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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?

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67 thoughts on “How to Train Your People to Laugh at Anything”

  1. chris says:

    Perhaps they are laughing at themselves, for being in a way, exalted by John as those who have more understanding than someone without any so-called “training”. And, maybe, just maybe, when John said “I am a sinner” their laughter is a kind of “no-s**t Sherlock” sort of thing.

    Being serious about sin is one thing, but being individually serious in a room full of sinners comes across as stretching to be more humble. Join the club, John.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      I’m continually surprised at your interpretations, Chris.

      1. chris says:


  2. Aaron says:

    This shocks me. I don’t hear anything funny in what he is saying from the beginning. Justify it all you want, but I have no idea what’s going on to make these people laugh. I don’t know what could have been running through their minds when laughing at these very serious heart wrenching things he’s saying. Being set up for a series of laughter or not. I’ve listened to a comedian, and immediately heard someone share their life story full of pain and never once felt the urge to laugh. Maybe the mob mentality plays a bit into this, which my situation had no factor of, but I am perplexed as well at this.

  3. chris says:

    I mean no disparity on John’s sincerity, just that maybe he was talking to a group of people that don’t take themselves that seriously. being in counseling means dealing with sin every day, they are like the sewer cleaners of the church. They look at it all the time. So, for someone to get up and say, “I am a sinner” kind of sounds funny, it is so obvious. Like a drunk standing up at an AA meeting. It’s like taking the first step in the process. So, when John said it, it sounds funny, because, well, he is an advanced drunk in a room full of drunks.

  4. Matt Haney says:

    Wow, I wonder how much Mark Driscoll does this to his hearers?

    1. Tim Schaaf says:

      This whole thing was a bit sad … probably because I would have been laughing too. I’m definitely the worst sinner in this thread.

      Matt – On the Driscoll remark, be careful not to just launch an attack. Mark had nothing to do with this post, he just might be easy to poke at.

      For the record though, he normally does a great job of telegraphing his punches so that you know that jokes are jokes and conviction is conviction.

  5. chris says:

    Just trying to see the other side.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Sorry for jumping on you too quickly. Like Greg says in the post, it’s somewhat understandable at first–but they keep on laughing. Personally, I think it has less to do with the fact that they are counselors than it does with the fact that conference crowds are often primed to laugh at the slightest thing. That’s been my experience at least.

      1. chris says:

        Maybe they have grown to familiar with preachers on TV ;).

  6. chris says:

    I get it. I have been to some strange events, with whole rooms gone mad in the name of Christ.

    I know I can be horrifically vague and contrary much of the time. I am a confessional presbyterian in my faith, but in my understanding of human events, I tend to see things with a kind of absurd eye. So, I may sound flippant. But I like Augustine’s dictum: Audi alterum partum. That’s all I was getting at.

  7. Nathan Wall says:

    A similar thing happened at Resolved 09. Piper was trying to make a serious point about God’s sovereignty in the worst of times. He was listing a series of horrible things, saying, “God’s in control of all this,” and when he got to “swine flu” everyone laughed. To which he responded, “Why is that funny? I’m not trying to be funny here.”

    It’s strange the way so many preachers have trained us to try to find comic relief during really serious parts of a sermon. I’m glad Piper tells few jokes from the pulpit. Not because jokes are wrong in and of themselves, but because there are many things that need to be taken deadly seriously which aren’t in most churches.

  8. Wow. This is really disturbing. You really feel for Piper: what an awkward situation. His humility prevents him from telling them off. It’s similar (and also very dissimilar) to the Letterman thing obviously.

    When you know Piper’s style it seems all the more incongruous. Those who might not… might interpret him as being a master of understated irony. People are asking “is this guy genuine?” because they’re maybe not expecting that kind of sincerity, and as soon as a few people laugh, it’s a case of following the crowd.

    Nevertheless, his admissions of sin are somehow powerfully underlined by this laughter. How does the world, and the church, respond to admission of sin? We’re still conditioned to make light of it, to sidestep awkwardness, which is a cowardly response whether in an audience or in an individual.It might also highlight our appetite for entertainment. If only we could learn to respond like Christ.

    1. I think Beat Attitude nailed it when he proposed that those who don’t know Pastor John’s teaching style might “interpret him as being a master of understated irony”.

      The first sentence of the first Piper book I ever read (When I Don’t Desire God) is “I hope you will not be offended if I open this book by praying for you.” While I’m sure that he meant that with all humility and not a touch of intentional irony, and I was greatly touched and encouraged by the spirit behind it, I still laughed. Because if you’ve ever heard Pastor John pray and you wouldn’t want him praying for you, than you need your head examined (assuming you even have one).

      I think the first few instances of laughter at the conference were probably in a similar vein. After that, I caught a vibe of nervous laughter, like when you realize that you shouldn’t be laughing, and that just makes you laugh more.

  9. Dana Olson says:

    About Greg’s thought, one clarification: since two couples from my new church were attending, I looked at the schedule, list of speakers, etc. John was on first, the opening night, as I understand it. So they were not trained by “a couple days of the conference”, rather, perhaps by conferencing in general or just the tendency of our times. Intrigueing parallel with the Letterman “confession” where people kept laughing even in the most serious parts.

    1. In Greg’s post, he quoted another attendee of the conference as saying, “Piper was one of the latter speakers of the conference where the prior speakers all used humor in their openings of their talks.” Not sure which is the case, but I thought I’d get that out there.

  10. Wilberforce says:

    “trained to expect humor from the speakers . . . ”

    Who does Greg think did the training? And for what purpose? And why does he leap from Piper’s experience to “funny-man pastor” as if the conferees behavior had something to do with the state of the pastorate. This is seems like a load of non sequiturs. I’m not sure what point he’s trying to make other than something’s up with these guys and we need to blame someone for it.

    1. Rick says:

      Giving Greg the benefit of the doubt, I think he just meant most pastors (or public speakers) start off with light humor. The audience are ‘trained’ in the sense that that is what they are used to. This is so typical that the audience couldn’t pick up on a speaker who was being profoundly serious about sin. My friend, as much as I would want to defend pastors (I am one!), preachers are far too often down right silly when it comes to preaching. Piper is a notable exception. The sequence (sequitur) goes
      a: Preachers are too often silly
      b: audiences have grown to expect this from preachers
      c: This audience wrongly expected it from Piper

  11. Mike Neglia says:

    So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be joking. – Genesis 19:14

    I have to run off to our churches’ Wednesday night Bible study, but I hope to contribute some thoughts to this discussion.

  12. Terry Portis says:

    I have been to the AACC conference several times, and have listen to John Piper regularly. I did find the audience reaction a little strange. The last time I attended there were 5,000 or more people from all walks of life (not only counselors and psychologists). In one large session I heard some scattered laughter when they were announcing the counselor care room for counselors who needed counseling. I thought that the people who laughed were probably not counselors, or they would understand that dealing with marriage and family issues, rampant sexual abuse, etc. can be spiritually and emotionally exhausting.

    I am really surprised at the quick conclusions people seem to be drawing about the state of the church, the pulpit, etc. from a short snippet of a sermon.

  13. dhf says:

    Interesting comments here. I will just add that as a learning experience for all who wish to speak publically, perhaps it is wise to set the tone right from the start by stating that “in no way is what is about to be said intended to be funny, either directly or indirectly.”
    Of course that could probably result in a giggle or two from some folks. Such is the human condition.

  14. Brian Stock says:

    I am perplexed at the roars of laughter. This is very interesting in light of the recent news of David Letterman and his situation when he told the his audience about his sin. The audience laughed and then they kept laughing.

    Why in the world world would people laugh at sin whether they hear a confession from Piper or Letterman?

    1. CA says:

      I was there. Several comments and observationsThere were nearly 7000 attendees at this opening plenary session. so if 20% laughed, you have 1400 laughing. That sounds like crowd- it is. There was a day of preconference workshops preceding this speaker, so he wasn’t first. I had read John Piper before, but had never heard him speak. Only in these comments have I learned that he never uses humor in his talks. Dr. John Ortberg has spoken at the last several AACC World conferences. He uses “understated irony” or dry humor very effectively to make salient points – not gratuitously. My impression is that those in the audience who laughed, thought the same. Don’t just listen to the first 5 minutes. Listen to his entire message. First of all, it is powerful. Secondly, you’ll here impressive silence as he kept the interest of the audience – without laughter. Perhaps one of the things the church is guilty of is being too quick to notice the speck in our brothers’ eyes and too quick to jump to conclusions. Yes, we do live in a fallen world. And yes, like John Piper, we are sinners. And yes, even Christian Counselors can misinterpret intent at the beginning of a conversation. But listen to the rest. They got it.

  15. I believe that Christians need to be able say, “I am a sinner,” with a smile on their faces. Sometimes through tears – sometimes with a smile.

    I once heard another well known Reformed evangelical pastor say that the primary difference between he and John Piper was a sense of irony.

    If for most evangelicals pastors, everything is an excuse for levity, for John Piper everything always seems deadly serious.

    Some types of humor conceal, but irony exposes. I would love to hear John laugh at himself more often, even when he is confessing sin. “I’m a sinner. I know I have a reputation that’s somehow beyond that. Isn’t that ironic? In fact – I want your approval even now. I, John Piper, want your approval even now.”

    In that confession, and the irony of that juxtaposition, I think people thought John was laughing at himself.

    And that kind of laughter is good and healthy.

    1. troutdude says:

      I am a practicing pastoral counselor who does nouthetic (biblical) counseling. I find it really odd but not unusual that AACC counselors who primarily follow psychological models for counseling would laugh at confession of sin. I often take cases where people have been seeing a Christian counselor who never bothered to deal with any possibility of sin playing into the problems the person is having.

  16. With all the talk of expository preaching and no need for jokes and stories not related to the Bible by all the Reformed preachers, there was a lot of joking going on at the beginning of the talks people gave. It’s no wonder people were conditioned to laugh at the beginning of a talk. It’s too bad they laughed at Piper. Maybe it was listeners fatigue and they weren’t really paying attention. There could have been a lot of factors.

  17. I agree. It’s a little odd the audience laughs at everything.

    Without experiencing the conference in its entirety, is it fair to make a harsh assessment?

    Maybe if the event organizer prepped Piper better, the outcome would have been different… I assume he arrived the day of his speech, didn’t hear any of the other speakers, and went into the speech blind, without gauging the tone of the conference.

  18. Wow – I kept reading waiting for you to reveal that you had substituted Piper’s name for Letterman’s…this sounds so much like that. But this really happened? I thought it was going to be a whole “what if it had been Piper instead of Letterman” – which in a way, I guess it is.

  19. Tim Burden says:

    Reminds me of the Kierkegaard “parable” about a fire that broke out backstage. The clown was sent out to warn the audience, but they only laughed. And so the world will end, says Kierkegaard, to the sound of laughter by those who think it is all just a joke.

    Not that I’m calling Piper a clown, of course… But we’re conditioned to not deal with serious things seriously.

  20. donsands says:

    That made me think of:

    “The lunatic is in my head,”

    This sounded more like canned laughter that came on when it wasn’t supposed to.

    “..the people were incapable of seeing it.” -Greg

    That’s a sad statement if true.

  21. I am also “continually perplexed” by their reaction.

  22. Rob F says:

    My 2 cents worth of analysis:

    It’s sometimes uncomfortable to hear people confess sin. As a listener, you’re being forced to deal with someone else’s struggle, and it creates a tense moment. Laughter is sometimes an easy way to relieve tension.

    This audience signed up to hear a great preacher preach. Apparently, they didn’t expect to hear that preacher confess some deeply rooted sins — sins many in the audience probably struggle with. They were caught off guard. And I’m willing to bet that, like them, many of us, when made to feel uncomfortable and convicted, will laugh and hope it’s all intended as a joke.

  23. Rob F says:

    Another cent:

    Yes, the crowd’s reaction might be an indication that they expect conference preachers to open up with some jokes. I think it’s more likely an indication of something sadder: people aren’t used to hearing others (especially leaders) confess sin, especially not publicly. The problem, perhaps, isn’t too many jokes from the pulpit; it’s the fact that Christian’s don’t normally open up the way Piper did, and Christians don’t expect other Christian’s to admit that they’ve been struggling with specific, embarrassing sins for a really long time. Perhaps, we’re too uncomfortable with it no matter which side of the exchange we find ourselves.

    1. Nathan Wall says:

      That’s a good point, Rob. I think you’re right.

  24. clyde says:

    The audio is very awkward and quite sad.

  25. Wow. This is truly bizarre. I feel like someone later inserted a laugh track into this. I can’t BELIEVE the things they’re laughing at! What in the world? Astute observation, JT.

    “And you’re a very strange audience, because I did not expect laughter… This is a serious talk, in case your wondering…”

    This is crazy.

  26. Charles Vanderford says:

    From what I’ve seen of Piper, he seems like a very emotional and upfront man, and doesn’t have a problem wearing his heart on his sleeve in public. I remember at the start of his first session at Advance09, he mentioned how devastated he was by Mark Driscoll’s message just prior; and everyone laughed at this even though he really wasn’t kidding.

    The emotions are a really big deal to him. And I don’t think most people are well equipped to deal with such a bare confession as he made. I am surprised, though, that even a room full of counselors reacted that way.

  27. Evan says:

    This is amazingly unbelievable…

  28. Ginger says:

    We are so accustomed to saying….I’m the chief of sinner’s….however very rarely to you hear anyone be specific about their sin. Who knows why the people laughed.

  29. Joshua W says:

    If I remember correctly, roughly the same thing happened to Piper at the Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago in April. Not during his Day-1 plenary session, but during the Q&A on the 2nd night. It had been an intense day, and when Piper suggested that pastors who’ve lost their zeal for expositing the Scriptures (if I remember correctly) should just QUIT – the response was scattered laughter. He promptly called the chucklers to their senses.

  30. Earl says:

    I wonder if it’s a combination of a group of people who don’t typically get to go to stuff like that (conferences….getting out of the house, staying in a hotel, etc) or hear guys like that (Piper, one of the guys they read, but have never seen in person) and are just plain “giddy”. That’s really what it sounded like to me. A bunch of giddy people. I was embarrassed for them….especially after the first couple outbursts that were not so obviously inappropriate…

  31. Bob Myers says:

    I think Piper did say some very funny things and that got it started. I see nothing unhealthy in this. And I think he got his points across even with the laughter.

  32. Scripture Zealot said:
    With all the talk of expository preaching and no need for jokes and stories not related to the Bible by all the Reformed preachers, there was a lot of joking going on at the beginning of the talks people gave.

    I was thinking this was at the Calvin conference. It’s even more strange that counselors couldn’t take sin seriously. Piper does get a little goopy sometimes but maybe he could have been more firm in saying my yes is yes and my no is no and I’m telling you I’m being serious here! Easy for me to say.

  33. Jeremy says:

    Actually, I’ve been at events like this, where the speaker says something that may or may not be interpreted as humorous and it strikes the crowd as tremendously funny. Once the laughter starts, it’s hard to stop. Could have been as simple as a case of the giggles. If I’m being honest, it was hard to tell if he was confessing actual personal struggles or setting up a tremendously witty and rather lengthy punch line…obviously the punch line never came. Laughter is pretty contagious…plenty of us would have probably laughed too.

  34. Wayne says:

    I suppose I should preface these remarks by saying that I routinely find myself to be the only person to laugh at something my pastor says. I often find life in general to be a rather humorous exercise. It is probably true that the very incongruity that could make another person cry could make me laugh. So I am clearly going to tend to be sympathetic with the audience on this one, although I completely understand the viewpoint of those who see life differently, and who view this whole event as a sad commentary.

    One reason for laughter is the violation of expectations. Someone does or says something unexpected, and it seems so quirky and odd that we laugh in response.

    Piper starts his talk by honoring his hearers, and my reading is that they laugh because of their own insecurity. He suggests that this group would be able to see right through any pretense, and they find the notion laughable, because something in them thinks they aren’t really that good at recognizing facades.

    The audience also doesn’t expect a sincere confession of sin in front of a large group in the first two minutes of a talk, particularly when the speaker has not already been caught publicly. I am certain that, for most of these counselors, such confessions are only extracted either after lengthy relationship-building or when the confessor feels that (s)he is in grave danger of losing something dear if a confession is not forthcoming. That Piper would open up and proclaim that he is a sinner is completely unexpected, so it must be a joke! I am sure that many in the room marveled at his ability to keep a straight face!

    So, in addition to reflecting the fact that we, as listeners, are conditioned for a lighthearted opening before the speaker gets down to business (which I do not dispute), I find this also to be a commentary on the way we relate to one another as a rule. We don’t praise one another, and we don’t confess to one another. Piper does both, and in both cases, the unexpectedness causes disbelief and laughter.

    Once he says, “You’re a strange audience,” I think the laughter that ensues is almost the only reasonable reaction. I salute Piper for the way he lets them know that “this is a serious talk,” and they are able to join him in getting down to business fairly quickly, though not without a great deal of discomfort on all sides.

  35. Matt Mager says:

    I think troutdude is spot on. I doubt the AACC persons believe in sin. They certainly don’t believe in the sufficiency of Scripture to deal with sin.

  36. Bob Kellemen says:

    I was at the conference. Pastor Piper was the keynote speaker. The only speaker before him was Dr. Tim Clinton and his brief message was quite serious. So I don’t see that the AACC conference trained anyone to expect laughter and levity.

    Pastor Piper did start with some ironic quips to which the crowd responded with natural laughter. Though the tape and Dr. Piper’s comments might make it seem like all 6,000 people were laughing, this is far from the case. Many people “got it” and understood that John had switched to serious mode. Many people were “with John” in thinking it odd that some people didn’t get the switch to serious. I spoke to many people directly after the message who were saddened that the laughter by some continued.

    Additionally, I think it is rather an unfair stereotype by one poster who claims he is not surprised that “AACC counselors who primarily follow psychological models … would laugh at confession of sin.” Please attend an AACC conference, keynote messages, pre-conference forums, and track presentations and you will find that sin and suffering are both dealth with (parakaletic and nouthetic biblical Christian counseling), as they should be in a Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed approach to biblical counseling and spiritual formation. Take pot shots at one another hardly advances the cause of Christ.

    1. Kim says:

      I’m glad to hear from someone who was there. Can you tell us what he meant in the audio when he says early on that, “I know you’ve been set up for an hour and a half, maybe a little differently…” You mentioned that the speaker before him was serious. What had happened between the two…in the hour and a half prior to his talk that would have him say that?

      This happened in a much smaller way at a message I heard him give at TX A&M. He opened with trouble that had happened between him and Noel and how he was fighting his own sin and how continually it besets him. There was this strange initial laughter, but it was room full of college kids…and it didn’t last very long at all. They picked up very quickly that he wasn’t kidding. This makes me feel like the audience had almost been primed to think something different was coming than what they got.

      Any thoughts?

      1. Bob Kellemen says:

        Kim, I’m trying to figure out what he meant. The previous 90 minutes had powerful worship, had Dr. Clinton’s serious message on the Gospel, Grace, Christ, and our need for forgiveness. Now, like any conference, it has some moments of levity, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary, and no great amount of it. Having been “back stage” at the AACC, frankly, you don’t get to hear much of what is happening prior to your speaking. Perhaps it was Pastor Piper’s unfamiliarity with the audience and the event that caused him to assume that AACC folks don’t hear a great deal about sin. Honestly, I just don’t know what was in his mind behind that comment, and I certainly don’t want to judge him for it.

  37. Trish says:

    That is appalling! I can’t believe how carnal the audience is to laugh in God’s face at a man’s confession of sin. No wonder D.A. Carson says that today sin is just a snicker word.

  38. Joseph says:

    That was very awkward. John Piper handled it better than I would have. I would have probably been so perplexed that I would have just frozen up.

  39. strange, no actually bizarre is a better word.

    Perhaps this.

    It could be that people thought that John Piper was making a stereotype of Christian Counselors and he was in turn playing to that stereotype.

    Which makes a good case for the Pathos in preaching. You will be received by how you are seen. John’s style, brutally transparent, deadly-serious, and hard-hitting made people think he was building up to a ironic/sarcastic punchline which he wasn’t.

    The case could easily made that they haven’t encountered preaching in which the preacher puts himself upon the altar (in humility, confession, and surrender) that others may do likewise.

    “The heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it?”

    Things I’ve learned.

    1. As Bryan Chappell has said “Pathos is most important”
    2. When you have no clue what to do, pray.
    3. The heart is deceitfully wicked who can know it?

  40. Ali says:

    I think people are overreacting here. I’ve made similar confessions in a wry fashion, expecting people to laugh as they recognise their own tendency to do the same thing and the foolishness of that tendency is laid bare. And people do laugh. I don’t see that as inappropriate.

    I’m guessing that those who laughed were less familiar with Piper’s ministry and responded in the same vein. Certainly, I can easily imagine someone else saying exactly the same words, confessing the same sins, and intending to poke fun at himself, all the while making a serious point – it is a common trait where I come from. Obviously, that was not Piper’s intention, but I don’t think it reflects badly on the audience. It’s just unfamiliarity with where the speaker is coming from.

    Of course, there may be those who suggest that such an approach denies the seriousness of sin, but I think such a suggestion would go too far.

  41. The laughter comes off as horribly misplaced laugh tracks much like the audience’s responses of laughter to David Letterman’s recent breaking of news concerning his being blackmailed for his numerous sexual exploits with female workers. Laughter is a wholly unacceptable response to either John Piper’s or David Letterman’s comments.

  42. Alex says:

    oh man, that was incredibly awkward.

  43. Christopher says:

    I agree with those who have said there is an overreaction going on here. It often takes a few minutes for an audience and speaker to get in sync. Given Piper’s stature and sincerity, it does sound a little funny that he would worry about being analyzed by an audience full of counselors. I think that’s why they started laughing. As in, “He can’t seriously care what we’re going to think of him just because we’re counselors, can he?”

    It sounds like he’s joking about neurosis: “Since you might analyze me and discover I’m a sinner, I’ll just let you know right up front what all of my hangups are. Point 1: I’m a sinner.”

    Of course he is. Doesn’t that sound a little like a joke to state the obvious to a roomful of Christians who believe all are sinners?

    And then he said “schmoozing.” I mean, come on. That’s a funny word.

    Also funny: Suggesting this is evidence that pastors tell too many jokes. Seriously?

    I love John Piper. He took a shot at an extremely serious cold open with a roomful of strangers and it didn’t quite connect as he intended. So, let’s blame the audience? Society? The profession?

  44. Wyeth Duncan says:

    I feel for Dr. Piper in the audio clip. As a public high school choir teacher, I can recall two separate occasions over the years, at two different high schools, when I was trying to express my sincere and personal appreciation to certain individuals in front of a concert audience, only to have people erupt in laughter. As the one speaking, I can tell you I felt kind of awkward, and bit irritated. It seems like our society (not just this audience of counselors) is not used to sincere, dead-earnestness from others. Maybe we’re just too used to being entertained.

    I’m also a preacher. I have often wished more preachers would do like Piper (or Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for that matter) and just get up and preach and leave off the opening jokes. I don’t mean to imply that one must be somber; I very much appreciate humor, and like to laugh. Certainly, from teaching high schoolers, I’ve learned how to be silly and make an audience laugh, but when you’re about to proclaim a message from God’s word, that’s just not the time for frivolousness.

  45. Kevin V. says:

    What is the matter with these people???

  46. Josh Gelatt says:

    I’m jumping in late on this thread. First, I agree with all the criticisms made against the audience and the state of the pulpit in America. The response was carnal, thoughtless, and culturally-conditioned (e.g. conditioned to be entertained and side-step the seriousness of sin).

    With that said, a speaker does have a duty to know his audience and know his setting. Though I’m a Teaching Pastor, I am also a licensed professional counselor and have attended AACC meetings in the past. Lots of entertainment, lots of laughter—that what this thing is. It is one week of having fun and being refreshed in a beautiful environment(and the primary reason I stopped attending). Still, to walk into that setting and start with a deeply and deadly serious confession of personal sin was guaranteed to be misunderstood. The audience wasn’t prepared for it, had no way to expect it (I assume not many Piper-fans were there), and misunderstood it. He walked in thinking a group of professional christian counselors would take the issue of sin seriously–and he was confronted with the ugly truth that they do not.

    Great stuff here from Piper. Sadly, he misjudged his audience.

  47. Jon says:

    Does any of this deal with the idea of elevating our leaders? I could have seen myself in this audience, laughing alongside everyone else, because hearing this come from a speaker and leader like Piper is almost sounding pretentious in drawing mock attention to himself because we so easily assume that the prominent figures of the faith have such clean and blameless lives. If an unknown pastor from South Carolina were to say the same things on stage, I doubt the response from the audience would have been similar. Perhaps an awkward silence would have persisted.

    True, there was some humor to the initial statements about the relationship between speaker and listener, but the persisting humor is on a disturbing level that should lead anyone listening to consider their own presuppositions when we hear our own leaders admit sin in a not-so-conventional manner.

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