There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere this year about the rise of “celebrity pastors” with “rock-star status” and the larger-than-life influence of popular conference speakers whose sermons are downloaded by the thousands. Some have openly decried this development; others are glad that at least pastors are being celebrated. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.

There’s no doubt that certain pastors have attained a kind of “celebrity.” And yet we are wrong to assume that this has happened because these pastors have intentionally sought notoriety and fame. It’s one thing to say that we may have a problem here. It’s another thing to start blaming people left and right for it. (Furthermore, I find it ironic that many of the pastors and bloggers who condemn the celebrity culture could be considered “celebrities” themselves, albeit of the curmudgeonly variety!)

All that said, in a recent conversation with Robert George, Russ Moore described a recent shift in how students speak of pastoral influence. Here’s what he had to say:

When I am talking to young evangelicals, often who are in ministry, and I say, “Who has been really influential upon you in ministry and on learning to preach and to do the things of ministry?” ten years ago, most people would have given me the name of a local pastor who had mentored them and worked with them. Now they are mentioning a disembodied voice that they have heard on a podcast. That’s a very dangerous thing…

… We’ll just become this amorphous, non-ecclesial movement where everybody is just concerned about individual flights to heaven and move from church to church to church based upon what the music is like or what the preaching is like and then become identified with these celebrities…celebrity preachers. One of the things that we have happening in evangelicalism right now is this rash of preachers who are leaving their churches in order to expand their ministries, and what they mean by that is to go on the conference circuit and simply become these itinerate type of celebrities. That’s a very dangerous thing in evangelicalism, and unless you’ve got a renewal at the local church level where people really are accountable to people they know, evangelicalism is not going to survive.

Dr. Moore’s anecdotal evidence is distressing. To be sure, I’m thankful for the opportunity to glean biblical insights from the podcasts available from many popular pastors today. I’m also thankful to be able to read sermons from pastors throughout church history. (Chrysostom and Spurgeon are two of my favorites.)

And yet the popular preachers of this year or yesteryear are not the pastors who have influenced me most. It could be that my preaching is influenced by the preaching I listen to or the sermons I read, but a preacher on a podcast is not a pastor to me.

The Perfect Storm

I worry that two weather systems have formed and are coming together in a way that might harm the church. The first weather system is a drought caused by the fatherlessness of our current society. People are looking for fathers and their influence.

The second weather system is the heavy rain of pastoral resources available through technological advance. People can easily access terrific sermon content from especially gifted pastors.

Put drought conditions and heavy rain together, and we have a potential flood situation. Pastors and preachers whose messages connect with our generation are filling the fatherless void but in a way that leads to a distortion of what pastoral influence and fatherhood is supposed to be.

I remember reading Collin Hansen’s book on the “young, restless, and reformed” a few years ago and being disturbed by one woman’s description of John Piper as a “father” of sorts, even though they’d never met. Fathers image God. The fact that a young lady could express the concept of spiritual fatherhood in relation to Piper shows what her view of God the Father is. Far off. Transcendent. Powerful. Distant. If fatherhood can take place without ever meeting, then we must have missed something about the immanence of God that expresses itself in God’s condescension to us in Christ.

Let me reiterate that I’m not faulting John Piper or any other popular pastor for this development. It must be said that much pastoral “fame” is simply the accumulation of honor for a pastor who has proven faithful to God’s call over time.

But just because we cannot and should not point fingers at each other regarding the problem of celebrity does not mean that we shouldn’t carefully consider the ramifications of pastoral influence being mediated through technology instead of the local church. I offer these thoughts not as a point of criticism but as one of concern. And I’m open to suggestions as to how to lift up local church pastors and celebrate their influence and mentoring.

John Piper was right to remind us that we are not pastored by “professionals.” Perhaps it’s time we remembered that we are not pastored by podcasts either.

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Comments:


60 thoughts on “Your Podcast Is Not Your Pastor”

  1. Trevin, interesting thoughts. I can’t speak from a perspective of professional ministry, but as a lay person, I get quite a bit out of podcasts. I hate to say, but often the pastors I listen to through podcasts are far better than the local pastors I have available. They’re far more knowledgeable, far more insightful, far better read, better trained, and I get a lot more out of them than I do the sermons of the local churches I’ve been involved in. Granted, their focus is far different than a small, struggling church.

    I’m not a church shopper. I work in one state and can’t sell my house in another, so I have to live in two places.

    There are a lot of factors involved too. Our society is way too “busy”, and I’m not sure if local pastors really put the time into discipling younger pastors. That’s a definite weakness in evangelicalism.

  2. Robin says:

    Good insight – Thank you for this post

    No doubt that there are some very good sermons out there – but the Lord has put believers into local churches and called particular men to preach and minister in those particular churches. And these men are accountable for shepherding your soul – Piper, McArthur, etc., may have some good things to say but they are not related to you in the way your pastor/elders are related to you. Who will comfort/counsel/encourage/instruct/correct you when necessary?
    .

  3. Jared Wilson says:

    Trevin, I say “amen” to your post, although I’m a guy who was sustained through an occasionally suicidal state of depression and dryness partly through the Word heard in the podcasts of Mark Driscoll and John Piper. I was not receiving the gospel in any form at my church and did not really know where else to get it locally. So I have personally experienced how a person may be “pastored” by a disembodied voice.

    Nevertheless it’s not preferable. Like me, you probably receive emails every week from people looking for pastoral counsel or wanting theological questions answered. My first response is always “what does your pastor say?”

    The answers are generally of this variety:
    a) I haven’t asked him and I can’t/won’t
    b) He’s too busy to talk to me
    c) I don’t have a pastor.

    As you suggest in your post, I think the problem, such as it is, is complex.

  4. FWIW: Just as it is not podcasts that pastor, neither is it the local church nor the personal presence of pastors. Rather, it is the ministry of God’s Word that brings nourishment to our souls, however obtained. Thus, pastors, churches, podcasts, et al. are mere mediums through which/whom the Chief Pastor/Shepherd brings our divine supply. Our celebration is too narrowly focused if we point only to those who are used by God to influence. As an old proverbial saying goes, “No one, after seeing the moon, continues to stare at the finger that points to it.” Heb. 12:2

  5. Trevin Wax says:

    Thank you for the responses, all.

    I have no doubt that podcasts can be very useful as God uses the preaching of His Word to impress truth upon our hearts. I am not in any way denying the validity of ministry through podcasts. I’m only wondering out loud about the ramifications of this technology when it replaces local church leadership and pastoral influence.

    I realize that the issues are complex, which is why the post doesn’t have a clear cut answer. I’m throwing it out there though – at least to say, “does anyone else see that this is problematic?”

  6. Frank Gantz says:

    I appreciate the thoughts. Thankful to have on-line resources AND the in-flesh local pastors.

  7. Mickey says:

    These are great thoughts that I’ve been meaning to get around to – so, thanks for writing them.

    I’m certainly guilty of being e-pastored, neglecting my local congregation. Thing is, I’ve now plugged into my local church, help out, participate, listen, and all that good stuff.

    But I still have hours (like sometimes 30+) of time that I can spend listening to podcasts. After I exhausted the entire catalog of The Who, the entire canon of Sherlock Holmes, and whatever other books I had on audio, I found Driscoll, Keller, Moore, and the others. I’ve relied on them too much in the past year – but I struggle to think of a more edifying and educational way to use that time (I listen while at work).

    Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

    Though I owe much to Mark Driscoll and I respect him a great deal, there’s not much he can do in the way of watching over my soul – beyond faithfully preaching from the Bible, of course.

  8. Peter says:

    Trevin,

    Thanks for the post. I love your title. In the Old Testament God was always warning the Children of Israel not to adopt the ways of the Nations around them and I think that is what we are seeing happen here. There is something in us that says “Well we can do that too”, look at our celebrities.

    Don’t get me wrong I enjoy have learned greatly by listening to podcasts but these men and women do not walk on water as some would lead you to believe:) I remember being in Bible College and the same discussion came up and one of my friends responded, “I don’t care about what (you fill in the speaker) says. I want to know what Jesus, Paul, Peter and Luke said first.” I think he was right then and is still right today.

    Blessings

  9. J. R. says:

    Trevin, great post with some things that definitely make me go hmmmmm…
    I see podcasts as an excellent supplement to what I receive at my local church. I attend all of the services there Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but I also have a long commute and benefit greatly from listening to podcasts twice daily, to and from work.
    Often times, I see the greatness of God working by weaving together the themes being taught in our church and by the men I hear in my car. So, it works for me as a supplemental blessings.

    With regard to the disembodied fatherhood aspect, I’m convinced that you’ve put your finger on a much larger issue than most of us are willing to admit. I admire my pastor and elders at church because they tell us that their families are their first sheperding priority. And they do very well in sheperding the church flock as well.

    I become concerned sometimes in other churches and in online forums when I see men in general who consider their vocations in the workplace and at church as their primary concern. They tend to leave but scraps of their attention for their own wives and children. This should not be.

    So, I wanted to encourage you to keep developing your concept of disembodied fatherhood/pastorhood and possibly look at some links to certain biblical manhood bravado that encourages men not to be good fathers and pastors. I’m a complimentarian, but there is a strand among the Young, Restless and Reformed that is encouraging this disembodied model. So, thank you for reading!!

  10. Simone says:

    I wonder if this is a cause or an effect because I see very few pastors and elders mentoring church members, whether it is one or the other this is a sign of the times. Thus e-delivery of good or bad teachings can help fill this gap. Sad but true.
    p.s. i am not talking about my church but in general.

  11. Bobby Capps says:

    I think that perhaps another factor in your perfect storm is the lack of genuine pastoral influence/relationship in the “local church”. The fatherlessness is also spiritual in that the local pastor is often also that “Far off. Transcendent. Powerful. Distant.” person who you hear an address from a couple of times a week. That surely was my experience. In the church i attended in seminary, the church i went to before seminary and the one church I attended after seminary (smallest 750 attenders), only one of the pastors knew my name and none had a personal ministry or accountability of any sort with me, even vicariously through others (and I am by no means an introvert :-)) In that case then, Piper or whomever has the same influence, that of a guy who gives Bible lessons during the week. We have done it to ourselves I am afraid. Until we in the pew have a pastoral experience as something different than a guy who brings the sermon, we may still get ‘pastored’ from our iPods.

  12. Zack says:

    I think this is a great post with great thoughts.

    And yet I also affirm what some of these comments are saying.

    I live in a county that has 89 churches, and out of the many that I have visited, I have not found a single one where the Gospel is preached clearly.

    Or to put it another way, I have not found a church in my zipcode where I would feel like I’m doing what’s best for my family by bringing them there.

    So, after years of searching, we have landed at a (wonderful) church that is located 30 minutes away. But in the meantime, we found quite a bit of our encouragement and direction from pastors like Piper via podcast.

    It certainly presents some complications, but it can also be a God send!

  13. Matt says:

    It’s a snow ball gathering size and speed. In a recent post and similar vein, one podcast pastor blasted “conference Christians” the same people he needs and feeds to maintain his omnipresence, and while the reformed crowd mocks internet churches/campuses, I’m amazed by the pod/vodcast preachers who provide “live streams” of their sermons.

  14. Pieter says:

    Sermons and lectures on podcast continue to challenge me, but more and more I am convinced that pastoring and discipling takes place in the everyday life. And that implies that there are only few that can really pastor or disciple me, and only few that I can pastor and disciple.

    There are many I can speak to in the auditiorium, and there may countless that could hear me with a podcast (if they were willing). But there is only few with whom I can have living and mutual relationship.

    So your blog once again pushes me towards the importance of missional communities.

  15. Erik says:

    I’ve been in ministry 18 years and never once had a pastor desire to mentor me or even talk to me regularly. If that’s the case for me, I’m guessing things deteriorate outward.

    That said, I’m seeking to break that cycle and shepherd and mentor as many as the Lord allows.

    I’m very grateful for JR Vassar, Jared Wilson, Keller, Piper…even Driscoll. God uses them to help fill my soul with His Word…many states away.

  16. Brandon says:

    Eric,
    Your point about the study and preparedness of pastors is well taken. I have been in ministry for twenty years. Over the past ten years I have served a church that placed the proper emphasis on study in the life and role of the pastor. Many local church pastors serve in a context where the church values the pastor in many other roles instead of preaching and teaching. Sadly, many pastors no longer value the importance of the study. Also many pastors and church members/attenders are more concerned with church growth from a business model. When you are a C.E.O you do not have time for proper study. I am thankful to serve in church now that does not view me as a C.E.O that will make them a part of the next great mega church. They see my role as a biblical pastor of the utmost importance. Eric, I almost never read blogs. I have only responded to three blogs in my life, but a friend sent this one to me. When I saw your reply it struck me. It saddened me, as a pastor, that many times we do not do our jobs in a way that aids and encourages Christians in a biblical way. I hope and pray you are able to find a solid local church because many of the New Testament letters were written to a local church or several local churches. This fact gives focus to the importance of the local church in Christianity. I am concerned that many Christians today have lost or never understood the doctrine of the biblical church. At the end of the day this falls at the feet of pastors when we do not fulfill our biblical role.

    In Christ,
    Brandon F. Smith

  17. Michael B says:

    Great topic to discuss and one I have been wrestling with for a little while now. Being a lay-person in my church, that I have attended now for over 20 years, I get a lot of excellent Bible teachings from pod casts, that I listen to during the week. My pastor is so good in so many areas of service and he has such a heart of mercy for his people, but his sermons are not very deep, and not very convicting. So, where does a believer go to get more meat with his sermons, if he feels a desire to stay with his current church family? Pod casts and reading good godly books is how I personally get feed from God’s Word.

  18. Travis says:

    Trevin,

    I think that many will agree with the problem “celebrity pastors” have contributed to the consumeristic mentality that has been nurtured in evangelicalism, even among those who are somewhat orthodox in practice.

    This is where agree with Erik: in all the churches I served before becoming a pastor over many years, not ONE pastor initiated an oversight/mentoring relationship. Some contributed helpful advice and affirmation as I developed, but none of them would commit to long-term mentoring. If I had some bizzare hang-ups that would have made a pastor think twice about mentorship, I don’t know what they would be. I needed someone at those stages to challenge me with things that perhaps I didn’t want to hear. But you can’t have that with a pastor on a surface level. Seminary was just as discouraging in that regard. Lots of great teachers, but none who really wanted to contribute outside the classroom setting.

    It can be discouraging to guys when in both the church you attend and seminary there are young men who get the attention because of particular qualities that make them look like the next “rising star” howbeit academic achievement or particular charismatic personality. They are trotted out on platforms as examples to us, while their ability to shepherd the flock has yet to be determined.

    So, my “mentors” were John Piper, Mark Dever and John MacAuthur, ect. My local pastors contributed much by their example, but I could have gained so much more if they would have only engaged me with a little more of their time.

  19. Chris says:

    Trevin,

    I appreciate that you are encouraging us to be faithful and involved in a local church.

    Still, the pastors I listen to on podcasts preach much better (more faithful to the text, precise, helpful) sermons then my local pastor and any other local pastor I could find.

    The podcast speaker can become like a father in the faith to a person. I don’t think that is wrong. Some of them have 30+ years of sermons available. This is a gift from God. If God uses someone in your life through a podcast to draw you closer to Christ and make you more like Him, we should be thankful…not complaining that God didn’t use my local pastor to do it.

    I do maintain that it would be wrong for someone to avoid church and instead only listen to podcast sermons. But many people (like myself) listen to the podcasts in addition to what they get from their local church.

  20. Trevin Wax says:

    Just to clarify,

    I DO find great edification in listening to podcasts from faithful preachers. I think these are wonderful as supplements to involvement in a local church.

    My concern though is that we conceive of pastoring in terms of ONLY delivering biblical content. Pastoring includes the oversight and shepherding of souls (the application of biblical content to one’s life), which means that listening to good sermons is not being “pastored.”

    I am asking questions about how technology may be affecting the way we think of “pastoring.” I am not denying the helpfulness of podcasts. Nor am I denying the real issues involved on both the pastor and church member side of the equation.

  21. Phillip says:

    The problem I have is that the town I live in is spiritually bankrupt, and biblical teaching is very hard to find.

    I’m beyond apathetic with the church I currently attend, because their messages are without any biblical substance. So what’s a spirit hungry Christian to do? Podcast. In fact, I am listening to my former pastor, from the church I left this past summer, after moving to this town.

    Lots of large churches in this town, but the lack of spirit filled preaching is telling.

  22. Jeremy says:

    Trevin,
    Thank you for the post. I think there is a problem with people misunderstanding what “pastoring” really is. I too have been challenged, taught, and encouraged by some of the great “preachers” of our day via podcast. My preaching and theological understanding wouldn’t be where it is today without the help of men I’ll probably never meet this side of heaven. But preaching is not equivalent to pastoring. None of those digitized voices can sit with me over coffee, pray for me personally every week, offer me chances to serve alongside him, love on my children, laugh with me, cry with me, worship God with my family, etc.

    I don’t have a pastor whom people across the country will flock to hear preach, but I have a good pastor, who I wouldn’t trade for the world.

    I think those who consider the podcast preachers to be their pastors will grow out of the adolescent awestruck state sooner or later, if they are truly listening and applying what those preachers preach on. I fear many who marvel at great preachers marvel more at something being said excellently, rather than the something excellent being said. I hope I’m wrong.

  23. Dan Strong says:

    Good thoughts.

    Just my two cents. I think the drought is just as much a lack of thoughtful, biblical preachers in the pulpit. I’m a pastor now, but I’ve lived in several different places and attended several different churches. Very rare is the church with a pastor teaching the gospel faithfully. I hate to condemn church members for listening to podcasts when they aren’t getting anything from their pastors.

    I do think, though, that this is partly an effect by the way some think of pastoring and teaching. A dynamic sermon is thought the only way to pastor faithfully. But teaching, discipleship, etc. can come in many forms. Preaching is obviously an important one, but not the whole of pastoral ministry or even the whole of teaching ministry. So I am concerned by how many people are just looking for a good preacher (i.e. speaker), and not a faithful disciple-maker. Unfortunately, though, there is a drought of disciple-makers as well.

  24. H. A. says:

    This is a very good post and yes, you speak of things that are very problematic for the present and the future. As a former pastor now involved in a local church as a member, it would be very easy to follow a podcast, radio program, or television, without much church involvement. It would be very easy- and wrong. And I do not mean for “just me.” It is wrong, period. Christ died for the church, the body of Christ, the community of faith that He establishes through His Word and His Spirit and His grace. He builds His church, and He does it through people who live next door, down the street,across the field- but nearby. As you have said, there is nothing wrong with reading or listening to the sermons of a favorite preacher. This can provide important things, as some commenters have mentioned. I have benefitted myself from the preaching of some wonderful and gifted men. But there is no substitute for the local church, the community of faith- in the community where you live.

  25. John says:

    In Louisville, in the SBTS community, there is a celebrity pastor culture that centers around professors and administrators. There is a very small number of “seminary churches” where the majority of students go for the very same reasons given here for listening to podcasts. There are countless small, “dry bones” churches around that desperately need the influence and training that seminary students have, but many choose to go to established churches with dynamic preaching (not to mention the career networking opportunities). Dr. Moore is right, I just think perhaps he and the seminary culture are part of the problem more than he will admit.

  26. brian says:

    E-resources can be great, but to really grow I think it’s got to be more personal. Accountability is key.

    Brian
    ForgottenVoices.org

  27. Elder James says:

    Thanks Trevin.

  28. Spherical says:

    After 6 years with a near-by church, I started reading Christian blogs. Soon I was hooked on pod casts. I found Chandler, Piper, Driscoll, Keller, and others. I had never heard the Gospel preached like this before. Have I mentioned that I was an elder at the church now. I started questioning some of our thoughts and decisions, even some of the purpose driven curriculum we were blindly following. I found that there were others who had their doubts, but no one wanted to rock the boat. When I saw my questions falling on deaf ears, I resigned and we left that church.

    After several months of searching for a Gospel-preaching church, we settled on one that we felt God drawing us too, although there were elements of the preaching that bothered me. We asked to meet with the preacher. Four months later, we did. He thanked us for our concerns, and stated that he wanted to ponder and pray over our concerns and then get back with us. A letter followed that said if we were not satisfied with his preaching, perhaps we would feel more comfortable elsewhere. We decided to take a break and pray about it.

    Two months later we were back. We had made some great connections with some good Christian folk we were not ready to surrender. So for now at least we attend there. Sure, the preacher did a double take when he saw us back. And he stared at me in disbelief when I popped the little headphones in my ears as he began to preach. But I am there to worship, not make a statement. And worship is difficult when the preaching does little to honor God.

    It is an awkward situation, for no one even acknowledges that there is a problem. It is like an ostrich, head in the sand, oblivious to anything else. The bloggers and pod casters have changed my heart, and for that I am thankful. I have read your book about counterfeit gospels, and see it around in a lot of the churches we have visited. We long for a good place of fellowship but feel we are in a dry and barren land. Yet we are thankful for what God has brought us out of. And we pray that he will bring others out of that too.

    We do not want to give up on the local church, but as many probably already feel, the local church might have just given up on us.

  29. John says:

    Isn’t the new craze of satellite church’s with a “flat-screen preacher” more dangerous than a “podcast preacher”? I have noticed that most of the “flat-screen preachers” are not “rightly dividing the word of truth” where as your so called “celebrity pastors” are just feeding their local flock and starving sheep abroad are soaking it up like a dry sponge. I don’t think I have seen anyone mention the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit during a loacl church service which is not always translated to a mp3 file (1 Thessalonians 1:5). I have been listening to John MacArthur for nearly 10 years now but he doesn’t replace my local pastor. I still get to choose what I want to listen to from MacArthur but with my local pastor I don’t get a choice and I am forced to deal with the next text in scripture that I might otherwise overlook or avoid altogether.

  30. Steve says:

    Trevin,
    Thanks for your post. While you did acknowledge the usefulness of podcast pastors and the necessity to distinguish between them and the local pastor, the bottom line is that the former seem to be outperforming the latter (and by “outperforming” I mean biblically expositing the word of God). As a result, many young reformed men like myself who are rotting in local churches under terrible (yes, terrible) God-dishonouring so-called preaching (aka non-preaching) are so frustrated and have no where else to turn. That is why John Piper is like a father figure to me and so many other Christian guys I know precisely because he does feed his flock the word of God. Like Shai Linne says in his song Expositional Preaching: “…if not your Sunday meal will not last and you’ll have to supplement it with the podcast.” And lest you think I’m bowing down to a celebrity preacher(s), I’m not. They are simply pointers to Christ. And I thank God deeply for them.

  31. We’ve recently moved 3 hours from the church and community that I’ve been a part of for 15+ years, to be “in-state missionaries” of a sort, in the most impoverished area in our state. The hardest part is being away from friends and mentors, and the solid church that has been 99% responsible for making me who I am today.

    Like you, I get a lot more great teaching out of podcasts (though I only listen to a couple per week) than I do from the pastor of our local church.

    I do meet with a couple of local pastors semi-regularly, and I’m glad for it. Plus, I stay in contact with leaders from our “home church.” But for teaching purposes, I do need podcasts.

  32. Michael says:

    (1) Interesting though that from the first comment, there were people who pointed out that their local pastor was not as good a preacher as the ones he (or she) listens to on the podcast. This reveals a fatal flaw in our thinking with regard to pastors and a result of the ease of connecting via technology. A pastor is called to feed his people by proclaiming the Word in its fullness and pointing them to Christ. He is not called to dazzle the listener with wit and insight. Many podcast pastors become popular because they are witty or deep, but that does’t make them any better than your pastor as long as your pastor faithfully preaches the word.

    (2) The final group Jared Wilson mentioned above is a large part of this problem (though I agree that is complex). Many of the “young, restless, and reformed” movement either won’t be pastored or can’t be pastored. I have seen many come through the church where I am pastor. They are often unteachable, arrogant (though they have nor reason to be), and nitpicky. They refuse to be led by a local church or a local pastor but they revere the Driscolls and Pipers (and God help you if you say something that differs from what their favorite podcast pastor said last week).

    While I, like you Trevin, don’t hold the podcast pastors responsible for what their followers do, they would do their followers a great service by encouraging them to participate in a local assembly of believers by submitting to their leadership, humbly learning the Word with them, loving and praying for them, and caring for the saints God has placed there. This is what the Word holds forth as a model for the Christian life.

  33. Chris says:

    Michael,

    To your first paragraph, Yes, the local pastor may have equally good intentions and equal faithfulness as one of the podcast preachers, but that does not mean that they handle the Word anywhere close to how the Piper’s and Keller’s do. It’s not close to the same.

    To your second paragraph, it is probably true for many of the YRR’s that we need to be more thankful for the gift that God has given us in our local pastors. But my only problem is not that I am unteachable, arrogant (though I have no reason to be), and nitpicky…I also can’t find a local pastor who handles the word as carefully, truthfully, and thoughtfully as the podcast preacher does.

    I am already trying to do what your last paragraph calls for me to do. I would say that many of the YRR’s are trying to do that. We probably just need good pastoring to show us that our overly-critical attitudes need to be replaced by encouraging, thankful attitudes.

  34. Michael says:

    Chris:

    Your response simply demonstrated the truthfulness of everything that I wrote.

    I question what you mean by “handle the Word.” Is faithful exposition and application not enough? What more are you wanting?

    I am in a metro area and I can’t believe that the YRR people I have ministered to could’t find a church in 6-10 years of searching. I find it hard to believe that in all of Metro Detroit there is not one single pastor who can “handle the word carefully, truthfully, and thoughtfully.” Perhaps in a rural area but not in a suburban or metro area.

    To your second paragraph, it’s not probably true; it is true. You are called to be thankful for and to honor the elders God has placed over you (1 Tim. 5:17) and you are to hour them for their “labor in preaching and teaching” (ESV) not for their ability to entertain you with their wit, humor, and perceived insight.

    Your third paragraph (answering my third paragraph) misses my point. Many of the YRR I have dealt with did indeed need a pastor “to show us that our overly-critical attitudes need to be replaced by encouraging, thankful attitudes.” But that’s just it, the YRR who have come through my church won’t let the pastor show them anything. The local pastor doesn’t “handle the Word anywhere close to how the Piper’s and Keller’s do. It’s not close to the same” so they think they don’t need to listen to him.

    If the Twelve Apostles, Calvin, or Christ himself returned to pastor a local church, many of YRR would find fault because, they don’t “handle the Word anywhere close to how the Piper’s and Keller’s do. It’s not close to the same.”

  35. Michael D. says:

    Great post.

    I love the wealth of resources we have as Christians these days. Books, studies, podcasts, blogs—so rich with good, biblical teaching. However, I am also thankful for the good solid teaching I get in my local church—accompanied by the closeness, accountability, discipleship, fellowship and ministry opportunities within the church body. There seems to be a very great danger in holding up your pastor or local church to the greatest preachers of the age and being disappointed.

    Enjoy the podcasts, blogs, and books. But uphold, support, encourage, and pray for your local pastor. Be careful not to always second-guess them with “But _____ says this!”

    For another great post about this topic, check out TeamPyro’s “Porn and Paper Pastors”

    http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/03/porn-and-paper-pastors.html

  36. Mark says:

    I recently left my local church due to a major disconnect between leadership and the lay people. I think there is something more wrong when people who are serious about their life as a believer who have to resort to podcasts for spiritual food…a clear indicator that they are not being cared for or held accountable at their local church. I think podcasts are a great way to be fed throughout the week on top of the gathering of the local church. But honestly, I don’t believe I would have a greater understanding of who God is and His Word unless I listened to more of the bigger pastors out there in the States.

  37. Chris says:

    Michael,

    It seems kind of us to both encourage one another’s prejudices. I appreciate very much your giving me an example of what I have been objecting to. When you refer to my second paragraph, you say, “it’s not probably true; it is true. You are called to be thankful for and to honor the elders God has placed over you…” I said that it is probably true that many of us should be more thankful for our pastors, not that it’s probably true that we should be thankful. You did not faithfully represent what I said even though you did faithfully represent a truth from Scripture. I feel this is what most pastors do with the text.

    I want faithful preaching that doesn’t do a similar thing as you did with my second paragraph and doesn’t treat extra-Biblical traditions as Biblical.

    I am not doing some of the things that the YRR’s around you are doing, and agree with you that they are wrong. I am involved in a local church and think others should be in one. While I don’t think my pastor is as careful or thoughtful with the text as he should be, I am endeavoring to listen to, learn from, and appreciate his preaching and admonitions.

    To your last paragraph, my problem is not that I want everyone to be Piper and won’t be happy unless they are but that I want everyone to be as careful, thoughtful, and accurate with the text as Piper.

    Lastly, I appreciate what is behind some of the points you are making. If I understand you correctly, you are seeking to encourage YRR’s to be involved in a local church and thankfully receive shepherding from a local pastor. These are good things.

  38. Tommy Alderman says:

    Interesting discussion. My two cents:

    What if the trouble were a shortage of godly, biblically sound local pastors? Just a thought.

    Also, consider that the epistles themselves were originally a form of written “podcast” circulated among the churches. The apostles couldn’t be everywhere at once, but their writings could be circulated far and wide.

    I am blessed to have a wonderful local pastor who is grounded, sound in doctrine, full of love for the people of God…and he and I both are regularly nourished by the ministry of John MacArthur! ;-)

    Thanks for your post…good discussion.

  39. Ken says:

    Amen, Erik. That has been my experience too. I have found that many, if not most, pastors spend the lion’s share of their time with the care and feeding of programs and buildings. They spend a lot of time preparing for Sunday messages rather than spending time with people. They think that teaching is the most important part of their jobs–they may not say that, but the way they spend their time proves it. If they do any mentoring at all, it is with a precious few, often just the other staff that they see every day without even going out of their way. The teaching and program are supposed to take care of us “ordinary” church members. If teaching is the most important feature of a church, then why shouldn’t I get my teaching from the best teaching pastors in the world?

    I don’t actually agree that teaching is the most important feature of the church–living life together, community, accountability, fellowship, human contact–this is the most important part of the church. And I have found it sorely lacking in churches of every size, from megachurches to house churches. If a church delivers neither community or world-class teaching–don’t even get me started on the lack of supernatural power, the lack of power to change lives, lack of missional impact, lack of love, politicization–then it has become ineffective and irrelevant. We should not be surprised by the church’s diminishing influence for good in the world.

  40. Michael says:

    Chris:

    I apologize for misrepresenting you; you did say “more thankful” not simply thankful. (I did not scrutinize your blog comment the way I would have my Greek New Testament.)

    It is however, an unreasonable stretch to conclude that “most pastors do this with the text.” I don’t know if you are a pastor or not but I know quite a few pastors (by virtue of being one in a metro area) and while there are some that I am sure don’t care about it, most pastors I know give great pains to be faithful to the text. Being fallen human beings, they don’t always get it right (just as you may not always get it right when you assess them).

    Just as the YRR I have encountered may not reflect most or even many YRR, so the pastors you have encountered may not reflect most or even many pastors.

    Also, though you did not say this, I will point out that it would be a stretch to conclude that because I did this in a blog comment I must, therefore do this with the text of Scripture as well.

    I also do not necessarily agree that Keller or Piper are always as faithful to the text as they could be. But then, if I were as awesome as them no one would question anything I say, either.

  41. Yolanda says:

    I think the point that Trevin is making is legitimate and timely. Unless we are wholeheartedly invested in a local body, we will never know the blessings of relationship and accountability that are inherent in a Christ-centered church. Having said that, there is a serious shortage of Gospel-rich, expositional preaching in many communities and churches. I have been a member of such Gospel-deficent churches and had to rely solely on additional resouces to grow. Thankfully, I have been a member of a great church for almost a decade now. My congregation has a very high standard BECAUSE we listen to podcasts, read theology, and study on our own. Our pastoral leadership in turn responds with rich exegetical, challenging sermons. It’s a beautiful thing! I think individual learning only raises the bar for everyone involved in the local church. No, we shouldn’t expect our local pastor to be John Piper, but we shouldn’t accept fluff every week either.

  42. Yolanda says:

    And to the person who is listening to another preacher via earphones WHILE his own pastor is preaching, PLEASE STOP! You say you are not there to “make a statement”, but you are making one nonetheless. The statement you are making is, “This guy’s preaching is so horrible, I am going to sit here and listen to someone else.”. It is disrespectful, prideful, and sewing dissension. If his preaching is really so bad that you cannot glean any encouragement, conviction, or knowledge, go somewhere else. You are not doing yourself or anyone else any good.

  43. Erik says:

    Good point. That’s passive aggressive.

  44. thatbrian says:

    If learning and being spiritually feed via podcasts is reason for you to fear then reading books for the same purpose should frighten you as well. The only difference is the delivery system.

    Have not Calvin’s Institutes influenced more Christians than downloaded Keller sermons? I’ve never heard anyone refer to Calvin as his former pastor, and I’ve never heard anyone who subscribes to the sermons from Redeemer Presbyterian (NYC) call Tim Keller his pastor.

    What concerns me more than the Word of God being heard by many is the provocative nonsense in the blogosphere that Christians get caught up in. They could be spending time more wisely, like listening to a Sproul sermon or the latest podcast from White Horse Inn.

  45. Irene says:

    “The first weather system is a drought caused by the fatherlessness of our current society. People are looking for fathers and their influence.”

    This was true for ancient society as well. “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.” 1 Corinthians 4:15

    I hope more fathers in the flesh will become spiritual fathers to their children in the flesh. They are the population with the greatest reach and impact.

  46. Matt Haney says:

    GCC in San Antonio and illbehonest.com tried to address this issue in an interview with Paul Washer:
    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1229091954150

  47. Cory Ehlert says:

    I cannot speak for the rest of my generation, however, as for myself (a 19 year old college student).. I do enjoy the spiritual growth from videos and podcasts of other pastors in other states. But this doesn’t mean that I abandon my relationships with my local pastor(s). Both are beneficial. I am just not content with the perspective of one pastor to lead me. This does not come from a root of rebellion or dishonor. I know and respect my pastor, I submit to Him as a authority in my life. I simply feel like I have been to blessed in this age of technology, to not take advantage of it. I understand that you are not coming against anyone, only showing concern. I just want to share my view as the upcoming generation, because I feel I am doing it right and hope is not lost.

  48. Mitch says:

    I agree whole-heartidly on this topic. A Podcast cannot offer you Godly counsel sometimes like a real pastor can or help you in a personal way. However I do think podcasts have their place.
    I listen to a few podcasts myself, one of my ones I like is John MacArthur’s GTY Radio one. Sure he is not my pastor I agree but when I listen to it everyday its a diff. message or reminder of something I needed to be reminded that day that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

  49. Dennis Muse says:

    Pastors themselves, churches have push people to the “podcast being their pastor”, pastors today have disconnected from their flock. I even heard Mark Driscoll tell new pastors at a Act’s 29 conference that they should have no personal contact with their church members. Give the sermon and leave, never give out your phone number, or email address. I am not picking on Mark, just saying this is the attitude of pastors today, especially of mega churches.

    Then you have the online church movement started by lifechurch.tv, that you never go to church, do everything online, via webcast & podcast.

    If pastors are not going to be pastors, be personally connected with everyone in their church, then their is no difference between listening to them on my iPod, watching them life via webcast or setting in a building hearing them live. They are no more my pastor live than they are on my iPod.

    Until pastors leave the pulpit and enter the lives of their flock, that is become pastors again, people will migrate more and more to podcast-pastors-church. The fault is on pastors. They are not only not doing their job, but even encouraging people to do church online and still send in your tithe of course, via the website.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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