Well-known evangelical preacher John Piper announced Sunday that he will be taking his first-ever break from ministry to reexamine his soul.
The long-time preacher apologized to his congregation for not a specific deed but for the "sins of my own soul," "ongoing character flaws" and stresses that they have caused to others.
"I see several species of pride," Piper told Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. "They may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry. Nevertheless, while I don't think they do, I grieve over them."
Piper, who is considered one of the most influential preachers among Protestant pastors, made the announcement after preaching about Jesus Christ and the cross he beared. It was the first of four final sermons before his eight-month leave from the church and ministry.
In the 30 years he has been preaching, Piper said he has never let go of his passion for public productivity – ever. That is, until now.
"In this moment (the leave of absence), I'm letting go of all of it," he said.
That means no preaching, no book writing, no blogging, no tweeting, no articles, no papers and no speaking engagements – with a few exceptions that his wife, Noel, agreed to.
"One of the goals of fasting," he noted, "is to determine levels of addiction or, as Paul Tripp of Tim Keller would say, levels of idolatry."
"The reality check is what will happen to John Piper's soul ... and to my marriage ... and to my future ... when there will be no prideful sipping from the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety," the 64-year-old preacher said. "I need to find that out and I don't know any other way to do it."
"I just want to preach so bad I can hardly stand it," he admitted. "I love what I do."
The break from ministry will also serve as a period for him to work on his marriage to his wife of 41 years.
The couple is "rock solid" in commitment to each other, he stressed, and there is "no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side." However, Piper said the term "rock solid" is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor.
"The precious garden of my home needs tending," he told his congregation.
"I want to say ... to you, Noel, that I want you to feel precious, precious over the ministry."
Piper's leave has been approved by the elders at Bethlehem Church, which currently has three campuses. The elders have also appointed a group to stay in touch and keep Piper accountable for the leave.
Though future plans are not certain, Piper said he hopes to return after the leave of absence to preach for at least five more years.
"My prayer and my high expectation is that these months will be a launching for a humble, happy, fruitful five years – I believe the best five years of 35 years and the best five married years of 46," he said.
Piper will be preaching three more times, including on Easter Sunday, before his leave.