Welcome back to the podcast. We have a special episode to close out the week. It’s an update. We are going to take a moment to look back and look ahead. And that is because our fiscal year comes to an end in twelve days, at the end of June. And it’s a good time to stop and look at God’s providence over the past year, thank him for his kindness, see what we can learn, and then to ponder our planning for the year to come, and particularly for your summer ahead, Pastor John. So, as we start, what would you want people to know?
Well, Tony, just right off the bat, my guess is that a lot of people wonder (at least I did) why we have a fiscal year, a financial year, that is different from our calendar year. That just seems to complicate things. It does for me when I try to think about this.
And one of the answers is this: December is far and away our biggest month of support from our donors. And the scope of that month’s giving shapes the planning for the future of what we’re able to do. And therefore, we can’t be doing the serious detailed planning in the very last month of the year, when that’s the month that is shaping the planning. So, it makes sense to me now, a little more than it used to, as to why we do it that way: so that we can formulate our goals for the fiscal year, starting in July, based on what we saw happen in December, and then in the beginning part of the year.
So, I think it’s good to begin with that kind of clarification of, Why in the world are you doing this in the middle of the summer?
That’s good. And it reminds us that so much of what we plan and pursue at Desiring God hangs on the amazing generosity of those who love this ministry. Pastor John and I feel the blessing of that, especially in doing this podcast week in and week out. We would not be doing APJ without your support. And so, we hope you rejoice with us as God continues to show his favor on us.
Year Like No Other
Speaking of his favor, we are nearing a huge benchmark we have had our eyes on for a few years now — huge for us, anyway — and that is 200 million all-time episode plays, 200 million episodes played over the course of our nine-year history. We are on pace to hit that benchmark sometime in late July, just weeks away — 200 million plays. Thank you to everyone who listens in a podcast app or in the APJ app or in YouTube. YouTube represents about 40 million of those plays alone, which is incredible to me!
That is weird. People go to YouTube to watch — no, they don’t. They don’t just watch; they listen.
Yeah, and they are listening right now. So thank you, YouTube audience, for listening through YouTube. And there are no signs of slowing down. We still get dozens of questions every day, and we continue to record and try to keep up with at least some of them. It’s a wonderful work that we do in partnership with our listeners and our donors. It has been a gift to us that APJ is the kind of ministry that is possible to pursue right through all the limitations that come in a pandemic. It has been a year like no other in our lifetime.
Right, especially here in Minneapolis. The effects of COVID-19 and the violence that we experienced, which was stirred up last summer because of the killing of George Floyd, these two realities have created kind of wartime mentality here in Minneapolis for the past year or so.
There never has been a time before when I would sit with my wife each evening, and she would read to me the casualty statistics of the pandemic in Minnesota. It’s as if we were sitting here in a war, and she’s reading me the statistics from the front lines of the war: “This many people infected. . . . This many people in intensive care. . . . This many people have died.”
“In the new fiscal year, Desiring God is going to pour a lot of energy into the global dimension of our ministry.”
During the German bombing of London in 1940 (I’m reading a book about this right now), there were austerity measures: “Black out your windows, so no light gets through to show the bombers where to drop the bombs. Drink your tea sparingly because you only get three ounces of rationing each week. Carry your gas mask to work.” And that’s the way it’s been with the pandemic: closed restaurants, closed theaters, closed schools, closed churches. And all the while here in Minneapolis, boarded up coffee shops two blocks from my house, and boarded up restaurants, and wondering where the next simmering unrest is going to break out.
So yes, it’s been an unusual year for everybody.
Plodding Through a Pandemic
But it sure hasn’t seemed to slow you down — or even slow the ministry down, at all.
No, in fact, if anything, I would say the pandemic increased my output. That’s just the nature of my job. If a pandemic says to me, “You have to stay inside, Piper,” that’s like a fox saying to a rabbit, “I have to throw you into the briar patch.” “Oh, no, no, please don’t throw me in the briar patch; that is where I live.”
Ironically, I say to the pandemic, “What a painful gift you have been to me. You said to me, ‘Stay there at your desk, Piper, and do your 252 Look at the Book episodes to finish the book of Ephesians.’” That was a gift to me. I loved finishing the book of Ephesians, the second greatest letter in the world. And we did 252 Look at the Book episodes on it. And then, “Stay there again, Piper, and get going on 1 Thessalonians.” And so, I’ve done — goodness — as we’re recording this, I’ve done about fifty more episodes on 1 Thessalonians.
And while you’re at it, “Stay there, and work with Crossway and Desiring God and Westminster Books to launch this big red book, Providence. And oh, while you’re at it in quarantine, take a couple of weeks and write a book on Coronavirus and Christ, and apply the doctrine of providence to that particular trouble.”
And then, from another angle of my life, it was a tremendous privilege and pleasure to teach preaching in the fall and the spring at Bethlehem College and Seminary. I think we only missed one class in person because of COVID. I love being in class with these future preachers. It is such a delight.
So no, COVID-19 has not slowed me down or slowed down Desiring God. The teaching team — with David Mathis, Jon Bloom, Marshall Segal, Greg Morse, Scott Hubbard, and Joe Rigney — they didn’t miss a beat in the steady stream of articles that they produced. And David finished his book called Humbled, which is supposed to be, I believe, out this fall.
God and Technology
And as far as I can tell, COVID didn’t slow you down. I believe you finished your book God, Technology, and the Christian Life. And I think our listeners would love to hear about that. What are you trying to do in that major book? And when can they look for it?
January is when it launches from our friends at Crossway Books. I’ve always wanted to write a big book on technology and really get into the weeds of genetic engineering, nuclear power, space travel, robotics, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, medical advances, and anti-aging innovations, which are really taking off now. I want to look at all of that and really ask, Where did all that come from? And does it all violate what God intended for his creation, or does it fulfill it? Have we discovered new powers that God never intended for us to ever find? Are these new technologies a sort of forbidden fruit we were not supposed to find or touch?
And so, back in my book on smartphones, published in 2017, I wrote a twelve-page introduction to how I think of tech broadly, knowing that that little intro would eventually need to become a book one day. But the large book was really only a distant dream of mine for many years.
But I started to write some messages and pick away at it. I delivered a few messages on tech to friends of ours at DG, at small donor gatherings in Phoenix and Seattle, to those who live and work inside the tech industry. And then the virus closed down all of our travel. And it was like, well, I guess fiscal year 2021 is going to be the year that I have time now to read and to research and finally write this big book on technology. So I did. It’s done. It’s ready for a January release.
So you’ve written the book on providence, and this is basically my little attempt to help Christians appreciate God’s providence over big tech, over Elon Musk, and over Silicon Valley, and to show how God, through his word, leads us to embrace a God-centered worldview of it all, so we’re not left with a godless worldview, where he doesn’t factor in at all to big tech. And I fear that is really where many Christians live: with a view of technology that’s pessimistic and dystopian because, at root, it’s simply a godless view of it all. God is nowhere factored into the equation for whatever reasons. And I think that’s problematic for a lot of reasons. I’m thrilled with this book, and I hope it’s as enjoyable to read as it was to write.
Resourcing the Global Church
But we need to look ahead for the summer. We will continue to press on with APJ episodes here. And you plan to continue to press on with Look at the Book episodes. Anything else we should have on our radar?
Well, Desiring God in the new year, the new fiscal year, is going to pour a lot of energy, a lot of resources, into the global dimension of our ministry, the global reach of our resources — indeed, as we did last year. Coronavirus and Christ set the bar so high. I don’t know if we’ll ever reach it again, with 31 languages. Almost overnight, we translated that little book into those languages, working with translators in those various cultures. An even more coordinated effort is underway with the Providence book for translation into, I think, nine major languages right now simultaneously, and Desiring God is getting behind those in a big way.
“All of this work is happening because people have come to love what we live for at Desiring God.”
But on my front burner is a writing leave in July and August to work on a book on the second coming. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I think I would say that my goal for the book is that more people would come to love — love — the second coming of Christ. Because Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:8, “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” What an amazing privilege to have time and resources to work on a book like this.
You Make It All Possible
So, Tony, we can’t say it too often to our friends on this podcast that your working on APJ and God, Technology, and the Christian Life, and my working on a book on the second coming of Christ is happening because people have come to love what we live for at Desiring God: the glorifying of God through being more satisfied in God than anything else, even in our suffering, through the teaching of the truth and beauty of all that God is for us in Christ, with everything rooted in God’s infallible Scriptures, the Bible. That’s what we’re about. And we are thankful to those of you who share these convictions with us.
Amen! It really is an amazing privilege. Thank you all for listening and for watching and reading DG resources. Thank you to everyone who prays for the ministry. And thank you to all our ministry partners who financially support us so that we can make all of our resources, and translate them into many languages, and spread them all over the world free of charge. It’s an incredible work, and if you want to join us in the labors, you can today at desiringGod.org/donate. Thank you so much for listening, and we will see you back here on Monday.