A few weeks ago John Piper spoke at a conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors. You should listen to the first five minutes. Piper decided to be as transparent as possible, given the audience, and to discuss some of the prevailing sins that he has struggled with his entire life. And the audience laughed uproariously. Piper was obviously perplexed and commented on how strange their reaction was.
If you didn’t know Piper, some of it could probably come across–at least initially–as unintentionally funny. But it is quite clear soon after that Piper was not cracking jokes but was being deadly serious about sin.
Greg Gilbert, calling it “one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard,” sees in this an “incredibly important and massively undervalued lesson”:
Do you see, at root, what had happened at that conference? Over the course of a couple of days, those conferees had been trained to expect humor from the speakers and therefore to react to the speakers with laughter–all the way to the point that they were incapable of seeing that John Piper was being serious in his confession of sin to them. You can quibble with whether the first couple of Piper’s statements were (unintentionally, it seems) kind of funny. I happen to think they were. By the time he gets to about the 3-minute mark, though, there’s nothing funny left, and he’s moved into very serious stuff. Yet the atmosphere of humor and levity at that conference was so thick–the training so complete–that the people were incapable of seeing it. So they laughed at Piper’s confession of his sin.
Apparently the conditioning of that audience to think everything is funny took no more than a couple of days.
How deep do you think that conditioning would be for a church who sat under a funny-man pastor every Sunday for fifteen years?