CP: In the Christian world, we often see the children of renowned or famous leaders following in the footsteps of their parents. (For instance, Jerry Falwell Jr. is the Chancellor of Liberty University, which his father founded.) What are your thoughts on the platform that children have because of the prominent ministry leadership postitions their parent or parents may have? What are the benefits? Drawbacks? Dangers?
Piper: I can see why pastor's kids go completely different track. I don't mean that necessarily with their faith. They go into the arts. They go into business. They go into something that is their own thing. All three of my older brothers have gone that route. They're not in the public eye. I think that's good for them. I think the real question when it comes to anything you do, anything vocation-wise, it's a question of spiritual gifting. What has God gifted you to do? Unique talents? Are you pursuing the passions God has laid on your heart? For me, writing, especially to a Christian context is something that I look at and have a very hard time not doing that right now. There may come a time when that direction shifts but it is something that God has given me the ability to do. It's something I enjoy doing. And it's something that it seems like evidence bearing out that there is some fruit in it. People respond.
I have a brother who is a literature professor. He's not in the public eye, but he's really good at it. He is doing what God has given him gifts to do. "Platform" is a problem when you are pursuing it for selfish reasons or out of a sense of obligation: "This is what I was raised to do." No, everyone is raised, whether or not they know it, to honor God with what he was created them to be, not to be the next "whatever."
I'm not saying that Jerry Falwell's son, or whoever the people you mentioned are doing that. My hope and guess is that their hearts are in the right place, but there are plenty of people who pursue platform out of a sense of obligation or just out of a selfish pursuit of fame. For me, that's obviously a struggle for any person who writes publicly — you really like the pats on the back — but I really want what I write to be of significance to someone else. To help their lives. To help their soul. To help their faith. And if I hear that, that matters far more to me than fame. In fact, fame is a pain. That's another thing you learn growing up around someone with a platform. It's a nuisance.
CP: Were you ever an example in your father's stories?
Piper: Oh yes. He didn't do that often. He wasn't like a prolific storyteller type. He's more like a freight train cruising down the tracks at high speeds, but occasionally he would mix in a story. Two of his more prominent sermons, at least for a stretch, I don't know if people are still sharing these, ... He preached called "Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain," and he told a story of me getting my bike stolen. He preached another one and it involved me totaling my parents' car. So, one of those [stories] was probably when I was about 10 and he told it within a year or two later.The one about totaling the car was when I was about 17-years-old and I think he told that one at the Passion One Day Conference, and so that was the very first Passion event, 40,000 people, big event [not verified].
The effect of that is that I have complete strangers who will ask me questions about getting my bike stolen or whatever. "I'm like, that was 35 years ago." I barely remember the fact of it, but they just have this sense of "We know something of you, this personal anecdote, so we're friends. We're buddies."
CP: Is that obnoxious?
Piper: It can be. Generally speaking if someone comes up and asks personal questions that they wouldn't ask to anybody else, there's a level of obnoxious there. I don't think people are doing it on purpose. There's not a lot of people out there who are intentionally being annoying or doing anything malicious. They're just not thinking about how it comes across and they're not thinking about how they are one of 1,000 people to ask the same question.
I'm pretty sure I've done the same to people before. It's hard not to. I catch myself doing the same thing. I heard an interview with an actor from "Office Space," the actor who played the guy named Bill Lumbergh who's the terrible manager who's very quotable. One of the interviewers was like "How many times a week does someone shout an 'Office Space' quote at you?" The guy just started laughing and he was like "I don't know. Every day." So, it's like that but just on a smaller scale. It's hard not to do that because you just associate certain people with certain things, whether if it's a seminal quote or a story you heard about that. What's a little bit different is if you're a pastor's kid is we're not the ones who told the story. We're kind of a passive bystander, where something was shared about us and then people come up and ask us about it, which is a little bit of a different context than if you perform and someone comes up and mentions your performance.