21 April 2009

Porn and paper pastors

by Dan Phillips

Decades ago, I read a disturbingly candid essay by a pastor about his struggles with pornography. It was in Leadership magazine. Years later, two of his realizations still stand out to me.

The author came to see (as I recall) that he was attracted to these images because they were unreal. The women in the pictures never had bad days, were never crabby and demanding, never disrespectful and demeaning. No mood swings. They always suited his mood, his needs, his wants. They were unreal.

He came to see that he had no actual relationship with these women whatever. If (he named a female celebrity) had sat down next to him in an airplane, she wouldn't know him from Adam. Whatever may have happened in his sinful fantasies, the two of them had no relationship in the real world.

Of course, this is why so many women resent actresses and models. It isn't catty pettiness or smallness. It is that they know how visually-tempted men can be, and they know that they can't compete with a fantasy — if their man is fool enough to chase one.

And they're right, in a way. They can't compete with these women. Because these women don't exist in the real world! They may not even look like their pictures! Thanks to computer wizardry, the pictures we see may actually bear only the slightest resemblance to the actual women.

Nobody can compete with a fantasy.

And this post is not about pornography, men, women, nor marriage.

It is about people with paper pastors.

Now, some professed Christians sin outright, by never physically attending an actual, in-person church. We've talked about that, and they aren't our focus.

But others do attend a church — physically. They come in, they sit down. They sing, they may give financially. They may look at you, Pastor, as you preach.

But you know their heart belongs to another.

Their real pastor isn't you. It's Dave Hunt. Or it's John Piper. Or it's John MacArthur, or Ligon Duncan, or Mark Dever, or David Cloud, or Joel Osteen. Or it's Charles Spurgeon, or D. M. Lloyd-Jones, or J. C. Ryle. Or Calvin, or Luther, or Bahnsen, or de Mar, or R. B. Thieme, or J. Vernon McGee.

And they're such better pastors than you are! You know they are!

Why?

Well, paper pastors are never in a bad mood. They're never cranky, or sleepy or sick. (Especially the dead ones.)

They've never just had someone else pull their guts out with a rusty fork, and then had to turn and listen graciously to your complaint about the translation they preach from, or argue about a Greek word you can't even pronounce. They don't have a family who loses the time you use. They never half-listen, never have an appointment that cuts short their time. Their office hours are your office hours. They're available 24/7, and everywhere, at your whim, and you always have their undivided attention.

What's more is they always have all the answers! They can tell you with complete confidence and masterful eloquence. They never stammer, guess, nor search their memory. And they can prove it — whatever they're saying! With footnotes!

And these paper pastors maintain the perfect distance. If you don't want to hear something, they don't press it — or you can instantly shut them up, snap! They never ask you to do something uncomfortable and follow up on you. They never persistently probe an area of sin, in you, in person, eyeball to eyeball... nor will they. Church discipline will not be a threat with them. Ever.

Because they don't know you from Adam.

Yet how many pastors know that there are people in their flocks, thinking, "John Piper would never say it that way. Dave Hunt says that what he just preached is heresy. John MacArthur isn't like that. Mahaney says that... Mohler says that... Lloyd-Jones said...."

So, because it's awkward for your pastor to say it to you — and because I've no church who'd suspect I'm talking to them, at the moment — I'll just tell you plain:

Brother, sister: John Piper isn't your pastor. John MacArthur knows nothing about you. Dave Hunt never got on his knees and prayed for you. Lloyd-Jones won't come to your house when you're recovering from surgery, or one of your children shatters your heart, or your marriage is shaking and rocking and barely hanging on. Charles Spurgeon won't weep with you as you weep.

You could buy or not buy _____'s next book, and he'd never know it. But if you're in a manageable-size church with a caring pastor and you're suddenly gone next Sunday, he'll be concerned. He may call. He may ask if everything's okay.

God gave you the pastor He gave you.

God told Paul to tell you:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
God told the writer to the Hebrews to tell you:
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. (Hebrews 13:17)
Your flesh-and-blood pastor can't compete with these paper pastors for the same reason you can't compete with paper women and paper men.

Because they're not real.

Dan Phillips's signature

188 comments:

DJP said...

Now, I lead off the meta with these addenda:

1. Obviously, some of this won't apply if John Piper is your pastor. Duh.

2. My mention of a name in this article implies neither praise nor criticism of the man named.

3. When I say these pastors/writers are "not real," my point is that they are not real to you who are merely reading one of their books. They are not a real, flesh-and-blood, standing-there, committed-to-watching-over-your-soul-before-God pastor to you.

4. As usual, all this is other-things-being-equal. You will describe one unbearable situation of someone who really probably should seek another church. I will reply with five situations of people whom God has put in a church, where they really should learn something, but they aren't listening, because their heart (and respect) belong to a paper pastor.

Sheldon said...

Well said.

I think this is part of the cultural tendency away from flesh and blood relationships and toward electronic ones. Look at Facebook, Twitter, etc. and see how often our "friends" are people we have never met and who really don't know or care about us personally.

Real relationships, pastoral or otherwise, are hard and messy and people don't like that.

Much easier to give ourselves to paper pastors and paper friends.

Frank Turk said...

Their real pastor isn't you. It's Dave Hunt. Or it's John Piper. Or it's John MacArthur, or Ligon Duncan, or Mark Dever, or David Cloud, or Joel Osteen. Or it's Charles Spurgeon, or D. M. Lloyd-Jones, or J. C. Ryle. Or Calvin, or Luther, or Bahsen, or de Mar, or R. B. Thieme, or J. Vernon McGee.Or, if I may add it, TeamPyro. Let's not miss anyone here with the real pointed truth of one of Dan's ...

BEST. POST. EVER.

Frank Turk said...

I'm saying it twice because this is a brilliant post:

BEST. POST. EVER.Best ever. Perfect analogy -- perfect in pitch and tone and brain-blowing juxtaposition. Theologically-rich point. Devastatiing practical application.

Cuts to the heart of anyone who reads it.

Prophetic, BigD. In the "speaking-forth truth" sense, of course.

Eddie Eddings said...

Great article. I will be printing it out on paper and sharing it with a few of my friends. Thanks for the insightful reminder!

David said...

Nailed it.

Angus said...

Don't comment often, but this is one of the best blog posts I have read in a long time. It's so easy in this day of easily accessible, free MP3s and resources (which are great) to make comparisons, and as wonderful as all these resources are, I wonder if the downside isn't as dangerous as the resources are helpful is helpful in a culture already given to chasing after any wind of doctrine and whatever feels good. I'd never thought of the comparison you brought up - tremendously helpful. I wish every church member could read it and ponder...

Thanks,
Angus

apologies said...

I think this principle applies equally from the pastor's perspective of the congregants.
It's so easy to read all those great bio's, and pastoral "how-to" books and get caught up in the 'fantasy' and then when faced with a real life encounter, get bored, or critical because the real people don't live up to the standard of the "paper congregants".
They don't have the same dramatic (best-seller-type) conversion stories, they don't give 20% offerings, they don't provide fodder for your next book, they don't EXIST!
Good post and very thought provoking.

Al.

SandMan said...

WOW! This is an eye-opening post! The metaphor of pornography vs. real women is as poignant as I can imagine. While I respect and appreciate (some of)the men's ministries you have mentioned... and have gained spiritually from their sharing of the grace and work that God has given them, my pastor(s) truly have gone the distance with me. (Pre-marital counseling, presiding over my wedding, calling me to repentance from the pulpit and personally-- at times, presiding over the dedication of my children, weeping with me at the miscarriages of two other babies, and so on). The only response I can imagine to this post is to praise God for these men and their impact upon my life, and to renew my commitment to lift them up in prayer daily. Thank you for this encouragement.

Rob said...

This was an excellent post, and to me was a great reminder of the responsibility to be praying for our own church leaders, who are so much more directly important than paper pastors.

Boerseuntjie said...

Dan,

You I am SOOOOoo glad that you put point 2 into the comment thread...
Joel Osteen...? A Biblically qaulified elder?

This artcile is very important for us lay folk, we must not get trapped into the Celebrity Cult that is so prevelant in Evangelicalism today.
(In some was our ability to communicat eat an instant with people we never know is a curse upon us - and a blessing. Let us handle it cautiously and with much care).

As for me and my elders...
I pray that the LORD would help us establish a Body of the Called Out Ones, that our Evangelistic proclamatio of the Scriptures will bear fruit as the LORD eneters the battlefield of our Communities with us.

Then may we have Him raise up Biblically qualified men with whom we can stand shoulder to shoulder in the frontline. Who stand facing the battle in the same directions that we are, to wait and prepare our hearts and minds - to readiness, to enter the battle upon the LORD's call to engage in season and out of season, as He has prepared for each of us good works beforehand to enetr into obediently and willingly.

Let us lift up the faithful and support them fully, call to instruction the wayward and rebuke the false, never giving up the good fight for the Gospel of grace to be revealed amidst a dark and impure world, under the tyranny of the Deceiver, personal sins and the destrcutive lusts of the world.

Thank you Dan.

Your fellow slave for our merciful King and LORD,
W

Kim said...

I'm with Frank on this one, Dan. Excellent, excellent post.

stratagem said...

There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

...and He is real.

Citizen Grim said...

Dan Phillips is my paper pastor!

He's never cranky or... oh wait.

Connor Baer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Citizen Grim — LOL! Best and first laugh of the day. Thanks.

DJP said...

Yes, Connor, you were addressed (in passing) in this post and in this post, to which it links. And you're dead-wrong about Ephesians.

We're not talking about people who aren't even in Square A as to obeying God by being in a church fellowship, which by definition is led by the office of pastor. So let's not stray off-topic.

Citizen Grim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Citizen Grim said...

DJP - Someone needs to bring levity to Tuesdays. :)

The Squirrel said...

Nail, Head, Hit, Bang, Fantastic, Spot-on post, Dan! Yes, use the resources God has given us in the books and tapes and mp3's and articles and websites and...

But, that's not church!

~Squirrel

Citizen Grim said...

Let me clean that up and try again:

Connor says: "The actual concept of a "pastor" is never really found in the NT, (the word used in Eph is the same word for "Elder")."If I'm not mistaken, the literal meaning of the word "poimenas" is "shepherds," not elder. No? And the Latin word for "shepherd" is "Pastor." So...

Besides that, "overseer" (Greek "episcopon," translated in the KJV as "bishop") is another term used in the NT for the same office. (Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:7)

Matt said...

I agree with Turk. Definitely one of the best posts I've ever read here. The reason why? Because it doesn't apply to all those "others". It's about me and the expectations I place on my elders.

Thank you so much, DJP.

DJP said...

That's right, Grim, but I'm really not going to let this meta swerve into a re-invention of the wheel for those who aren't even in the category of obedience.

Frank and Squirrel, exactly right. Books aren't your pastor, and we aren't either. It was horror of anyone thinking that which moved me to write the other post I linked to, about the moral necessity of physically being involved in an actual assembly.

Many people can attest that, when they write me with this or that question or situation, I'll reply with "What did your pastor say?", or by referring them to their pastor. I don't want to be anyone's The Other Man, in any sense of the word.

Benjamin Nitu said...

Love the post, Dan!
Great words of encouragement for all the pastors out there and for us as a congregation.

Solameanie said...

Wow. I am sending this link to my own pastors to encourage their hearts. What a post.

Dan, you outdid yourself this time, by God's grace.

Jason said...

As a guy I know would say, "Fantazmo!" Just in case you are wondering that means good, only better.

Marie said...

I love my pastor. He quotes Macarthur, Piper and Spurgeon all the time. :)

Great analogy with the paper fantasy-camps - I'd never really considered holding a pastor's preaching or doctrine up to a "Celebrity Pastor's" as an unfair comparison, but you're right. Thanks for this post, and the reminder (Rob) to be praying specifically for our local church shepherds.

Frank Turk said...

For the record, DJP is only cranky when he produces a masterpiece like this one and nobody in the "respectable" blogosphere links to it.

DJP said...

In the Raised-Pinkie crowd, I am indeed persona non grata.

Respectabiggle said...

Ouch. That one hits me right between the eyes.

Boaly said...

so so true

Ligon Duncan said...

Well said Dan. And much needed.

Your friend,

Lig

Johnny Dialectic said...

Pray for your pastor before you read another.

donsands said...

I have my elders and pastors know my struggles, and they pray for me. And my pastor is actually a friend. Double blessing for me.

And I have a pastor friends I guess because I was their elder for a season. Pastors can be friends with each and every congregate, that's for sure. neither can every elder. But they can be available for the sheep; they better be.

Dy-no-mite post.

BaseDad said...

i will also be sending this post to my Pastor followed by an apology.

thanks

donsands said...

Should be "can not". Sorry.

DJP said...

God bless you, BaseDad. You made my day.

Frank Turk said...

DJP --

ligon duncan.

'nuff said.

Stefan said...

This was brilliant.

There are other ways this syndrome can manifest itself. More than a few times in my Bible study group, I've been caught out regurgitating some bit of insight from (*cough*) some blog I'd read (*cough*), and asked to justify it from the verses at hand.

...This from a Bible study leader who generally agrees with the interpretations and applications, but who's repeatedly forcing me to go back to the Word and reason from *It* to the conclusions, not the other way around, no matter how sound the conclusions may be.

Verification word: "reguess."

Sir Brass said...

As far as famous descriptive one-liners go:

ZING!

That's a solid hit, red leader :).

I can't say that I've not been guilty of this very thing, but thankfully I've been convicted on it before (just not with the clarity brought out here now).

One thing more that my actual pastor gives that these paper pastors don't is stability. I don't always have time to listen to the latest John Piper or John MacArthur podcast, read their book, etc. However, on Wednesday evenings, and twice on Sunday, I will hear solid teaching from my pastor. They are there for me and for the rest of the congregation, as you pointed out; and that itself is a major factor.

A pastor who is involved with his flock is a pastor who will be influential, as he is essentially laying his life down for them. And we know that greater love has no man that this: that he lay down his life for his friends :).

I would also hope that these individual "paper pastors" would be in total agreement with you. They have (or had, if they are with the Lord now) their own congregations to tend and care for, and wouldn't want to be ignored by them for a "paper pastor." That's what convicted me on the issue, really.

If you (speaking generally) are one who is putting these men above your own pastor, then you're not even doing honor to the one who you so highly esteem! It is selfishness! Listen to your pastor! These other men may have powerful, important things to say, and that is why they wrote; however, that does not in any way, shape, or form remove your pastor from his pastoral position, and indeed it cannot.

Sir Brass said...

Correction: by "They" in the second major paragraph, I mean the eldership (which our pastor is part of, just chief among them) of our church, not the paper pastors.


Note: this meta really needs an 'edit' function for faux pax like this =p.

DJP said...

And the funny thing is, as perverse as we are, people probably sit in Mac's or Duncan's or Piper's congregations, wishing they were Dever or Mahaney or Anyabwile....

SolaMom said...

My flesh and blood pastor never even spoke to me when my ex-husband committed adultery and left me, nor even knew my name. In fact, ex-husband was welcomed back to the church with open arms.

My flesh and blood pastor never darkened the door of my hospital room at any one of the three surgeries I've had in the last 10 years.

Paper pastor or flesh and blood pastor? I don't see much of a difference.

Now proceed to make excuses for them.

SLW said...

That was an incredibly good post. Nothing at all to find fault with, and I can't imagine how it could be improved. It would make a nice back page on church bulletins all over the country for pastors appreciation month (those that still have them). Kudos DJP!

DJP said...

SolaMom — assuming that it is exactly as you say:

1. I'm very sorry. Why would you accuse anyone here of defending such behavior?

2. If you're still attending that church, why?

3. If you're not, why do you respond to Scripture with bitterness towards a past pastoral failure? Do you feel an individual's failure cancels out your Scriptural obligation?

Tad Thompson said...

Dan:

This is a great word. Many pastors are discouraged by the word "I'm just not being fed," on a week in week out basis by those who are leaving the flock. Admittedly, it is possible for people not to be fed, but often this is code for, "Im not gettin the same buzz off you that I get off of Osteen at night on my couch with a bowl of popcorn and a bud.

I wish more people had paper pastors like Piper and Jones. I'm afraid most people think The Shack or Osteen or Joyce Meyer types are the real spiritual leaders.

Another thought to explore....what about Pastors? I have always considered Piper as a pastor to me. Although I realize he does not know me from Adam, I do know that I can receive spiritual nourishment from his ministry every week, and I need that. That might be an interesting follow-up to explore.

David said...

Can there be a shout-out for churches that have less than, say 1000 people in them? Like maybe 200 or so? There are some awesome churches like that. The pastors might not be rock stars, but they'll hang out around the fire pit with you. Or have breakfast with you, like I'm fixin' to go do right now.

SolaMom said...

DJP:

1. It seems that Pyro is unaware of the wolves in shepherd's clothing who are harming the flock. There's a post title...Wolves in Shepherd's Clothing.

2. Leave my local church? What would Turk say? No, I am now a member of a wonderful, small Baptist church and for the first time in my life my pastor knows my name.

3. I was not responding to Scripture, I was responding to your post.

David said...

Unaware?! Are you kidding?

DJP said...

SolaMom1. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you are pretty much alone in this opinion; most of the criticism we get is from the precise opposite direction.

2. You're in a small, wonderful Baptist church, yet posts on accountability to church leadership provoke such emotion and bitterness from you. Have you talked with your pastor about your ongoing bitterness from the previous pastor's failures? Since you've made it a public issue more than once, I think you should, if you haven't.

3. To what in my post that wasn't Scriptural, specifically, do you think you responded?

SolaMom said...

David:

Nope. Not kidding. We all know what Pyro thinks about the big dogs, but what about the unknown local "shepherds" that tear their little flocks to pieces.

SolaMom said...

DJP:

I have a question...

It seems you're wanting to shift the blame onto me rather than address the actions of men who should, most likely, not be in the pulpit.

O Pregador said...

Just recently started following your blog, and I enjoy it very much. Your analysis today was perfect, and as a former pastor of a small church, now serving another small on the mission field, I wish so many more could read your post. Keep it up, and thanks again.

The Squirrel said...

SolaMom:

Abusive pastors are not pastors, but that is not the topic of Dan's post

I don't believe that Dan is, nor ever would, defend abusive pastors.

I think he is wondering why you are attacking him.

~Squirrel

DJP said...

Solamom, I'm dealing with what you've decided to share with us all. I feel like I've stepped into the buzz-saw of your unresolved anger and bitterness, and am still waiting for a specific error in this post.

So I'll say again:

1. Assuming it is as you said, I am genuinely sorry for how profoundly that pastor failed you.

2. You really need to deal Biblically with the bitterness to which you cling from that event. I won't be able to talk you out of it. If you haven't, ask for help from your pastor. Really, it is a bad thing, and will hurt you and people you care for (cf. Hebrews 12:15).

SolaMom said...

DJP:

It is not bitterness, but pain.

Robert said...

It's not limited to people wishing for other people's pastors either...sometimes they wish for the "conference" version of their own. My dad knew some people at Bellvue when Dr. Lee was there who complained about the drop off from the Payday Someday level sermons others heard to what they normally got on Sundays.

SolaMom said...

My apologies for commenting off topic. Won't happen again.

chris said...

Convicted, guilty, and thanks for the reminder. It's EXTREMELY easy to follow the scholars and paper pastors that we all know and love. To see that analogous to porn... yeesh!

JOYce ~♥~ said...

It's sad to see a real pastor overshadowed and trumped by a paper pastor. Yet we should be very thankful to God for paper(or soundbite or visual) pastors that may not be real from one perspective but are tangible(thus they are due honor/respect for their care as Paul was authorative to many in his day and in ours).

I shudder to think they don't have their proper place as do paper roses in lives of folks for whatever reasons in circumstances God wills and orchestrates. Real. Paper. Both but a vapor/flower yet are jewels God works in and through. Seriously do real pastors measure themselves against paper, or paper with real, or real with real, or paper with paper, or even let competition and jealously seeds take plant or become a fruition stronghold? Afterall, there is only one Shepherd and He cares and disciplines through whomever He will have His Truth proceed for His pleasure and glory. What a responsibility to weigh words carefully for those gifted pastors and teachers given a global platform/audience in addition to local shepherding. And that all said not disagreeing with you.

It IS sad to see any pastor overshadowed and trumped by a view by sheep God doesn't hold. What a bunch of grumbling, complaining, whining, and blathering bleaters sheep are. And we're supposed to be family considering Abraham father and Sarah mother that transcends the earth and Dysfunction Junction. Prayer worthy.

RobHu said...

Good post :-)

Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Very good. I spoke a while ago about "the wrong kind of hero worship" - "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos...". There is only one hero worth having. And yes, he is a pastor. Or to be precise, he is the Pastor.

Lloyd-Jones (to unfairly pick an example) did a great deal for evangelicalism in the UK. But he also did a great deal of harm, in some ways. He modelled an incorrect ecclesiology (church as preaching station) and readers and hearers both absorbed wrong ideas about how they were supposed to relate to a local church. I think the cost - in terms of Christians concerned for the truth who failed to get stuck into local churches because of secondary issues - is no longer quite piling up at the rate it was.

Associate-to-the-Pastor said...

This hurts, because I have found myself being THAT guy. You know...the guy who always quotes Piper, or a Puritan, or Machen, or (insert here). And I don't think to much about it, but you are right.

The flipside in my own life is, I went to the same church as most of my profs in undergrad and watched as men who produced high quality theological material in both lecture and published book form did, in fact, love me, rejoice with me, rebuke me, grieve with me, etc. I was able to see, firsthand, the fruit of their speech in the living of their everyday lives.

pastorharold said...

Great post Dan!
And I AMEN Robert!
Sometime we get caught up in measuring with a conference or meeting. Both are paper.

Gilbert said...

Dan's blog post looks great on paper...

Seriously, though, Dan...very well done. The Internet is a wonderful but extremely dangerous tool.

But in re: to your meta lead, I would (gasp!) dare say that there is at least one soul in John MacArthur's church who wishes he was more like (fill in the blank).

One more question, not to derail the meta (Frank and Sola have patents on them now, and it's getting expensive for me to do it): how can one encourage said pastor in light of what you wrote, to grow in his wisdom and knowledge of Christ? care to throw some links up? (BTW, "Well, gee, Gilbert, ALL my posts are an encouragement!" is a great but incomplete answer. ;-) )

Jude said...

Thanks for this post Dan. As a college student away from my home church I sorta drifting from church to church in the local area trying to find a good one. At the same time I've been podcasting and reading many pastors that wouldn't know me from Adam and it's helped me a ton.

The temptation is certainly there to depend on paper/electronic pastors more than a local body.

So, thank you for your post. I appreciate it.

Brad Williams said...

DJP,

I don't comment much here, but as a pastor, I really appreciate this post.

Another thing that this brings to mind is that pastors are as guilty of this, perhaps more so, than the flock. To whom do they go for wisdom? Accountability? While pastors must read to learn, they also need the exact same personal things that you describe here. Just giving my initial reaction as a pastor, hope I didn't stray off topic by including "us".

Eric said...

Excellent post Dan. Guilty as charged. If I was consuming large amounts of pornagrphy, I would have a growing apathy towards my wife. The same goes with my own personal pastor. Admittedly, I go to a church that has been seeker-sensitive in its orientation, but is seeking repentance from that model and truly desires to see disciples of Jesus Christ being built up and equipped. This post hits home in a truly powerful way, because I decided to leave my church last week and start looking for a new one, mostly because of my distaste for the preaching and lack of trust in the scriptures. No church is perfect, and I am positive that are people in my church right now that are storming the gates of heaven in prayer to bring me back. My church has about 4000 members in three campuses, and he was so shaken by my family's notable absence, that he spent a half an hour on the phone with my mentor seeking reconciliation. My pastor is not a false teacher. He is a traditional arminian that upholds substitutionary atonement and sola fide. He considers himself reformed in the sense of the five solas, and he has recently went after cults, the catholic church, easy believism, and Oprah to name a few. Honestly, I loved the small church that I visited last week. There were only 45 members, and the pastor did expository preaching just the way I like to learn, and if I had my way I would stay. Thank you for the post Dan, and I would appreciate any pastoral comments, if you so choose, for the edification of everyone

dan said...

Brilliant.

I come from a family of pastors here in the Philippines - my granddad was an old-time pastor who preached in obscure towns and rural villages, standing for the Truth and often vilified for it. Whenever a church couldn't take him (or his wife, my grandmother) much longer, they'd have him move on. Consequently my mum and her siblings could never settle for long in one place. Every few years they’d have to deal with new surroundings, friends, and schools all because some churches could only take so much Truthful preaching from an honest and passionate pastor.

My granddad was one of the kindest and most tender men you could come across. Why he had trouble keeping his job in some churches troubles me. As far as I know he wasn’t the dictatorial kind or shoddy with the Word. In fact, he was the kind of pastor who really connected with people, who went out if his way to pray, console, counsel, and rejoice with others.

When he died about 10 years ago (in his 80s) hundreds of people from all corners of his province showed up to pay their respects. People we didn’t know came out of the woodwork to catch a final glimpse of a man who lived for God and was faithful to the end. The procession was quite long – I mean, it was a big deal. You would have thought a prominent doctor or businessman had died.

My point being, some pastors labor hard for the Lord and endure endless trials for Christ’s name. My granddad had his fair share of opposition in his lifetime. It would constantly uproot his family and make life terribly hard at times. But he kept the faith, preached the Truth, and contented himself with the Lord.

It’s a shame the earthly tributes and appreciation poured in only at the end while he was lying in a coffin. He could’ve done with that kind of support and love decades earlier.

May we support and love our pastors as Christ loves us.

Dan

JOYce ~♥~ said...

To SolaMom ~ {{{HUGS}}} and prayers. May I suggest praying Scripture for those that you feel have had shortcomings in your life, even a pastor ~ it's hard then not to be thankful for them or know that what happened, though maybe or maybe not right for others, is right for us in God's appointment. Talking with the pastor might change the whole thing around, too. I'm saying that from having navigated a fair share of pain for my good so hope it's received as loving care. God bless you. ♥

Could have done that privately but chose not...

Sir Aaron said...

I concur with Frank: Fantastic post.

I'll add that the Lord made me recognize this point once. I had started visiting a church because of the Pastor (he was on the radio). To learn he had faults, even sin, really rattled my cage so to speak. It became evident to me that I had become a follower of the Pastor and had put him up on a pedestal with God. This pedestal I created kept me from finding a church closer to home because, of course, no Pastor could compete. Then, tragically, this Pastor's church split because of some evil men in the congregation. But it caused me to realize that I had elevated a man to a position that should have been reserved only for Christ. After the emotional pain lapsed, I came to the realization that DJP mentioned. God gave me a local Pastor, who is not perfect, but was given to minister to the local body, of which I am a member. I am thankful for the Pastor, God has provided and do my best to give him my full support.

SolaMom: I know that my story doesn't even come close to the pain caused by the events you have shared here. Clearly you have been badly hurt by the leaders who were supposed to care for you in the times you needed them the most. I would echo the same advice already given. Don't let past pain consume you. Go speak to the leadership at your church.

Sir Aaron said...

Sheldon:

You make an excellent point about paper friends. Frank made a point at his blog about us, as part of the local body, needing to interact with the members on a more intimate level.

donsands said...

"God gave you the pastor He gave you."

And I've had my share of Holiness Penetecostal, Catholic monsigours, and AoG pastors. Some good some bad. I've had Calvary Chapel pastors, EFCA pastors. Each pastor was from our spvereign Lord, and I need to thank Him.

"But if you're in a manageable-size church with a caring pastor and you're suddenly gone next Sunday, he'll be concerned. He may call. He may ask if everything's okay."

This is so true. Or he may send you an e-mail.

How much are we to expect of a pastor? I never expected my pastors to be totally available, and not all were. Some are more available then others, I would think.

The main thing is the pastor in the Word and prayer. Is he tending the sheep, and feeding, and leading us to feed upon the Word for ourselves with our families, and drinking of the Spirit, so that rivers of living waters flow from our bellies.

There's so much to think of when I think about pastors. Their's is the highest calling in this life and age. They deserve double honor.

David said...

Solamom:

I've got stories too, and one is fresh. I do not in any way belittle your pain.

But I do believe that the Pyro guys are definitely dealing with this kind of thing.

And yes, it does need to be dealt with.

Pray the hard Psalms, and use every invective that God gives you to use. He will sift everything out.

paul said...

This is a very helpful post. I wonder if in large-ish churches or in smaller churches where the pastor is very "professional", the in-the-flesh pastor is made of paper as much as the pastor on the podcast. Is appearing in the pulpit once a week much different from showing up in the podcast lineup once a week?

KM said...

SolaMom

I feel what you’re saying completely as I’ve not only experienced, myself, but watched this type of neglect of others from some pastors in my life and it has happened on more than 1 occasion by more than 1 pastor. But, I agree that the pastor that’s over you is over you for a reason no matter what. And I have to say that in my experiences even these types of situations have been allowed by God because He has something for me in this.

The Word says that God is our teacher and God is our Father. While it may be infuriating for you or me or anyone else who’s experienced this type of thing to accept this, the person (pastor) He has put over you or me or whoever IS the mouthpiece He has chosen to use. And in being obedient to Him we must continue in the race and walk out His word, and learn to walk out His word. Forgiveness is a hard lesson.

DJP - Your post was awesome and amazingly consistent with things the Lord has been convicting me of recently. Thanks.

JOYce ~♥~ said...

Paper vs. real for local pastors and what they do or don't accomplish 24/7. How many ministers are there in the house and why is the pastor(s) considered the only one(s) that must be everywhere and do everything all the time as if he(they) have a cape and sport a large S on their chest? Even in a fold of 2 sheep other than their home, they can't be in two places at once and still be husband and father and paramountly in the Word. Just saying.

stratagem said...

SolaMom: I don't think Dan is saying in any way that the behavior of your former pastor is excusable. I think he is acknowledging the error while also saying that pastors are individuals, have failings, and yet some of them fail so badly that they are clearly not fulfilling the role of pastor as Biblically defined. You were hurt by a pastor's uncaring or neglectful attitude. I think Dan is just encouraging you to keep an open mind toward other pastors, just as you don't categorically reject all other men based on your ex-husband's actions and identity as a man.

Frank Turk said...

I just wanted to reiterate that anyone who is reading this and who has a pastor like Tad Thompson seek to live under a bridge and eat out of the garbage as a homeless person before leaving a pastor and a church like that.

I left him, and I regret it every day. EVERDAY DAY.

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

DJP,

That was one great post.

Julius Mickel said...

Good post, very good points!
The fact IS that many of these pastors that people may elevate HAD congregations of people like us (some appreciative, some complainers, some sleeepers).
Sheep are TOO prone to seek GREENER grass!
Take EDWARDS for example he was KICKED out!
Not to mention people that like "HARD-PREACHING" not because they are looking to grow in Christ but because they want someone they can say 'AMEN'too. Yet when that Hard-Preacher is YOUR preacher, and it might sound like he's talking to YOU, it just doesn't sound the same?!
Another PROBLEM: I think there are too many that feel it's the Pastors' responsibility to MAKE them more Christlike, in the sense that they blame the preacher for their lack of growth.

stratagem said...

Dan - I have a family member who attends a "home church" (with other families represented) that is small, maybe 10-15 people. As is usual in such cases in my experience, I see his beliefs getting more and more "out there" as time goes on... becoming a conspiracy theory Christian is the best I know how to describe it. I know the Word is read in this home church; I honestly don't know whether "discipline" is practiced or not, or "ordinances" (whatever that means).
I am not so narrow-minded as to think that a scriptural "church" must have a paid pastor or a building, since in many parts of the world there are few enough believers that home churches are the norm.
Here's my question: How can I effectively point out to my family member that something is not fulfilling the scriptural definition of church, in his situation? Something of the "NEXT!" type of impact would be nice, and I know you're good at those. Any suggestions?

Stan McCullars said...

Dan,
Great post!

Leaves me wishing R.C. Sproul was my pastor.

Oh, wait. He is my pastor. ;)

DJP said...

Yep, Stan; you and Lt. Pratt, right?

(c;

And fwiw, though I doubt many are really unclear: what makes a local church a church is not where it meets. I myself don't care if it meets in a "church" building, a home, or by a trout stream. (In fact, you know what my preference would be.)

But there are Christians, there's at least one pastor, the Word is preached, the ordinances are observed, and church discipline is observed as needed.

SolaMommy said...

Great post, Dan. Thank you! I have to say though, I was totally weirded-out when you made that transition halfway through the post...and then I GOT it :-)

DJP said...

The "Uh-huh, uh-huh, ka-POW" effect.

I've been known to try for it.

David Rudd said...

Dan.

Nice one.

I was just thinking earlier how much I always appreciate your posts on Proverbs... but this is better.

Puritan said...

This is one of the reasons I don't recommend Study Bibles. Not only are they lazy, but people see the Study notes as an authority above the text, and are judging their Pastors interpretation, on whether it matches John MacArhtur or whoever's study notes.

On another note, I pitty anyone with Dave Hunt as their Pastor LOL.

Mesa Mike said...

My wife and I have sought out small congregations wherever we find ourselves living. This because we've realized that the larger congregations we've been part of have pastors that also don't know us from Adam, and are mostly inaccessible. Nevermind the ones on the podcasts.

Jay said...

SolaMom,
I feel your pain. I would be willing to bet though that the problem at your former church wasn't just the pastor - but all of the leadership (elders, deacons, whatever) who failed in their high calling to shepherd the people God placed in their care; AND all of the brothers and sisters who also were called to care for each other as well.

No Pastor can "do it all" by himself - it takes the whole church working together, pulling the yoke along with the pastor.

Finally dear sister, forgive him, pray for him and then go help your new pastor ensure no one in his flock has to go through the same experience.

Sir Aaron said...

I like my Study bible. When you're not at home, it provides great cross references, some greek and hebrew translations, etc. And if I see that the study notes say something other than what my Pastor says, then I know that is someplace I need to spend a little time before the next week. Its like any other convenience. It can be abused, but otherwise it can be a great tool.

stratagem said...

But there are Christians, there's at least one pastor, the Word is preached, the ordinances are observed, and church discipline is observed as needed.OK, thank you, but how do I tell if someone there is a "pastor?" You are defining that word by using the word itself. I also don't know what the ordinances are. Ordinarily "ordinance" means either laws (what laws?) or high explosives used in the military - I'm not sure what it means in churchspeak. Can you (or someone else) give me something practical to apply in the case I'm dealing with?

Stefan said...

And the exact opposite of this syndrome:

By the grace of God, I have a pastor who does dot all his i's and cross all his t's, and preaches the Gospel faithfully in Word and Spirit, teaching and exhorting his flock.

Like I mentioned last week, many Sundays I would leave church thinking, "Yes, that's exactly the way So-and-so or What's-his-name would teach it!"

...And be so busy marvelling at the rich teaching, that I would miss the point of that week's sermon: the application that was supposed to pierce my heart and search my soul, not just feed my brain.

Stan McCullars said...

Dan,
That's what I hear.

Tad Thompson said...

Frank:

I love you bro...but I don't think Tara would enjoy the bridge arrangements.

Tad

Jay said...

Great post BTW. Another "ouch" read for me.

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

I think this topic should have a second part titled: “Paper gods and the smorgasbord”

This is when a person picks and chooses what Bible text they want to believe until they end up with believing in a (little) god that looks, acts, and holds the same social and political beliefs they do.

When a person is not amazed by the grace of the true living God, it's most likely rooted in the fact they've been worshiping a false paper god of their own liking.

Aaron Snell said...

strategem,

A pastor/elder/overseer is a spiritually qualified man who has been called and set apart by the Spirit, and ordained/appointed by the church, to oversee (shepherd) a local congregation/gathering of Christian. Ruling, teaching, etc.

The ordinances of the church are those two things commanded of the church by Christ: baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Aaron Snell said...

Dan,

Thank you for this post. You and Frank have been giving me a lot to think about lately.

Chris Connally said...

I suppose one could also warn pastors to be themselves and leave the John MacArthur to John MacArthur. Sometimes the pressure one feels to live up to the paper pastors reputation will cause them to lose sight of who they are, and they attempt to operate in areas of gifting to which the Holy Spirit did not equip them. This so often has tragic consequences for all involved. I see many young pastors trying to be Mark Driscoll and the effect is that they come across as lame novices who would do better to simply stop talking. Great post and I apologize if my response was a bit off topic.

Romans 8:28

johnMark said...

Dan,

I really appreciate this post. I've thought about this topic a lot lately.

Question: If you are a member of a huge church, that may even have multiple sites, is it possible to still have a paper pastor?Because they don't know you from Adam?

I have another bit of pondering, but I need to think on it some more.

Thanks,

Mark

DJP said...

I do have thoughts about megachurches, and (to my relief) they're off-topic, too.

(c;

sem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

It is appropriate and biblical to have heroes in the faith that we've never met? Hebrews 11 is categorical in it's exultation of the people of faith. I think the discussion is not whether it's wrong to have heroes in our faith, but do we have real life examples of heroes as well, not just books, podcasts, and dead guys. It is also a question of affection and where it's directed. Are we directing more affection in our hearts to the pastors that God has sovereignly appointed us?

Aaron Sauer said...

Wonderful post, Dan. This really hit home with me as I have quite a few iPod pastors.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Dan,

I may be repeating ('cause I don't have time to read 103 comments), but two things come to mind -

First... "Paper Pastor" could also be "internet Pastor", or "Celebrity Pastor". I was convicted of this recently myself... we're looking forward to attending a homeschool conference this weekend, with Voddie Baucham as the featured speaker. I found myself thinking, "I wonder if I'll get the chance to ask him....." some question or other. Then I gave myself a dope-slap and thought, "Why wouldn't I just ask (my own) Pastor Bert?!" He's a wise, godly man. I don't need to ask the celebrity.

Duh.

Second... Thank your Pastor. Write him a note. Invite him and his wife to lunch. Encourage him.

That said, thanks to you too, for what I 'pick up' here.

Julie

johnMark said...

OK, I'll try again.

I am found at least partially guilty and am convicted of having paper pastor(s). Yet, my pastor has never reached out to me and seems unreachable after service or when I call. Given the above scenario, what is your advice to help me with my new found convictions?

Better? :)

Mark

Chris Poe said...

This is an excellent post. I have a few observations.

1. I believe John Mark raises a valid concern with regard to large churches and the impersonal atmosphere one often finds there. I don't know that I would ultimately be comfortable in a very large church no matter who the preacher is.

2. My wife spent many of her formative years in a charismatic megachurch. The idea that one could talk to and even be friends with the pastor was somewhat revolutionary since often he was treated as some kind of celebrity. (And that church doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as others in that regard.)

3. James Savastio posted a similar post last year that essentially makes the same point, although as one might imagine, it didn't quite throw off the kind of sparks that one might expect from the Pyros :) : http://reformedbaptistfellowship.wordpress.com/2008/06/12/so-whose-your-pastor/

3. I think a watershed moment for me came a few years back when I was in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I was in Jackson one evening and went to FPC to hear Ligon Duncan preach. He preached on a similar passage (if not the same passage) that my pastor had recently preached. I realized that his message was very similar respects to my own pastor's, that I was really hearing nothing "new" or different. Now I don't think at that time that I was into celebrity pastors, etc. but it was still a wonderful encouragement and realization that there are many unsung and practically unknown pastors out there who faithfully preach the word without fanfare. I think this was probably one reason why Dr. D.A. Carson wrote that book about his "ordinary pastor" father. (Of course none of this is to disparage Dr. Duncan either, who I have a lot of respect for.)

I also know many relatively unknown "Sovereign Grace" (no, not THAT Sovereign Grace i.e. SGM) baptist pastors who are powerful preachers that frankly are sometimes better expositors than some of our celebrity pastors. And I mean the many of the "Reformed" ones.

Solameanie said...

To inject a bit of levity, I think Dan should rewrite Marie Osmond's song, "Paper Roses."

"Paper pastors, paper pastors..oh how real those pastors seemed to be . . . "

(Okay, I'll get out now...)

Matt said...

I just shared this with the ministerial at my church. Perhaps we should all do this to encourage our leaders?

LAGBolt said...

I just got an email that one of my coworkers died yesterday. I also just read:
http://takeyourvitaminz.blogspot.com/2009/04/yesterday-we-lost-member-of-our-church.html
on my break.

If normal demographics hold someday my wife will be standing by my bed when I'm gone thinking who she should call. She'll call her sister and our son, and then she'll call our Pastor. And he'll be there at the viewing thing and lead the memorial service and talk to her and hug her like Pastors do.

Sometimes when there has been a run of funerals he will disappear for a day and take a 20mile hike on the beach or paddle around an island in his kayak. But he always comes back and serves again. Praise the Lord.

stratagem said...

Aaron: Thank you. I'm happy to learn that DJP isn't playing with hand grenades at his church. I must say, all the definitions of pastor in the world seem so slippery that it is hard to judge whos is a pastor, and who isn't. Then there's the definition of "church" itself. Frank once told me that they also have to have a doctrine statement to be a church. I'm sure also that otehrs have their own definitions, but it all seems so arbitrary. No wonder we can't come up with a NEXT! statement to address it.

Sir Brass said...

I definitely need to thank my pastor. I've only been at my church for a short while, so the number of opportunites to thank him haven't arisen yet. However, when our church accepts a person for membership, he or she is presented to the congregation after being examined by the elders; our pastor then says a few words before asking the congregation to approve or not approve the person for membership.

Now, I knew my pastor and the elders had been observing me, but I hadn't pried into what they'd seen. However, what my pastor said to the congregation nearly floored me. What he said showed just how much he paid attention to the people (not that there was any doubt of that in my mind, but this is a small church and a good number of the members have been members for quite some time....aka, of course they're known by the pastor), even to someone new like me.

That, and my pastor on top of that is diligent and always in the Word so that it feels like he always has a sermon on his lips. He's that skilled. I know I'm truly blessed to be under a teacher like him, and I think it's already high time I thanked him for it :).

Stefan said...

Just a thought...tangential to this post....

Those well-known pastors whose names we all know, must themselves crave pastoring from their peers.

Within a single church or a local community, a junior pastor can sit under the teaching and be mentored by a senior pastor.

But for these widely-published senior pastors, who can they turn to, to have their souls ministered to?

Do they listen to each other's sermons? (I imagine they must.) Can they, too, suffer from the same tendency that you've described in this post, Dan, without a peer to minister to them?

Yes, of course, in sense, their Chief Shepherd and the Holy Spirit minister to them, as They do to us; for direct pastoral care, though, they must turn to their own elders, and to their fellow workers in Christ.

And for them, this is one blessing of these conferences: that they themselves can sit under the direct pulpit preaching of others.

Pray for our pastors, that they, too, are shepherded as they shepherd us.

Carol Jean said...

Great post Dan! I wonder to what extent churches/pastors perpetuate the problem by the endless "Bible studies" based on the latest must-read book or small group curriculum by a popular writer or pastor.

At first glance it seems harmless. At our last church, my teen son's small group a few years back was going through a John MacArthur book during the school year. It was a great benefit to him and very challenging for the young men in the group.

The next year the youth pastors decided the small groups would all be "studying" Nooma videos for the entire year. We realized at that point that Rob Bell would be a De facto youth pastor and we pulled our son out.

Your post makes me consider that in general, churches seem to rely too heavily on pre-packaged Bible study materials and not enough on the actual Word. Just another version of the Paper Pastor.

Women's groups seem to be the worst - I have an absolute aversion to them. The endless fill-in-the blank workbooks, the journaling about my feelings - blech!

Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen said...

Great post. Due to my age and the persistence of my family, I go to a Pentecostal gathering which doesn't remotely assemble a Bible-based church, and so my iPod has become my pastor of sorts. What advice could you give to a young man in my position?

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Carol-Jean,

You rock.

Spot on.

I have zero tolerance for the watch-a-video-of-the-famous-person, then fill-in-the-blanks (with the answer in the next paragraph, in case you don't really want to think too much), and how-do-you-feel-about blah blah blah.

Too much pre-packaged stuff. Too much pre-packaged fluff.

Pastors (and Bible Study leaders) shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel every time, but I'm looking for godly leaders, not just "facilitators". I didn't come to pool my ignorance with everyone else's, I want to learn what God has to say.

Honestly, I do thank my Pastor - frequently - for opening God's Word every single Sunday, and pouring it out on us.

Julie

Papias said...

Dan, Great Post.

We are so ready to elevate the "ideal" than the real.

It's sad when pastors do it to themselves. (For example, when your pastor quotes Famous Pastor 1, Famous Theologian 1, and Famous Teacher 1.) They can undermine their own ministry by relying on the learnings of others, and getting the water fresh for themselves and thereby their own congregations.

Christy said...
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Rachael Starke said...

First chance I've had today as I've been out doing, y'know, ministry (n my case, hunting far and wide for a couch for our family room).

So this:

1. Best Pastor Post Ever (I actually seem to recall the Best Post Ever moniker being used before with Mr. Phillips, so perhaps it's time for subcategories? There's the Yoots posts, the Proverbs posts, etc.)

2. Ligon Duncan in da meta house!!!

3. ((eyes blinking innocently))Dan, as good a pastor as you are on paper, what might it be like for a congegration in need of a pastor, even one as small as ten families or so, to be able to have you as their pastor in real life? IOW, are you still actively available to be that kind of pastor?

Pastor's Wife said...

EXCELLENT post! As a pastor's wife I can truly relate to the Paper Pastor syndrome. In fact, I have heard people in our congregation tell my faithful expositor husband that they cannot follow or grow from his preaching, but they listen to John MacArthur all the time and follow him just fine. (He was trained at TMS and has been affirmed in his preaching by godly pastors and professors at GCC.) These same people who can't follow his preaching also admit to "checking out" during the sermon b/c of one little thing he said, or "how you carry yourself", etc. The excuses for not listening to the preaching of the word can border on ridiculous at times!

I just wanted to respond to Stefan's question about how pastor's souls are shepherded. 1)Yes, my husband does listen to a lot of preaching. However, I think he'd say that he is most effectively shepherded throughout the week by the very Word of God as he is forced to wrestle through the passage in the most intimate way. I see the fruit of it in His life!

DJP said...

Rachael StarkeDan, as good a pastor as you are on paper, what might it be like for a congegration in need of a pastor, even one as small as ten families or so, to be able to have you as their pastor in real life? IOW, are you still actively available to be that kind of pastor?Yes, I am still available, and very much wanting to.

JR said...

If I am not really engaged in my church...the paper pastor will do just fine, which goes onto explain why they are so popular. I don’t need community specific care when I am relatively unattached to the community.

Frank Turk said...

POST 124!

David said...

After having had an awesome, gravy-laden breakfast with my pastors Jason Robertson and Scott Hill, I am grateful to God for them.

Blogs don't give you even 10% of what a man is like in ministry. You can see the real thing over chicken fried steak and eggs.

Sing-Along Steve said...

A few things:

SolaMom:

I am a former youth pastor/church bus driver/lay preacher who has had the abandoned-by-the-pastor thing happen to me not once, but at least three distinct times. The last time, it cost me my job, my home, the respect of the church and youth group and almost my active, daily faith.

There is no sense at all in which I do not feel your pain. My family and church shall pray for you.

Dan, EXCELLENT post. The pastor of our home church is a graduate of The Master's Seminary and has been to T4G. As much as I love many of the 'name' pastors out there, as he does, I relish the time I spend under this man's preaching because HE himself is a God-fearing man. All the other paper and m-pastor-3's I love to get fed by are my pastor's and my fellowsoldiers and brethren in like precious faith, not idols, DG.

Reminds me of a message I listened to from Duncan Campbell, as he related his experience of being involved in a revival on an island off the coast of Scotland. As he explained why (prayer, fasting and sincere seeking of God) the revival was graciously granted by the Lord, he said (speaking of himself):

"Is it because Campbell went to the island? BANISH THE THOUGHT!! BANISH THE THOUGHT!!"

Friends, we are NOT fed by anyone, I mean TRULY fed, unless the order that God has established for His church is being honored. Every one of the legitimate, God-fearing pastors who occupy that paper world along with their real one would absolutely agree.

All that being said, TeamPyro, thanks for what you do in helping to encourage, challenge and direct us as we obey God by following our pastors.

stratagem said...

Padre Piper Picked a Peck of Paper Pastors.

Julius Mickel said...

Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen
Well, would of expected someone to answer quicker, but brother coming out of such, especially when you know good doctrine. Constant danger of critizing every leader, every sermon, every bit of counsel (which won't make you stronger, maybe right but it's not an environment to nuture humility)
*Not to mention that you never feel comfortable inviting someone to YOUR church!
ESPECIALLY since you're a young guy, you DESPERATELY need to be humbled by older men (personal contact)

SEEK God's help in giving you boldness, favor and great care in expressing to your parents your desire to look for another church.

Though he's not in London, maybe try contacting Kevin at www.puritanfellowship.com for some suggestions!

lawrence said...

Not that it means very much after all the encouragement you've already received, but from now on, whenever someone makes fun of me for sifting through the trash in the blogosphere, I will show them a copy of this post and say....I have no idea, I'll think of that later. Something that tries to encapsulate just how freaking awesome this post was.

Carl said...

Just my two-cents worth:

I am very happy and content with the preacher at the church I attend. I believe he does a good job as a preacher and does care quite a bit about the congregation.

Now in my case, I will turn to Christian theologians and preachers/teachers of the Word mostly in regards to published words of reference materials (Henry, McGee, Hendricksen, etc.) as well as Scriptural application for Christian living (Swindoll, Stanley, Stott, etc.) and also for specific sermons (Spurgeon, Piper, Wesley, Stedman, etc.).

But I don't think I have ever consciously or subconsciously attempted to replace my flesh-and-blood preachers with any paper preacher. At least I hope I never did.

DJP said...

Well, Carl, that gives me an opportunity to say that I'm glad nobody read into my post the notion that I oppose reading or hearing other pastors, alive or dead. No one can have read many of my posts and have that idea, I think.

Thanks for bringing that up.

Carl said...

Someone mentioned about smaller churches...for whatever it's worth, that describes the church I attend. I think the total number of members of the congregation may be about 125 or less. My paternal grandmother used to attend a church in Shubuta, MS that had usually about 25 members. I grew up attending mostly small churches with about a 4 year period attending a slightly larger church (I would say medium-sized) in rural south Mississippi. I've attended services at large churches and worked for about nine months at a very large local church (I was employed by the church to work at their lp television station). I wouldn't call that church a mega-church but it is much larger than any church of which I was a member. I like the large church and like the preacher (he's a very good all-round preacher whom I asked all sorts of questions of which he answered and helped me graciously) but it was a strange feeling to have so many Christian brethren around me. Quite the change from the small churches. I never formally joined that church (I was employed only part time and it is a long drive from where I live to this church -- however they air their services on the station where I was once employed so I feel I get a double dose of services -- one on Sunday morning at the small church near my home and then later on via the larger church's broadcast).

Anyway, my personal experiences has mostly been with small to even tiny churches. Big churches, small churches, whatever...as long as they are grounded in the Scripture and are Christ-centered then it's good to me.

Carl said...

Dan, if I start hearing dead pastors, please call the guys with the big white net to take me to that special padded room, okay? Heh-heh. :-)

culgurl95 said...
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stratagem said...

Is there a Dead Pastor's Society?

SQLSvrMan said...

While I read LOTS of books none of the authors are my pastor. I totally agree with your post.

I am currently attending the absolute BEST church I have ever attended. Yes, we are all poor wretched sinners but it is the MOST loving church I have attended!

I love my pastor very dearly!!

heath lloyd said...

Great Dan.
Thank you, from an imperfect pastor.

Who grew up in the home of another imperfect pastor whom I witnessed loving his people like no one else ever could.

Thank you on behalf of all of the faithful, yet imperfect, unfamous men out there.

humanitasremedium said...

Thank you for this post. I will take these things to lord. As a lay person, this was a great reminder to me as to what kind of sheep I need to be. Thanks again.

Mike the Bible Burgh Host said...

Dan . . . since I just completed another watching of American Idol (oh, the shame . . . oh the humanity!) . . . sometimes us parents with 6 kids do that "after soccer game in 48 degree rainy weather" thing to "chill" even more . . . I would say this:

Very original . . . you made that your own . . . you could have possibly titled it "Barbie Pulpit Expectations, Your Pastor and You". With posts like that you could very well make it into the "Blogging Idol" finals.

My only point to add, after hearing John MacArthur talk about "if you can't find the right church, join the best one" . . . sometimes people ARE caught in the middle, and need to TEMPORARILY turn to the paper pastors to get through the transition of finding that church.

But your post doesn't really pertain to them in my estimation. Still thought it should be said.

Maybe we can talk about this sometime this summer on Bible Burgh!

God's blessings . . . and I truly hope you don't get voted off . . . :-)

Sir Aaron said...
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Brent J said...

Best post I've read in a long time. I listen to many of these podcasts each day.

I can see where this could be a problem if I didn't have such a great real pastor.

Very insightful!

yipeng said...

Well written. I felt like I was breezing through it yet taking it in.. and the only time I had to slow down was to read the Bible Verses ;)

Chris said...
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gospelmuse said...

THANK GOD FOR “PAPER PASTORS!”

If it were not for these men there would be little left.

Surely there are those who are faithful ministers of the Gospel alone (God be thanked!), but many are long lost in a world of foolish ministry.

It deserves consideration as to how many men, who do minister faithfully the Gospel, do so because of these “PAPER PASTORS!” As for the rest, I have met some who are unwilling to seriously consider that they could really use the help.

Again, thank God for those who are *made* willing to preach Christ and those *made* willing to listen!

Peace,
Matthew

Chris said...

Puritan:

You are one of the last people I thought I'd ever have a disagreement with here at Pyro, as I usually find myself aligned with you, but I must say that it happened today, brother.

It's not a critical issue, but I don't think study Bibles are lazy--or, I should say I don't think they are if they are not used exclusively. A good library should accompany our study in the Word. However, I think a study Bible with notes from a team that is trustworthy and sound doctrinally (e.g. The Reformation Study Bible, albeit with its absence of pre-mil notes because every self-respecting Calvinist...). Or, instead of a team, a one-man Study Bible like John MacArthur's (even better) has the advantage that all of the notes are more consistent with regard to matters of doctroine because they come from one man. Of course, in the case of the latter example, one should naturally be in agreement with that one man if they are to get the most out of a one-man study Bible, as I do.

I guess I think of a good study Bible, in the midst of many good and specific commentaries, as something of a beacon or a lighthouse. I like to think of it this way because a lighthouse does not get ships back into the harbour safely per-se, as the ship captain needs to do that; it does provide a familiar light that assists the captain's navigation--particularly when he goes out and returns again from rough seas or fog. Of course, the Word itself is our true lighthouse, the Holy Spirit our true captain, and the Lord Jesus Himself the safe water. Nonetheless, a good study Bible becomes a co-pilot, or mentor, in guiding my study. In case my corny similes are not working, I guess I simply mean that a good Study Bible is like a good friend, or partner (to use two more similes), as it is someone who consistently, regularly, and frequently speaks the Truth of God's Word into my life.

...at least thats how it goes for me, as I rotate between John M and RC as my Study Bible mentors, plus Spurgeon's Devotional Bible. Maybe I am lazy because I couldn't imagine studying the Word without these...which is probably why I'm not a pastor :^o

Susan said...

I was about to say that Dan is beginning to sound a lot like Frank, and then I kept reading the meta and saw that Frank is so ecstatic over this, he can hardly contain himself!! (Your joy, Frank, translates well even over this inhuman, cold, electronic medium!)

Hanani Hindsfeet said...

Thanks Dan, that really was an eye-opener.

Easy trap to fall into...

jaywingard said...

Outstanding article that is both timely and convicting. We so tend to overlook the fact that men like Piper are real people and we only see the video of him at a conference or the well written, heavily edited words in one of his many books and so often we compare our local pastor to these men.

Soli Deo Gloria!

stratagem said...

It occurred to me this morning, that the principle in this post could be summed up as "The only good pastor is a dead pastor" (in the sense that Jesus used the word "good", as in perfect). The rest of pastors are human, flawed, real. But my pastor, though flawed, is wonderful. Thank God for those living, real, caring pastors.

Hayden said...

Might I recommend 'The Ordinary Pastor' by DA Carson

Kent McCune said...

Great post and the point is well-taken.

But.... I'm thankful that my pastor is as good or better than everyone you listed (no hyperbole intended). We get the best of both worlds. What a blessing. Praise the Lord.

Dan Miller said...

It strikes me that even one's own pastor could be a paper pastor.
If the only thing one takes from church is one sermon, and there is no other interaction with the leadership or church body, then it might be a similar situation.

DJP said...

While that might well be an error, it isn't the one I'm talking about. (My post may mean many things, but it doesn't mean everything.)

john said...

I don't think I have ever commented on this blog before, but this was a really really good post.

Kim Wareham said...

Thank you this is a brilliant blog.

Kendall said...

This is the best. I need to go thank my pastor, my real pastor, for all he is and all he does and I'm going to thank God for placing him over me.

QueenJfer said...

although my church is around 800-ish, and the pastors all know me by name, I have to say I'm extremely grateful for "paper" pastors. Without them I would starve to death. We don't have Wednesday or Sunday evening services, and only hear sermons 3 times a month (each around 40 min). The first Sunday of each month is a "celebration" service wherein we have communion and "sharing". Therefore no real sermon. A diet of only 120 sermon-minutes per month would make me spiritually anorexic.

Your admonition is very good, however, and I do agree with it.

SermonFire said...

I don't often comment here, but I just want to say this is by far the best post I've ever read on Pyromaniacs.

Keep up the good work.

Larre Sloan said...

I'm not writing to make a point, just an observation.

Maybe this is an exception to the rule, but I just got a phone call from Grace to You asking if I had any questions or prayer requests. WOW. By the way, I don't go to Grace Community Church.

I was caught off-guard, but did have the sense to ask about the timing of the ESV MacArthur Study Bible. I was told "soon."

Merlin said...

I want to support the opinion of QueenJfer. While we all would like to think that our own local situation is settled and fine, the real world truth is that it isn't. There are more evangelical organizations certifying and planting churches these days than you can count. The theology of many of the old guard is nebulous and inconsistent. When you are suffering from spiritual anorexia, you go to the buffet. I read blogs that turn me on to books that get me rereading the Bible with different emphasis and perspectives. This is as much a part of my spiritual journey as anything else that I do. I would not be on this blog otherwise, and I have been here daily for three months just reading and learning.

I understand the spirit in which this post was intended. I understand the biblical citations that created this post. I really feel empathy for the pastor's wife who posted earlier as I have certainly been critical in analysis of sermons, though I always listen and try to follow every word.

The value of paper pastors is evident to the pyro staff clearly as you are all guilty of origami. This blog stands in evidence of the contrary opinion. If there is no value in paper pastors, why do we read what you write?

My own situation begins from a sense of abandonment by the American Episcopal Church. Following my exodus from that theologic quagmire, we landed in a megachurch of my wife's choosing. In this place, we get a steady diet of personal relationships and all sorts of Armenian theological constructs that leave me very uncomfortable. My children are being raised in this environment and it troubles me as I do not have the authority in their eyes to question what they hear from their youth pastors.

I must say that not all communities are capable of handling the sort of searching inquiry that I place before them. The pastors do not know my name. They might recognize me by now (4 years,) but I'm not sure of that. These guys are great at the emotional conversion experience, but not as good at following up with real teaching and learning.

Is this the fault of the individual who is unwilling or unable to figure out what the next step should be? Perhaps. I never had that "ah-ha" moment in my salvation. I just assumed that confirmation actual meant what it was supposed to mean.

Just a few random thoughts....

runs and hides behind the nearest mega billboard

DJP said...

Hm.

Was my 4:21 PM, April 21, 2009, comment premature?

Stefan said...
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Merlin said...

DJP,

No, I missed that post. I just didn't read that one. Sorry. I guess I just wanted to chime in for no apparent good reason.

I'll go back to my corner and just read again.

Sorry.

Respectabiggle said...

Though, if your apology to your pastor starts off with "I confess that I've been thinking of John Piper like a porn star," you might have more explaining to do.

Betsy Markman said...

Wow, this is awesome and very thought provoking.
I do love John Piper's ministry, and consider him in many ways my Spiritual Father, since he introduced me to true faith. But I am SO grateful to have a flesh-and-blood pastor whom I respect, who IS there to counsel, who IS real, even with "warts," and who DOES deliver the Word of God faithfully. Sure, I disagree with him on a point or two of minor significance, but who cares?

The sad fact is that, for many years of my life, in the course of living in several states, I have gone without such pastors. Not that I wasn't in church. I always was. But not all of the pastors I've had were "real" even though they were there in the flesh. What they presented was paper. They played a role. Not all of them, but enough of them to let me know that godly pastors should never be taken for granted.

May your post encourage many people to greater appreciation for the godly pastors they have.

Bob said...

I am grateful to paper pastors like MacArthur, Begg, Piper, etc. who will never know me personally but I will meet in heaven. I am also grateful to paper pastors such as Paul, John, Peter, etc. who don't know me either but I hope to see in heaven as well.

In the mean time, I appreciate my local pastors who look me in the eye and give me a hug a couple of times a week.

Each of these "pastors" has helped in different ways making me a Christian better equiped to serve the Lord

Rick Frueh said...

Comming late to this post. A great post with a core truth that has many implications for all of us in all walks of life. What a simply profound construction as well.

I was edified and brought to thought.

John T. Meche III said...

Thanks Phil. Great reminder for those of us who love to listen to Podcasts. God has blessed me with a great pastor/mentor who cares for me and meets with me and disciples me in the ministry. This is more than Piper can/will ever be for me, though his ministry at a certain time was integral to my faith.

DJP said...

Phil is a terrific guy and a wonderful writer, no doubt about it.

Dawg Doc said...

As one who had John MacArthur as pastor for several years and listens regularly to podcasts by Piper, Grant, and Duncan, I find myself now on my knees in repentance as I send this blog post to my current pastor.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Dan,

This was the best post i have ever read of yours. Thank you very much for these words of wisdom.

D. C. Markel said...

Excellent article. Over the past 20 years I've been a member of 4 different churches - all with memberships beyond 4,000. Three of the four pastors of these churches met me on occasion at a church function yet never remembered my name let alone had a conversation of any depth or substance for more than 2 minutes. The remaining 4th pastor with a membership of 15,000+ was basically unapproachable since he didn't even bother to greet after the service. Then last year our family decided to help with a startup church that has about 15 families attending. I meet the pastor regularly for lunch. In short, it's fantastic.

I recall Dr. Sinclair Ferguson recently saying that he believed the ideal church had about 150 members. After this experience I would agree.

NYBartolucci said...

Those who know me know that I don't golf and I don't do blogs. But you have taken the words right out of my mouth. I've long been concerned about the "celebrity status" that we place on our modern-day Christian heroes. In that regard, 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 is very much alive.

Years ago, as a young man aspiring to the pulpit, I asked John MacArthur how he deals with the pressure "to be good." By that I inwardly meant, "to keep up with the preacher-celebrity-Joneses." His response has stuck with me: "God does not call you to be good, He calls you to be accurate." In that regard, how popular would the Apostle Paul himself be in our contemporary "did you hear that message by Paul Washer!" mentality?

After hearing a friend bemoan that "there are no 'John Pipers' in our area," I posted a note on my Facebook page that said, I'm Facebook friends with Al Mohler, Paul Washer signed my Bible, John MacArthur smiled at me and I had John Piper's likeness tattood on my right bicep. I'm as giddy as a 16 year old school-girl! If only I could listen to Piper every Sunday morning, I know that I'd be fully sanctified. We ought to close down these second-rate churches and just follow our favorite Christian heroes. I thank God for how He sovereignly gifts and uses His chosen vessels. But this is His doing, not man's. Let's encourage those who labor over us, be they well-known or not, but let's be sure that the glory is directed heavenward.

Matthew Robertson said...

Mark Driscoll is my pastor :O

lol.

Its a blessing to go to mars hill

Jawn Lim said...

Most Excellent perspective. I understand the spirit of the piece and greatly appreciate the subtle but clear call to be appreciative of those who labor among us. Thank you Dan!

Dawg Doc said...

After sending this piece to my pastor he responded by saying that it is sometimes a challenge for him not to want to be one of those paper pastors! I suppose I can understand that sentiment since paper pastors shepherd churches filled with paper people who never get divorces, never need counseling, church discipline, etc.... Yeah, right.

Chad Markley said...

Thank you so much for this post. It is good to keep our perspective clear and not put ourselves above Christ nor place our pastors, and other teachers/worship leaders/Church Fathers, above Christ.

Thanks for taking the time to write this.

elboogie said...

Ouch!

This could have also been called

Porn and podcast pastors

elboogie said...

Ouch this also could have been named Porn and podcast pastors

Christopher Lake said...

Thank you for this post. The main preaching elder of my current church may not be as "well known" as Piper, Keller, etc., but he preaches the Bible faithfully, and I am blessed to listen to, and be challenged by, his sermons (and those of the other elders).

In addition, if I have a question or concern, he and the other leaders will take time to talk with me. That is a blessing of the local church which should never be under-valued. 9 Marks.org is a good site to find a church! :-)

davidanthonyporter said...

Dan,

Many comments, probably enough said.

Great post!

dede said...

wow! that was fab...now i would like to confess to my brothers/sisters-in-Christ, i am one of those that fabricates a paper pastor. please forgive me Lord.

that being said, i still won't deny i have learned alot from some of the pastors mentioned but bottom line...your right, these cyber/paper pastors don't even know i exist.

i'm realizing the same about facebook. Lord help me.

100-fold blessings to u all,

BBear said...

My pastor forwarded the link to us and I enjoyed reading it. It is so true that people today have this unrealistic fantasy of what life should be. I'm guilty of that myself, a lot more when I was younger. We're sucked into this Disney fantasy, where the knight gallops in on his horse to save the princess and live happily ever after. No fussing, fighting, and definitely no hard work getting to know someone, especially our pastors. I have lived a lot of my life with unrealistic expectations of the people around me as well, and I believe a lot of Christians get sucked into thinking they need to be 'entertained' in church instead of really listening to what their pastor is saying, and being gracious when they seem uninspired, tired or just exhausted. I have a great admiration for pastors everywhere, how many men can live 20, 30, 40 years in a community and have the weight of the burden of all the congregation on their hearts? I can barely live with the burden of my own sins, much less knowing the details of everyone around me, friends, family etc. These 'paper pastors' are great men, all of them, of course when you have a book or TV show, it's been doctored and edited, just like those porn pictures, to make it good. Truth is we never see the real side of any of these pastors (unless of course they are your pastor) Thanks for posting that article, I'm going to save it and show it to some of my other church friends who may not have seen it.

As a side note, reading the first 4 paragraphs about pornography and the pull it has to men especially, really set a new light on the subject. Yes it is disturbing, but my first marriage ended after 12 years, and he was addicted to pornography. It is hard being compared and trying to live up to a standard that you can never achieve-and also allows people to be lazy in their relationships. Escape the reality of working hard and getting messy with real live people with reading about something else. I thank you for writing that so I could be blessed to read it. It gives me a bit more insight into a painful situation.

Sacci said...

This is my first time being on this blog, and this being the first post I've read. And I loved it.

Granted, I AM A HUGE FAN of John Piper, I love listening to his sermons, and reading his books.

I have caught myself thinking that John Piper /is/ my pastor. And this is just not the case. Thanks for the reminder.

Granted, I have grown a lot by reading and listening to him.

But he cannot and should not replace my flesh-and-blood pastor.

great post! I look forward to reading more from this blog!

kgelibrizzi said...

Ah, yes, finally a kindred spirit on this matter. How refreshing indeed! My dear like-minded friends, I have been taking notes on this phenomenon for a long time, testing it, proving it and, unfortunately experiencing its reality in very powerful, I would even say, exemplary ways. Yes, I have a testimony of what I believe I have personally traced to potentially be part of the actual origins of this “mood” (or call it what you will) and of insights into the actual, not always apparent, methods in which it is supported, fanned, and explosively catches fire in the unsuspecting, and otherwise, (we hope), well acting (or at least) meaning, Christians. Through prayer and perseverance, I think I have diagnosed the antidotes as well. How I wish I could share all of it but this would probably not be the appropriate format. Having said that, I long , in a pastoral way, to share it with anyone I can. And I do do this as much as I can and am thankful for another opportunity to possibly do that here as well.

I have studied theology at 4 different institutions, 3 of which were “Evangelical” (not pretending to have used an intelligible term to the reader here) as we often say. I have rubbed shoulders with at least a couple of the best “pastors” in this group (not at all to call into question them as men or ministers in terms of their skill, passion, intelligence, skill, education, etc. – they are men of some renown in many ways and are leaders and models in many ways too).

But this is not about a man. It is about the shepherds and the sheep and the approach used to shepherd the sheep who can be anyone at anytime and place in a case by case basis as life’s twists and turns end-up (like Peter who got it right, then wrong, then right, so many times). It’s about being ready to be on either side as the unpredictable patterns of life continue and being ready in season and out. It is about the one who could be reasonably expected to shepherd the sheep (or “a sheep) because they have the very food that can feed the sheep (or “a sheep), or they have the very oil that can ease the wounds of the sheep (or “a sheep), but, because they don’t deem it a highly profitable, or rewarding affair, or because their doing so at that moment doesn’t maximize their future opportunity (as if such opportunity were able to be manufactured whatsoever by anything man does), to be better positioned for other gains, they forsake the caring of the sheep. Instead it is replaced for a method that can be considered more in keeping with business models than of the highest calling a jar of clay can possibly achieve – a conduit of grace which always has both root (Christ) and fruit (kingdom power).

Few if any texts are more powerful in themselves and more powerfully tied into the thread of the gospel, than the Lord’s words (OT & New) regarding this whole affair of sheep and shepherd care. And the spirit of our age, I am afraid, has led to a miserable nullifying of the powerful life changing, effective Word of God.

I sense I am in one spirit right now with all those who share in this understanding as God so moves, not because it’s an idea but because I believe us to be discussing the way God really works in his people who are willing to stop and engage in a brother for the sake of the gospel. How I wish we were all really together, physically, right now to do this even better, then would could even more really ask those probing shepherd like questions, eye-to eye, really follow-up, & really offer ourselves as servants for each other’s sake, and maybe even, really, share each others burdens, and so, really, fulfill the law of righteousness. Not pie in the sky stuff, or fantasy, no, but really and truly.

How really hard can it be after all, to realize that we are not called to get others to see the truth we have acknowledged so they can be in the right camp, with us “right-guys” but to be following Christ in discipleship (Matthew’s single command is not “go” (ptc.) but “make disciples” (lit. “as you are going [ptc.], make disciples [impv.])?

This site suggests to me suspect afresh, the Lord may be getting ready to move powerfully among the “tent-makers” of our day who while in secular employment, sacrifice their own secular glory for the advancement of the kingdom to the extent He doesn’t use those who, while in spiritual employment, don’t sacrifice their own spiritual glory for the sake of the secular. Our calling is not described by “Jesus loves you and now you might be famously used to your own full self-actualizing potential. Or to your life’s greatest and widest influence yet. Or now others will be in high demand for your ability, insight, taste, synthesis, political views, meta-narrative descriptions or wisdom. Or to your usefulness in God’s hand as an obvious candidate to say better, clearer, with more focus, conciseness, or with more allure that the thousands of men before you (of whom you have not even read nor did it enter your mind to further their labor to communicate in their honor before you). But, rather, God honored Christ because he obeyed the Father to death sacrificially when it was tough, lonely, in misunderstandings, abandonment, with rushed confusion, ignorance, malice, resentment, accusation and the like. And, to the extent you follow this Christ, whom your whole life is now hidden in, and whom you are now identified now with completely in his death with Baptism and in power with His ascension, you consider, believe and act likewise. For the kingdom’s sake, that is, not your kingdom but His, you too must be willing to die by investing in your brother and in God’s plan to bring him into that kingdom.

How refreshing to be able to share this with whoever you the reader is. … How grateful I am for the books I have read, and want to read, and the treasures of the faith over the centuries. But where would I be right now had it not been for the tangible love of my Father using tangible means to show me he loves me using real people, especially since I had no mother or father to do it. Ours is a faith not yet fully seen, true, but it is also a faith with a faithful witness none the less. And it can’t be faithful, if it isn’t effective, and it can’t be effective, if it does not bring the results in a spiritual way, yes, but also in a very real way, in the way it professes. Fruit tastes like fruit, not like non-fruit. And, joy! Kingdom fruit really exists. “This” fruit, can be produced with seed, water, and pruning. Selah and Amen.

Dan Odom said...

Spot on!
Excellent post.

rob d p said...

still cant do without r c sproul - The Holiness of God. also pastors/ministers use these paper pastors/ministers for quoting in a sermon tho it would be more Matthew Henry, John Calvin & Robert Lewis Dabney. still thought provoking post, people should stop dating the church and have true Christ like fellowship.

taiwanchurch said...

God gave to us brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ not just in our local church, not just in the present but from the past. As Hebrews 11 and 12 directs us to look on that great cloud of witnesses, I think it is good to seek to know and learn from every great Shepherd and Bible teacher that God has gifted the church and whose sermons and meditations were written down.

At the same time, these great witnesses are not those God has put in direct authority over us. They are not whom God has given to us to be built up by means of a personal relationship. There are some ways their writings can sharpen us, but many aspects of iron-sharpening-iron the give and take, that are only present with our immediate authority -- our local plurality of overseers/bishops = shepherds/pastors = elders. And these local church elders over us are also able to receive our ministry to them -- as we submit to, love, respond, ask questions, sometimes respectfully challenge, even call to account as a fellow Christian. They need the ministry of our spiritual gifts as much as we need the ministry of their spiritual gifts.