Episodes of theologian John Piper's podcast "Ask Pastor John" have been played 100 million times over the last five-and-a-half years, and just one episode, on whether oral sex is okay, has been played more than 1.5 million times.
Since the podcast began on Jan. 7, 2013, 16 of the roughly 1,300 episodes have reached the 300,000-play benchmark, according to the desiringGod.org blog, which hosts the podcast.
Piper said while the numbers are "encouraging," he believes "the emotional impact of one personal testimony face to face is greater than the numbers."
He added, "APJ is just part of a constellation of influences people receive from Desiring God, but it is one that people mention to me as much as any other."
With 1,570,100 plays, episode 400, titled "Is Oral Sex Okay?" published in August 2014, became the most popular.
"I think it is wrong outside marriage. … Oral sex is even more intimate and delicate, it seems, than copulation. And we know this because even married couples are wondering if they should go there. It is as if it is a stage of intimacy that may not even be proper for married people," explained Piper at the time. "To think it can be an innocent substitute for copulation so people can obey the letter of the law outside marriage is a mirage."
Citing Proverbs 5:19 and Song of Solomon 7:7–8, Piper suggested that oral sex is not unnatural. "Even though there is very little anatomical correlation between a man's hands or his lips and his wife's breasts, it surely seems to be, quote, natural, in another way, namely built in delight and desire that God in His Word seems to commend for our marital enjoyment. So I ask: Well, might there be similar desires for oral sex or other kinds of sex? So I doubt that we should put a limit on a married couple based on the claim of it being unnatural. That is risky, but that is where I come down on the naturalness of it."
The other top nine episodes are the following:
2. "John Piper's Funeral Prayer for a Family of Five," published in August 2016, has been played 798,300 times.
It was written in response to the death of an entire family, including their small children, in a road accident months before they were to go to Japan as missionaries. Piper was asked to deliver the pastoral prayer at their funeral, which was featured in this episode.
3. The episode "Should Children Sit Through 'Big Church"? was published in August 2016 and listened to 442,900 times.
"… Our arguments for bringing children to worship, of course, will only carry weight with parents who really love that, who really love to meet God in worship and really want their kids to get that and grow up breathing that air," Piper said, responding to the question. "The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is parents who don't cherish doing that worship. They don't love it."
4. "Can a Born-Again Christian Lose Salvation?" published in May 2013 has been played 389,100 times.
"The answer to that question biblically is a resounding, clear, emphatic, joyful, glorious no," the theologian said. "A born-again person cannot become dead, cannot be unborn again."
However, he cautioned that if "perseverance doesn't hold, then we were never in the assurance." He added, "The assurance, therefore, is not automatic. It is assurance rooted in our confidence in an absolutely sovereign, covenant-keeping God who gave his Son on behalf of sinners so that as we look to him, the Holy Spirit testifies to us that we are the children of God."
5. An episode titled, "When Worship Lyrics Miss the Mark," released in August 2017 has been played 384,600 times.
"I commend every worship team to be vigilant over the lyrics of what their people are singing," Piper said. "There's a thread of teaching in some songs today that seems, to me, to lack the gravity of God's passion for the glory of God above all things," he added.
6. "Has My Sexual Sin Made Me Unsavable?" published in February 2016 has been listened to 369,300 times.
Piper said the man who asked the question while pleading helplessness "should pick up his drooping hands, strengthen his weak knees, make his paths straight, and shout at the top of his lungs if necessary with clenched fists and gritted teeth in the face of Satan's lie: I am not helpless. God did not make me to drift. I am not a jellyfish in the currents of lust. That is not what God created human beings to be. That is not why Christ died for me. That is not why I have the Holy Spirit. That is not why I am a new creature in Christ. I am not helpless."
7. The episode on "Bikinis and Modesty" published in June 2016 has received 367,900 listens.
The question was about the issue of modesty regarding clothing at the pool — especially bikinis. So Piper said we should never start with the rules or the guidelines, but "with God and the Gospel and the Bible and the Spirit and faith and joy."
He added, "You preach and you pray for a Gospel-culture where men and women have — and I have got a little list here that, once you hear it, you know it is going to change the way people dress, whether it is in the swimming pool or in church — a sweet submission to Christ, a saturation with the word of God, a humble attentiveness to the wisdom of others, a desire to grow and learn, a deep suspicion of the power of worldliness to control our habits, and a loving consideration of others when we choose what we wear."
8. "God's Sovereign Plans Behind Your Most Unproductive Days" published in March 2018 has been listened to 355,700 times.
Piper said God's priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours. He added that he wants everyone to know that not "so that they can get more done, but so that they do what they do in the right spirit. That's preface over everything I have to say."
9. Episode "I Slept with My Girlfriend — Now What?" published in March 2016 has been listened to 353,600 times.
"Both need to own completely their own fault in this and both, indeed, are at fault in this," Piper said. "And both need to be willing to confess their part in this even at the risk of the other person taking advantage of them and putting more blame on them than they should have."
10. The episode with the question "Is Yoga Sinful?" published in July 2015 has received 343,500 listens.
"Christians have a radically different worldview than either of these — the view shaped by yoga or the view shaped by tai chi. Our approach toward history and toward God and toward well-being is radically different," Piper explained.