After the recent flood of events surrounding a number of disgraced pastors who have gained a large following on the internet, things have become rather heated between pastors, laity, and many who have personal relationships with the pastors in question. It is true that more heat than light has probably been generated in this situation, and when anger and passions grow, people tend to speak rashly and act harshly toward those who disagree. All of this is unfortunate. I don’t consider myself innocent in this regard either.
But one thing that can be learned from all of this, which has recently been pointed out by my friend Levi Nunnink, is that we have failed by elevating internet celebrities over our own local pastors. So often, we pick our favorite podcaster, preacher, writer, etc. and rally behind that particular individual as if they can do no wrong. If we have a theological question, we ask them. If we have a pastoral concern, we try to get an answer from a sermon or podcast. This is not how God has created the church to function.
The internet age has, whether we like it or not, changed the manner in which the church operates. People with theological questions no longer have to search a library or ask a pastor, but have direct access to a number of blogs, podcasts, and other resources. In many ways, this is a positive thing. Theological education has become much more accessible. Certainly, I would not be doing what I do if there were no benefit in it. The unfortunate thing, however, is that we have bought into American celebrity culture and applied it to our pastors.
I am not your pastor. Whoever your favorite internet theologian is, is not your pastor. And that’s a good thing. God has called someone to be your pastor. He has placed him into that position over you. He has been divinely appointed as your shepherd. He may not be as charismatic, intelligent, or witty as your favorite internet personality. But none of that matters. God has placed him and him alone in that position to proclaim law and gospel to you. He knows what you need to hear better than someone you’ve exchanged a few emails with. His sermons are preached to your particular congregation, with you in mind.
I delight in receiving emails that people have benefited from my podcasts and writings. It’s encouraging to get notes that people were freed from legalism after listening to my critiques of Paul Washer, or have come to some other important decisions about their theology because of the material I’ve released. But at times, people want me to give them absolution. They want me to be their pastor. But that’s not what I’ve been called to do.
If you want to move your family to Watseka Illinois and start attending Faith Lutheran Church on Sunday mornings, then I will give you Word and Sacrament. But, otherwise, find a good local congregation, and be fed by the man God has called into that position.
And if you think that me or some other person who you like is some kind of perfect spiritual authority, you will be very disappointed. We can all edit our podcasts and blogs to give an appearance of being a lot more pure than we actually are. If you knew any of us like our local congregations do, you’d see plenty of our faults and mistakes.
I’m blessed to serve my congregation here in Watseka, IL. Your pastor is blessed to be placed in service to you as well. Let him have the privilege of caring for your soul that he has been called to.