John Piper and deprived communities

Yesterday, I saw this article by Matthew Hosier concerning John Piper’s longevity in ministry. In it, he offered these two quotes from this different article:

Almost nothing fazes him [Piper] or his wife, Noël, who have been living in a modest house in the under-resourced neighborhood since 1980. They know what to do if they hear gunshots (call 911 and then see if they can help), how to clean up a dozen hypodermic needles from the front porch (use a broom to sweep them up without touching them), and how to scare off someone breaking into your house (open the door and yell at them).

The article ends by saying:

After 40 years in the neighborhood, Piper would do it all again. “I really believe that preaching the whole counsel of God decade after decade in a way that grows a life-giving church—mingled with regular calls to do crazy things for Jesus, undergirded with big-God theology, and an example of urban presence—makes a big difference.”

Matthew’s interest in the article is a little different to mine, but I think he highlights something really important for the UK church. This is a lesson for us.

Piper has spoken before about the charitable foundation he setup when it became apparent there would be some money coming in from his writing. You can read about what he did and why he did it here. But the article that Hosier lists goes further. Not only did Piper not make a mint off his writing, but he remained in a poor community, as a presence in the community, rather than moving out to the suburbs. Piper states:

We shouldn’t abandon neighborhoods for economic reasons. The church had been here for 111 years when I came. God put us here. If we go, this entire side of downtown loses an evangelical church—and there aren’t that many.

There it is. Piper could well afford to move out. He could have had a much easier path. I’m sure there are lots of other churches, in nicer areas, that would have gladly welcomed John Piper as their new pastor. But he stayed put. He actively chose to stay in a poor community because, if he didn’t, and the example he set was that nobody else had to either, there soon wouldn’t be a church that the people in that community could access at all.

Is there, perhaps, a lesson here for us in the UK church? Might some of us do well to commit to a poorer community that we could easily not live in because we have the money but we choose to live in because there is a clear gospel need? Otherwise, we are making the unfortunate decision – that Piper alludes to – if we won’t go, whole deprived communities lose their only evangelical church.

Perhaps you could consider whether you could relocate, not for the sake of your career, but the sake of the gospel?