besides ours – both near and far.