According to “Turkey Facts,” a list of holiday turkey-consumption trends compiled by the University of Illinois, Americans will consume approximately 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day this year, indicating to many a tendency towards gluttony on the annual day of thanks. Multiplied by the average weight of a Thanksgiving bird (15 lbs.), and divided by the population, this figure equates to 2.4 pounds of turkey being consumed by every individual age nine or older. In comparison, the suggested daily-intake for the average adult male is 2,500 calories, or less than one pound. According to author Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, the vice of gluttony can be avoided this year. But, first this temptation must be correctly understood.
“If there’s anything simple about gluttony, it is its focus on pleasure,” DeYoung says in her book “Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies”. “Gluttony is really not about how much we’re eating, but about how much pleasure we take in eating food and why.”
In her book, DeYoung details five major types of gluttony. Each variation of how one might eat gluttonously makes up a letter of the acronym F.R.E.S.H. – fastidiously, ravenously, excessively, sumptuously, and hastily. Eating excessively is the first one thought of in regards to Thanksgiving.
“The excessive overeater is one who will eat past the point of fullness for the sake of indulging her tastes,” DeYoung says. “Although this type of glutton does not intend harm to her body, she is willing to risk or overlook the consequences in order to have more pleasure.”
The temptations to eat ravenously and hastily often accompany the temptation of overindulgence, forming a trio of unhealthy eating habits.
“My children use the term ‘shoveling’ for someone who eats too quickly, too greedily, and too much all at once,” DeYoung says. “The shoveler offers us a living picture of the verse, ‘All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is never satisfied’ (Eccles. 6:7).”
The parallel between the “shoveler” and many families on Thanksgiving Day, for DeYoung at least, speaks to the divine design of humans.
“There is something sad and a little pathetic about these last three forms of gluttony,” DeYoung says. “It’s a bit undignified to find the type of creature God created as the crown of his creation sitting hunched over a plate of food, mouth overstuffed, shoveling more in as if he can never get enough. But that’s the point of reflecting on what sort of creature we are. Because we are human, the pleasure of food can never completely satisfy.”
By understanding the nature of gluttony, the problem of gluttony can be summed in two points.
“First, bodily cravings never have anything but temporary satisfaction,” DeYoung says. “Second, as human beings, we are more than just material beings. Satisfying our desire for the pleasure of eating doesn’t ‘fill up’ the whole person. Our spiritual desires are left empty.”
A strong proponent of self-control and moderation, Saint Augustine of Hippo expresses a thought DeYoung finds relevant to the problem she describes.
“Virtuous people avail themselves of the things of this life with the moderation of a user, not the attachment of a lover,” Augustine says.
For Augustine, the things of this life encompassed any physical need or pleasure. Incidentally, both categories apply to food. So how does one resist the urge to glut when eating is a necessity?
“Our eating should be regulated not only by what is physically necessary for life and health,” DeYoung says. “but also for what is ‘becoming’ or ‘befitting’ all that God calls us to be and do, and for those with whom we live out that calling. What really matters is that whatever and whenever we eat, we not be so overly attached to the pleasure that we cannot easily and uncomplainingly choose to give up when duty or necessity requires this.”
For DeYoung, this year Nov. 23 represents an opportunity to demonstrate self-restraint and a true sense of thanksgiving to the Creator of the 46 million turkeys being consumed.
Many Christians expect the life of following Jesus to be simple, easy and a connection with Christ that is unswayable. The truth is, it’s hard, full of faith, trust and struggles. Many people may wonder how can I suffer when I am a Christ follower. In the Bible, it never says life will be easy. Instead, many of the people who loved Jesus the most suffered a lot.
For example, take Acts 16:16-40. This chapter is about Paul and Silas being thrown in prison. Paul wrote about Jesus and many books of the Bible. He admired Christ and loved him. In these verses, a girl was following the two men around yelling “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” This went on for days. Paul was tired and annoyed so he turned around and cast the spirit out of her. For that reason right there, both Paul and Silas were thrown into prison. The good news is, Paul and Silas never lost sight of their faith and Christ set them free from prison. Now, this might not look like suffering to us nowadays, but it definitely was. Today many people suffer with money, friendships, parents, jobs, school, suicide, heartbreaks and many other things. Suffering can control us at times, we can let our circumstances change us and our beliefs.
Your question may still remain, why do we have to suffer if we know Christ loves us? In James 1:2-4, we can see a reason directly from Christ on why we suffer. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The first sentence of this verse may throw you off a little bit.
“Count it all a joy.”
What? A joy? That doesn’t make sense. Who wants to be joyful when they are going through something hard. God tells us when we go through hard times, it’s because God is testing our faith so it becomes stronger. It is so easy to lose all faith in God when something bad happens. As humans, we are the first ones to run to our friends and talk about what bad thing is happening in our life, when in reality we should be running towards Jesus for prayer.
What does “steadfast” mean? According to dictionary.com it means “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering. So, let’s rewind a little. Basically, God is telling us to have joy even when we are having a bad day or going through a time of suffering. When we suffer, God is testing our faith. But He doesn’t just want a low level of faith, he wants a faith that is unwavering or grounded. When we are SUFFERING God is making our faith UNWAVERING. This does bring Joy. Christ wants us so grounded that when anything comes our way, we know that our faith can withstand anything. The last part of the verse says we will be complete, lacking in nothing. A life time of struggles and pain will bring us perfectness and being complete because our faith is so strong not a single worry comes to mind.
This past year I had a testing of my faith. I was having really bad back pain, and it seemed like no one knew what was wrong. I run cross country and track here at OBU, so you can imagine, I was pulled from running. This was the first thing I began to struggle with. I desired to run, but it seemed like it was pulled away from me. As the months went on, the pain became more present in my day-to-day life, sitting, standing, bending down and more. As the school year came to an end, I was in so much pain and didn’t understand what I did wrong to deserve this. In late July, I was told I would be needing major back surgery in August. As an 18 year old I was terrified.
What teenager has to have major back surgery? I was worried and scared.
What if I couldn’t run again? What if it went wrong and I couldn’t even walk?
Those were just a few of the many worries I had. Now, three months post-surgery, I am doing better than expected. I was released to do low-level activities a month and a half earlier than expected. I’m not saying by no means this was easy. During this time, I had a big wake up moment from God.
First, I realized this talent I had was from God and He can take that away if He wants. I was reminded that even if I lose everything, at least I still have my faith. As I meditated on this, I put the things I was worrying with in the “blank…” even if I lose running, walking, school, health and many other things, I know my faith still remains in Him. None of those things are my identity, but instead my identity lays in the name of Christ.
Paul and Silas remanded in Christ and they were freed. God will always show himself in your darkest moments if you allow him too. Sometimes all it takes is a little growing of faith. This past summer my faith has grown even more, and I learned so much. If I had the opportunity to be healthy and never have gone through the surgery and the trials… I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. When you come out of the dark trial and see where you started, you can’t help but have a smile on your face because your steadfast faith is one step closer to being completed and perfect. It takes strong Christians to lead this world in love, wisdom, faith and trust. Next time you struggle with something in life, remember your one step closer to being the person that God is wanting you to be.
Three church campus locations, thousands of members and 100 years later, Immanuel Baptist Church of Shawnee still stands as a testimony of God’s faithfulness.
IBC will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary as a church with three special services this Nov. 18 and 19.
Associate Pastor Mark Wright has served at IBC for 19 years – he served as music minister starting in 1998 and continued for 10 years until he transitioned to the position of associate pastor in 2009.
“I look back and see how God has worked through all the years that I’ve been here,” Wright said. “[IBC is] just a great church [and] I love it. It’s the longest place I’ve ever served and I’m grateful to have been a part of what’s going on here at Immanuel.”
It is no simple task for a church to thrive for 100 years, and Senior Pastor Dr. Todd Fisher has pastored IBC for the last 14 years.
“One of the most encouraging things is that for a hundred years, God has seen this church through a lot of thick and thin, a lot of things that have gone on in the world, things that have happened in the church that were great and some that weren’t so great,” Fisher said.
Not every church meets such a milestone, but the leaders at IBC can’t pinpoint exactly what makes this church so long-lasting.
“I would like to believe that Immanuel’s health and success – however, you want to define that – has been because we’ve been faithful to the word of God and faithful to the mission of sharing the Gospel and wanting to reach people. Now we haven’t always done that perfectly by any means, but I think that we are here and we’re in the position that we’re in and the strength and the health of our church because of our faithfulness to the Word.”
Wright said that IBC focuses on many aspects in the church and not one big special thing.
“I think that’s probably the one thing that’s helped us maintain consistency through all the years, to help people to be able to serve the Lord,” he said.
“Whatever their gifts and talents and whatever they feel God has led them to, they can come here and get plugged in and I think that makes us, if we are unique, I guess that’s probably what it is. We’re trying to be all things to all people and that doesn’t always work out, but as best as we can we try to make that happen.”
IBC also takes care to focus on more than the Shawnee community. The church has held mission trips in places across the country, such as Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota, and also around the world, such as in Peru.
“Our missions emphasis here [is] a very important part of our church, kind of the DNA of our church,” Fisher said.
“We’ve got a lot of mission partnerships all over the world and we’ve been blessed to have a number of people that were in our church leave our church and go serve in the IMB in different places around the world. Wherever they have gone out, we’ve tried to partner with them and go out. Missions is a very important thing for us and it gives people a great opportunity to get involved in missions as well.”
For Wright, the missions-minded focus of the church is the main reason he has continued to serve at IBC for so long.
“I hope we continue with the same kind of focus toward missions and reaching people, whether it be in this location or some other location.”
A brief church history
In 1917, members of Shawnee First Baptist Church had a dream to plant another church in order to reach more people with the Gospel and to establish a mission church on the east side of Shawnee.
Sept. 16, 1917, on the corner of 10th and Draper Street, 77 people met to form the Draper Street Baptist Church. Two years later, the church had continued to grow and voted to expand facilities, and only one year after that, a second expansion was necessary because of the increasing size of the congregation.
They realized in 1927 that they needed a new building, because each Sunday service, about 600 people crammed into a church that would only fit 300. In 1928, the church purchased a property on Main Street and begin building.
Construction continued until 1929 when the Great Depression hit, and several members of the church put a second mortgage on their home to complete construction.
Despite the hardships of the Depression, the church construction was completed in 1929 and renamed as Immanuel Baptist Church on February 6 of the same year.
The church continued to thrive throughout the Great Depression and WWII. The growth of IBC was constant – so much so that they even had to turn people away because they would not fit inside the church building.
A decision was made to move from Main Street after so many years, from the green carpet and roof with leaks, to a new campus with a new building. They needed to raise $170, 000 and exceeded it in one day, reaching $193,000 in order to purchase the land for the new building. It was built in phases to encourage good stewardship and to keep the focus on the people of the church instead of the building.
The first Sunday in the new building was March 30, 2008. In 2009 came the decision to begin a third worship service because of such high attendance. Now, four services are held each Sunday to accommodate large the population of the church.
“It’s not about the building, it’s not about the fact that we’re in this location,” Wright said. It’s about [continuing] the same kind of focus of encouraging people and putting our emphasis on transformation of lives.”
As a marker of 100 years, Dr. John Nichols, a former OBU professor, has written a book: “Immanuel Baptist Church 100 Year History.”
100 Year Celebration Services
At 6:00 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, current members and staff, former staff, former pastors, music ministers and past members will come from out of town that haven’t been back to Shawnee or Immanuel for years.
Held at the main campus of IBC (1451 E. 45th Street Shawnee OK, 74804), there will be a time to share stories from the past and to look at historical displays.
“They’re planning on being here and sharing, kind of like the old homecomings they used to have back in the days, where they used to sit around, sing [and] have dinner on the grounds,” Wright said.
“It’s going be fun – a great opportunity for people to reminisce, talk about the old times, and see folks they haven’t seen in years and worship together and celebrate a great day.”
The Sunday morning service, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 19, will be held in OBU’s Raley Chapel, in order to allow such a large gathering of people. Instead of IBC’s normal four services, there will be one combined service.
There will be congregational singing together with worship band, choir, orchestra and acapella group “This Hope.” There will also be a showing of the 100 Year Celebration Documentary and a spoken message from Fisher as a celebration God’s work in the church.
Sunday night will be a night of worship together with the band “This Hope”. According to IBC’s website, attendees are invited to bring the whole family as they finish up a weekend of celebration with worship. For more information about the 100 Year Anniversary services, go to http://ibcshawnee.org/100-year-anniversary.
For OBU students looking for a church home, the 100 year anniversary celebration is an opportunity to see the impact of one church on Shawnee.
“Some students come to OBU and kind of don’t get plugged in and get so busy in their studies, but the church life is all part of your growth as a Christian,” Wright said. “Just get plugged in wherever that is, and it’s great, we’d love to have them.”
Fisher is an OBU alumnus and has faced some of the same struggles as students today.
“I know it’s easy when you get away from home and you’ve got the pressures and demands of college on you and that schedule, it’s easy to sleep in on Sunday morning or to not get involved or plugged in,” Fisher said.
“We have a good relationship with OBU, and that’s what I would want students to know: that this is a place where they can get plugged in, find a place to serve and continue to grow while they’re [attending college].”
With 100 years behind them, Immanuel looks to the future of the church as well.
“Moving into the future, we’re [going to] have to… stay faithful to our mission, to the mission God’s given us in the Word, the Great Commission and keep teaching the Gospel and trying to adapt as the world changes without changing the message,” Fisher said.
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, will speak at chapel on Bison Hill today at 10 a.m. after years of being sought out by Spiritual Life administration. Platt’s visit highlighted the overall missional purpose of the university, present and past.
Platt’s most direct influence on many students comes from his 2010 book “Radial.” Associate professor of applied ministry Dr. Scott Pace even incorporates Platt’s book into his curriculum for vocation and calling.
“I believe “Radical” serves as an introduction to a proper understanding of missions as a natural byproduct of faithful obedience to Christ,” Pace said. “Because of OBU’s commitment to mobilizing students in global outreach initiatives, it is a helpful tool that clarifies and compliments our efforts.”
Freshman pastoral ministries major Collyn Dixon, currently in Pace’s vocation and calling class, got a better understanding of Platt’s motivations after reading “Radical” recently.
“I understand that he is incredibly heavy on going out into the world to share the gospel,” Dixon said. “With not just America, but with all the nations, the ones that are poor and in dire need of the gospel.”
For Pace, the overarching chapel topic this semester, ‘following Christ’, represents a point Platt and OBU agree on closely.
“I believe Platt’s view and OBU’s perspective of ‘following Christ’ parallel each other because they are both founded on the Biblical mandate of Christ for his followers,” Pace said. “When you consider the core of OBU’s mission – integrating faith with all areas of knowledge, engaging a diverse world, and living worthy of the high calling of Christ – it’s easy to recognize our commitment to train students to fulfill their calling is, in reality, not radical Christianity, it’s real Christianity.”
Despite his mission-oriented focus, Platt has come under some scrutiny during his time as president of the IMB due to the fact that he’s never had experience as a long term missionary. However, Pace is slower to criticize him for this.
“While I believe there are certain aspects of a career missionary’s work that are particularly understood by those who serve in that capacity, Platt’s vision for reaching the nations and his leadership of the IMB cannot be limited to any one ‘type’ of missions perspective,” Pace said. “I believe his extensive international-missions experience, his teachable and cooperative spirit, along with his successful ministry as a mobilizing pastor, uniquely positions him to lead SBC churches in sending, supporting, and serving missionaries to engage the world with the gospel of Christ.”
Platt’s visit not only highlighted OBU’s contemporary goal to “engage a diverse world,” but also served as an opportunity to remember OBU’s past.
“Our thought continues to be, we want IMB representation on our campus because of the history of OBU and missions,” Dean Dale Griffin said. “When we were founded, we were founded by two Baptist mission organizations. They were focused on being in Oklahoma to reach people for the gospel.”
The two organizations would come together and form the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma in 1907, the same year Oklahoma would become admitted to the union. One group walked from the then-First Baptist Church, now Stubblefield Chapel, to a since-burned down opera house where the second group met.
“Their first decision, as a convention, was to create an education commission,” Griffin said. “Their purpose was to research and prepare the way for a Baptist university in their state. So, they united, became one, and formed one Baptist university.”
OBU, originally the Baptist University of Oklahoma, has maintained the mission-oriented goal of its founders in many ways. One has been its close partnership with the IMB as the top supplying university of graduated students in past years. Whether or not that status is maintained this year, OBU’s devotion to missions will remain at the forefront just as it is for Platt.
November is known for the Thanksgiving holiday, but many people overlook the second holiday found in November, Veterans Day. This day is just as special as Thanksgiving. It is a time where we get to thank and support those who served, died and are still serving our country. Because of these brave men and women, we have freedom.
OBU has many veterans, one in particular is Dr. Randy Ridenour. He served as Chaplain (Major) in the United States Army.
“I served in the United States Army, a combination of active duty and reserve for 34 years. I was stationed in Georgia, Germany, Texas, Oklahoma, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” Ridenour said.
As people serve in the Military, they sacrifice a lot more than just their lives.
“Leaving home was never easy — I was gone for three years in one ten-year period”, Ridenour said. “I was always concerned about missing important things in my daughter’s life, and leaving my wife with the responsibility and burden of being a single parent. My daughter was engaged when I received orders for Afghanistan. The possibility of me not being there for the wedding was devastating for her (fortunately, I was able to come for the wedding).”
While being surrounded by things that could be scary or harmful, Ridenour was taught multiple important lesson.
“My time in the military gave me an anxiety about punctuality, an aversion to standing in lines, and the knowledge that no matter how bad things seem to be, they could always be worse. More importantly, I learned from experience the deep truth of John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Every situation has its hardships and good times. Sometimes it just depends on which one you focus more on.
“The primary hardships of deployment were being away from family, and losing friends who died in combat. The most difficult task that I had to do was to be there for ministry when a family was notified of a soldier’s death,” Ridenour said. “[Also], I learned that there are wonderful people in every culture. I developed friendships with people that I know I could count on for anything at any time. I learned that God can not only sustain us, but grant us the strength to do things that we never dared dream that we could do.”
Serving in the military comes with things that can’t always be controlled or expected; however, Ridenour still finds a way to look for Christ in the moment.
“It’s difficult to think of Christ being in control when an IED has just exploded, when the base is being bombarded with a rocket attack, or when a soldier has died. I preferred to think, not so much as God being in control, but that even these times could be redeemed by the grace and love of God,” Ridenour said.
Scripture can have an effect and bring encouragement to a time of need.
“There were many times when I doubted that I would be able to do what had to be done. During those times, I would meditate on Isaiah 41:8-10, a promise that God will strengthen and uphold his people,” Ridenour said.
Just as the season of summer changes to fall and fall changes to winter, there are new seasons of life for the Professor as he has officially been out of the military for five months now.
“My goal, as a professor at OBU, is to get students to develop the ability to think hard about some very difficult subjects. The world is facing some incredibly difficult problems now, and I believe our future well-being will require a generation of Christians who are willing to face those difficult problems and develop creative solutions to them,” Ridenour said.
As transitions can sometimes be a little hard, the saying “Army strong” was never an understatement.
“In my case, there were several transitions. I would take a year off from OBU for a deployment, come back for a few years, then deploy again… It was always a little difficult to just step back into normal life after I returned,” Ridenour said.
As Ridenour has a special opportunity this Veterans Day to preach during chapel at a school in Louisiana, he also shares he’s heart on how Veterans Day has an impact on him.
“I do appreciate people taking notice of veterans on the Veterans Day holiday. Honestly, though, I sometimes see it as a token day on which people can pay lip-service to veterans. Instead, I would prefer that people would financially support organizations that attempt to reduce homelessness and unemployment among veterans,” Ridenour said. “Military family members don’t get their own holiday, but in many ways, the children, spouses, and parents of members of the military are the ones making sacrifices that are rarely noticed. This year for Veterans Day, make a special effort to reach out, not just to veteran, but to that veteran’s family, and acknowledge the burden that they have had to bear.”
There are 195 countries, 7 continents, 7 seas, estimated about 6,909 languages, roughly 4,200 religions, and somewhere between 11,500 and 16,000 different people groups in this world. It’s crazy to think about how you and I are just one of billions of people on this earth. We won’t even know a fourth of the people in this world during our lifetime. According to the Ecology Global Network, there are four births and two death each second of the day. When this is added up, there are around 360,000 births per day and around 151,600 deaths per day.
Now that you understand just how small we are, you must also understand two things. First, God’s creation and second, our calling.
Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet you, Lord, are our father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
In this verse, we are immediately shown that we are made in God’s image. We are hand-made, perfectly. Everyone looks different and has different personality but God chose these special things specifically for us. We were not made the same. Out of all the billions of people in this world, there is no one like you. Imagine a world full of you. The person sitting next to you looked and acted just like you do.
In my opinion, it would be very hard for me to believe in a God who didn’t even love us enough to make me different from the people I’m surrounded with. That in itself shows just how much Christ loves you.
This leads into the next point: our calling. As Christians, we are called to be missionaries. Whether that is using your calling down the street or traveling around the world. From the first paragraph, one can see just how many people are in this world. Many are dying every day and even more are coming into the world. As Christians, this should scare us more than anything. We are failing our calling by the day. When those people die in one day, what are the chances all of them are Christians? What are the chances that they all will go to heaven? What are the chances they have even heard the Gospel? It is time to wake up and face the facts. No, we “can’t wait until the time is right” or “share the Gospel another time just not right now.”
I am just as guilty when it comes to being scared and afraid to go share with someone, but that’s not an excuse for someone’s eternal life to be hell. This world is all about life and death. It’s a never-ending cycle. We don’t know who is going to die next, but take a step of faith and trust that Christ will give you the words to say.
The opposite of death is birth.
Every day, new humans are brought into this world. Yes, they are too young to understand the Gospel, (give them a couple days and then they might understand) but this is where being a godly example comes into play. Not every child has a chance of growing up in a Christian home, but there should be people out in the world that can lead by the example that Christ has given us.
1 Timothy 4:12 says, “let no one despise you because you are a youth, but set the believers an example in your speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”
If you get the opportunity to be an example and mentor to a student or child, don’t let yourself pass it up. You never know what God will teach them but also teach you. He has a mysterious way of working in people’s lives, even if they think they are helping someone else.
If every believer takes a stand and is determined to share the gospel every day, whether that’s showing love, sharing your testimony or just helping someone understand what and who Jesus Christ is, maybe the number of people who are dying unsaved will decrease. His love for us is never ending and unconditional. Be strong and remember that we may not get appreciation here on earth, but Heaven is where we will hear the words “good job my good and faithful servant.”
Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Though produced in 2011, John Piper’s video testimony regarding his personal battle against racism still offers insights to families seeking to address the topic from a Christian worldview amidst today’s political and social atmosphere.
“One of the great sorrows of my life, and one of the reasons I love the gospel of Jesus so much is because I grew up in this home as a full-blooded racist,” Piper said in the video’s opening statement.
Piper grew up in Greenville, South Carolina in the 1950s and 60s during the height of Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful protests. In 1952, the Supreme Court legally ended segregation in public schools through the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, but the decision was not administered with “all deliberate speed” by many states.
“Separation was as deep as you could imagine, and it was demeaningly deep,” Piper said. “I grew up in it with approval. I didn’t look upon it with indignation. I looked upon it as the way that things should be, in spite of the fact that I grew up in a Christian home.”
Though racists, Piper recalls reminiscently that his family had consistent interactions with at least one black American woman, their maid Lucy.
“We all loved Lucy, but it was relationally so dysfunctional,” Piper said. “She was just a presence of another kind.”
The inconsistencies of racism in a Christian home showed themselves blatantly to Piper through the institution of marriage. The first occurrence he relates occurred in 1962 on his sister’s wedding day. Acting as an usher, Piper was responsible for seating Lucy and her family when they arrived.
“There weren’t any blacks at this church, and in fact, there was a tacit assumption, and later an explicit statement, that blacks wouldn’t be welcome,” Piper said.
Piper was instructed to lead Lucy and her family to the balcony seating, but his mother, Ruth, stepped in and led them by the arm into the sanctuary.
“Into my life were flowing these contradictory impulses,” Piper said. “I saw my mother intervening against a system at that point which was going to further demean Lucy and her family, and so that was sinking down in.”
It was after this encounter that Piper consciously recognized what hampered his belief in racial integration.
“The thought came to me, and I forget where it came from, or who sowed it in my mind, but it was, ‘Red birds mate with red birds, and blue birds mate with blue birds, so why can’t blacks marry their own and whites marry their own?” Piper said. “‘Why is there this pressure to be together?’ Because in those days, whether people articulated it or not, and it’s true today as well in many places, togetherness meant, ‘Your kids are going to start liking each other, and one of them is going to fall in love with the other, and they’re going to marry’. That was the deepest justification in my sinful mind for all kinds of segregation.”
While at the 1967 Urbana Missions Conference during his time as a student at Wheaton College, Piper’s view of marriage had changed, and he accepted his earlier realization that at the root of racial tension were marriage and the family.
“They actually did a Q and A for 9,000 students in the audience, and somebody stood up and said, ‘Now, you were a missionary in Pakistan. What if your daughter had fallen in love with a Pakistani? How would you feel about her marrying a Pakistani?’ [Warren Webster] said, “Better a Pakistani Christian than a rich, white, American banker.’ And I thought at the moment, ‘That is exactly the right answer’.”
From Wheaton, Piper and his wife, Noël, moved to California so he could attend Fuller Theological Seminary. While there, he was given the chance to explore his convictions regarding race and marriage further in an end-of-term essay.
“I concluded God does not, in his family, disapprove of interracial marriage. In fact, I argued, and I’ve preached on it since then, I think God blesses interracial marriage,” Piper said. “I severed the root of that old issue of interracial marriage which felt, as a teenager, like it was at the bottom of so much segregation.”
Following his time at Fuller, Piper would vividly experience the life of an outsider while he earned a PhD in Munich, Germany in two ways. He struggled heavily with not speaking the language and also visited the Nazi camp Dachau. In 1980, after his graduate studies were completed, Piper felt God calling him to the pastorate.
“The first church to contact me was Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis,” Piper said. “I’d never been there. I didn’t know where it was, even though it was just eight miles from where I lived in New Brighton. I got in my car and I said, ‘I’m going to go see where this church is so that I can wonder if I should even consider going there.”
Upon visiting for the first time, Piper found the church to be situated in an area marked by diversity.
“To the west was the high rise, the ritzy downtown hotels and business people, and to the north was kind of a light industrial Valspar paint company. To the east was the university, 50,000 college students just across the highway, and to the south, Phillip’s neighborhood, Elliot Park neighborhood – the poorest neighborhoods in the city. And I thought, ‘This is gold’.”
Piper dove in, deciding that if he was to serve there, he would also settle his family there amongst the ethnic and racial diversity which had become a cornerstone of his mission. In 1996, Piper’s family dynamic reached a culmination in his battle against racism; he and Ruth adopted a newborn black girl named Talitha.
“God did a remarkable work in us,” Piper said. “He taught me this, ‘If you act consistently with your convictions about interracial marriage and the nobility and beauty of diversity, this choice would commit you to this issue till you’re dead.’ And that swung it for me, those three things: love for my wife, love for this little girl, and love for the cause – the cause of Christ-exalting racial harmony and racial diversity.”