Barnabas Piper, Son of John Piper, Shares Honest Insights About Growing Up as a Pastor’s Kid In New Book

Barnabas Piper, John Piper (
Barnabas Piper, John Piper (

Barnabas Piper is the son of famed pastor John Piper, but he wants you to know he’s more than that. In his provocative new book, “The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity,” he shares honest insights from his childhood. So honest, in fact, that John Piper writes in the book’s foreword:

You will ask, “Was it painful for me to read this book?” The answer is yes…First, it exposes sins and weaknesses and imperfections in me. Second, it is not always clear which of its criticisms attach to me and the church I love. Third, this is my son, and he is writing out of his own sorrows.

Here, Barnabas discusses the false intimacy he experienced growing up, what he thought of his brother’s excommunication, and the role his mother played in the household.

RNS: You say that growing up the son of a well-known pastor was like “being a sinner on display.” What is the worst sin you got caught in? Any arrests or pregnancies?

BP: I was a pretty good kid growing up, at least in terms of illegal activity and the like. The big things I got in trouble for were mainly being argumentative–with everyone–and lying. I got myself in some sticky spots both ways. My biggest struggles came after I moved out of the house when the little lies of childhood stopped being so little.

RNS: You describe how pastors’ kids often experience a “false intimacy.” What did this look like for you? Do you still struggle with this?

BP: I thought I was close to God because I knew all the answers. I could answer every question small group leaders or youth pastors threw at me about relationship with God. But I had fooled myself into thinking that was the same as relationship with Jesus. I still struggle with this to a degree. The difference is that now I have a relationship with Christ, so those hollow or dry aspects of knowing God are easier to spot and repair or repent of.

RNS: Did you experience pressure to follow your dad in ministry?

BP: Yes and no. My parents never pushed me a particular direction, but I picked up a sort of tacit understanding of vocational ministry as a higher calling. I’m not sure if it was from them or just the way the church taught–or didn’t teach–about gifts and vocation.

RNS: What was the biggest negative you experienced growing up in the Piper household? Greatest positive?

BP: The biggest negative was not connecting with God in a personal way. My dad’s view of, and relationship with, God is so big and so powerful that it looked like the only way to come to God. But it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I was out of college and things kind of fell apart for me that I encountered God’s grace and the person of Jesus in a profound way on my own.

There were lots of positives too. The biggest one is that my parents loved me and have always been there for me.

RNS: What is one thing people would be shocked to learn about the Piper household?

BP: Depends on who you ask. Those who are huge fans might be surprised to know that our family has a lot of tensions and quirks. We have dysfunction and conflict. We don’t always get along very well. It’s not the idyllic repository of peace and knowledge they might have painted a picture of in their heads.

Those who see him as a heavy-handed fire breather would be surprised to know that he loves movies like “What About Bob” and is fiercely competitive. He even got a yellow card for berating referee at one of my brothers’ soccer games one time.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Religion News Service
Jonathan Merritt

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