The similarities between Ed Young Jr. and John Piper are there if you look hard enough. Both have fathers who spent many years as preacher/evangelists. Both were athletes in college. Both have been married to their wives for many years. Both come from Baptist backgrounds. Both teach the importance of tithing to your local churches to fund the work of ministry. Both have larger than average families- Young has four children, Piper has five. Both have written books and have daily radio programs. But when you examine the men and their teaching closer, the similarities soon run out.
I spent about four years as an attender/member of the Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas (DFW) where Ed Young is the lead pastor. The church is one of the largest in the US- over 15,000 attend this church per weekend. The church is high-tech and high-toned. From the auditorium to the Source bookstore/cafe everything is done with a passion to be the best. Most of the people that attend this church also have the drive to succeed.
From the luxury cars in the parking lot to the designer clothes that attenders wear, it is evident that there is some level of worldly success at Fellowship. Fellowship Church is commonly referred to as the church of the "beautiful people".
There is a strong emphasis at Fellowship of building the Fellowship Church brand. The church is run like a fortune 500 company. Ed Young comes on stage like a rock star. He is always dressed in the hippest of designer clothes. He's a polished speaker with a commanding presence. His talks are normally centered on a biblical theme with some creative visuals to illustrate his point. He has created a marketing machine for his presentation- from TBN television appearances, to the Ed Young bookstore (aka The Source), Creative Connection Conferences, daily radio show and website.
John Piper is the lead pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have been fortunate enough to attend this church several times when I am visiting clients who live in the Minneapolis area. On first impressions, the parking lot is filled with more modest automobiles than the Fellowship Church. The bookstore is stocked with excellent resources to grow in the Christian life- mostly books instead of apparel and knick-knacks. The prices for these items are generally 25-30% less than similar items at Ed Young's bookstore.
There is a strong emphasis at Bethlehem in promoting missions around the world and teaching biblical doctrine. Piper preaches in the more traditional manner of reading a text of Scripture and then explaining its meaning and relevance for today. He worships with his congregation and sticks around after the sermon for a long time to visit with people.
The differences between Young and Piper are many. They represent a clash between how Christianity is in America and how it should be. Young teaches that salvation is walking an aisle, saying a prayer, "doing the deal" in his words. He emphasizes baptism as the first act of obedience and no one baptizes more people than Fellowship Church- over 2000 people per year in their outdoor heated jacuzzi.
Piper teaches that conversion is an act of God and that evidence of conversion will be seen in the obedience that the new believer displays in his/her life. Therefore, the emphasis isn't so much on a one-time decision but instead on a life of continual belief and faithfulness. Piper teaches regeneration, justification and sanctification as requirements for eternal security not a one-time emotional decision.
Ed Young lives the good life. His "parsonage" is listed on the property tax rolls at over $1.4 million under the name of Palometa Revocable Trust. He buys the finest clothes, cars, vacations, swimming pools, nannies for the children that money can buy. He teaches that tithing- giving 10%- to the local church- Fellowship- is required obedience. He preaches that curses await the one who doesn't tithe and blessings are prepared for those who do. His lifestyle communicates that what you do with the other 90% of income is your own business.
Piper believes heaven can wait. His home is valued at $165,000- purchased for $65,000 (Average home prices are higher in Minneapolis than DFW). He dresses and lives modestly. He also teaches the importance of tithing as an act of obedience, but Piper emphasizes radical generosity and self denial. He believes that 100% of income matters to God and that we are merely stewards of His resources. His lifestyle communicates this. He can be seen walking to work- he chooses to live in a urban area of Minneapolis to be closer to his congregation.
Ed Young's website is http://edyoung.com. Piper's website is http://desiringgod.org. I'll let that speak for itself. Ed Young charges pastors $275 each to attend the Creative Conference- C3. Piper charges $125 per pastor to cover the cost of resources at the Desiring God pastor conferences. Ed Young is accountable to God but deems accountability to a board of elders as unnecessary. The finances of Fellowship Church are cloaked in secrecy. John Piper is accountable to God and an elder board- biblical model. The finances of Bethlehem Baptist are transparent and can be viewed by anyone on their website.
I wish America had more of Piper's brand of Christianity than Young's. The exaltation of God rather than self is much needed in our churches and world.
In His Grace,