FIRST-PERSON: Rethinking your Internet pastor
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (BP) -- As a kid I grew up listening to preachers on the radio like John MacArthur and Charles Stanley. It wasn't a weekly thing, but occasionally on the weekend you might find one of their sermons on the house stereo. If I wanted to listen to more of their sermons, I had to either tune in at a certain time or order their sermons on cassette or CD.
Fast forward to today and we have a plethora of options to choose from. I can listen to or watch a sermon on a church's website or download a podcast. Either way, we now have sermons on demand whenever and however we want them.
In theory, there's a lot good that can come from this. First, is the obvious advancement of the Gospel and second is the ability for us to have others speak God's truth into our lives.
However, some of us now have gone beyond just listening to these sermons and we've developed our own Internet pastors.
By "Internet pastors," I mean pastors who we follow religiously online. We read their tweets, every blog post they publish, every book they write and we listen to every sermon they preach. We hang on their every word. Before you know it, the Internet pastor replaces our pastor at our local church.
But is that really healthy? Is that how churches and pastors were designed to function? Can the rise of the Internet pastor undercut the ministry of local pastors? I think it's time we break up with our Internet pastors and let me tell you why.
While your favorite Internet pastor may preach a great sermon, when it comes to actually ministering to you in your time of need, your Internet pastor won't be there. When your loved one passes away or your marriage hits a rough streak, you can't pick up the phone and call the pastor you listen to online. Sure, you can tweet at them or try to email them, but unless you live in their area, their assistant will tell you talk to your local church.
I'm not discounting the impact that a sermon from a pastor miles away can have, but there's local aspect to ministry that a pastor provides that can't be replicated online. You see, your pastor is your church's pastor for a reason.
God called them there for a specific purpose and when we try to replace them (intentionally or unintentionally) with an Internet pastor, we can forget about that calling. We forget about their spiritual authority over our congregation or the fact that when they prepare a sermon they are providing local context to Scripture that someone miles away from us can't do.
Now you might say, "But my pastor doesn't go deep enough" or "I'm not being fed by their sermons." While I don't know your particular situation, I do know that you have to ask yourself if you've prepared your heart to receive what they preach. The pastor's sermon is only half of the equation -- you (the church member) receiving the sermon is the other part. Don't discount your pastor's sermon because you weren't ready to receive it.
We need to champion the pastors who stand behind our pulpits and get up at dawn to do their share of hospital visits. We need to affirm their calling to our churches and begin take our responsibilities as church members seriously.
God has given you and your church a pastor. Love them, celebrate them. I'm sure they need it.
Darrel Girardier is the digital strategy director for Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., where he currently oversees the team that handles social media, Web and mobile presence for the church. He currently blogs at darrelgirardier.com and is @dgirardier on Twitter.