John Piper’s 3 Reasons to Read Biographies

BIOGRAPHIESEarlier this year I was able to attend Cross Conference with some of my students from Grizzly Christian Fellowship. The conference was stellar, and I am excited for round two in 2016. But nine months later I look back at one specific nugget from the conference that stands out above the rest.

John Piper was presenting a missionary bio on William Tyndale in one of the breakout sessions, but he opened it with three reasons why Christians should read biographies (specifically biographies of Christian figures in history). I have gone back to my notes on them numerous times, and decided that they warrant some internet exposure.

Here are three reasons to for reading biographies according to John Piper:

  • 1. It’s Biblical.

Piper cited Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders,” Hebrews 11, “By faith…,” and Philippians 3:17, “keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example…” We should be careful not to idolize men. But we should also be careful to not ignore ones who warrant attention, specifically ones who point us to Christ.

  • 2. It’s Effective.

Piper pointed out the reality that when you are reading biographies, you are reading drama, you are reading action, romance, theology, church history, missiology…etc. It is a multifaceted reading experience. Last year I did a good amount of reading on J.C. Ryle and John Owen. While diving into them I was informed and interested about their lives, but I also came away with a different view of pastoral theology. It was effective in many different ways, both educational and entertaining.

  • 3. It’s Inspiring, Sustaining, and Guiding.

We are not Christians in a vacuum. Many men and women have gone before us and labored, lived and died for the glory of God. We can gain encouragement from them. We can be sustained knowing our struggles are not unique. And we can be stirred to worship knowing the legacy of faith which has been secured by a joint effort of the Holy Spirit, and faithful believers.

More Piper:

If you need a jump start as to where to start your reading, Piper actually has a fantastic series out entitled: The Swans are Not Silent. Each book contains mini-biographies on three figures in Christian history. They are a great and robust  place to start if you are overwhelmed by the idea of finding a good biography.