29 March 2011

Porn and paper pastors

by Dan Phillips

From almost two years ago comes this post, which engendered comment for some time, on-site and off. Illness and occupation of remaining resources with some feverish editing makes this a good time for me to present it again to friends old and new. I had opportunity recently to use some of these thoughts in a sermon.



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 (Jr.), 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 they 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

77 comments:

DJP said...

As I think I noted in the meta of the first publication of this, of course for some of you, one of the men I named may be your pastor. But you still get my point.

And the funny thing is, you know that there are people sitting in John MacArthur's church thinking, "Yeah, but John Piper says...."

And so forth.

donsands said...

Good lesson.
I have always been blessed by our sovereign Shepherd to grant me to have fine under-shepherds.
I have a fine pastor even now. Though we are not members of the church, and we are still relatively new congregants, my pastor came to my Mom's funeral last year, and told me how incredible it was to see God glorified in such a fine way. I could never be so encouraged by RC Sproul, as much as I depend on his teachings as well.
Hope that makes sense.

JackW said...

Dan's not real????

... oh,no!

Point's real and taken.

Thanks, whoever you are.

Chris Wilson said...

And of course my problem as a pastor is that after having so many paper pastors in MY life and my church doing the same, I find myself behaving more like a paper pastor than a real one.

God forgive me and help me.

ltlgeorge said...

Because of the nature of my job I travel a lot. I am on the road about 300 days a year. It would be wonderful to be at my home Church enough to have something to complain about our pastor. On second thought, my situation could be a blessing.

Eric said...

wow, very nice friend

Scooter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

Thank you for a helpful reminder, Sensei.

Scooter said...

Not true! Not true!

RC Sproul knows me. I met him...once...6 years ago...with 15 other people...and the group picture has since been lost...but still!

Thanks Origami Dan for a good kick in the flesh this afternoon. It loves to fight me on this. You work in ffull-time "Christian ministry", you hear it all week, you got your fill of spiritual food.

Robert said...

This makes me reflect upon the church we just left. I'm sure that we didn't handle things perfectly, but I also feel comfortable that we didn't set an unreasonable standard, either. I think a pastor has to somehow make himself comfortable with being a shepherd to all the congregation (or part when sharing the load with elders). If he can not, then I think there is a problem.

Pastors won't be perfect (news flash...neither are we!), and they (and their families) do get sick...they do have to deal with wolves and with grumblers. We need to pray for them and have some empathy for them in all that they go through.

jamesbrett said...

paper pastors also generally look better on the inside cover of book sleeves and in their lingerie. especially the ones with really white teeth.

Pastor Jim said...

This is a VERY real concern and well presented! Thanks.

It's related to the problem that real pastors have when we go to conferences to hear all the experts. They aren't real to us either and we end up depressed because we fantasize that we should be like them.

Our idol-making hearts are so wicked. Thanks be to God who leads us in His triumph!

Jules said...

We should read the paper pastors wives. That would balance our view of these men we place on pedestals.

SammyBoy said...

Hey, if I send you our congregation's e-mail list, could you send this to everybody, so that it won't come from me and sound like I'm whining?

David Regier said...

The 2013 revision of the Westminster Confession is going to include a clause for podcasts under "appointed means."

DJP said...

SammyBoy - what, you don't already have them all reading Pyro?

PASTORAL FAIL!!!



(c;

Kimberly said...

Respectfully, I'd like to offer another side to this coin. I agree with what you said & I know it's true. But if you are a pastor I think it's important that you also realize that your congregation are real people too.

We're being encouraged to rely on the real pastor, the one that knows us & has built a relationship with us. But that's pretty much impossible if you happen to go to a church where your pastor doesn't know you exist.

If your church experience has been like mine & you are just a number & there's been absolutely no attempt to know you or know about you on a personal level then these people in the book actually DO have a better relationship with you than your pastor because they at least talk to you.

I attended a church for 10 years. In that time I volunteered within the church, was active in home groups & even did some teaching in some of those groups. My pastor never called me 1 time. In fact no one from my church ever called me. And no one ever asked where we were when we quit coming.

I spent more time in that church trying to be a part of it than I've ever invested into any relationship except the ones with my family. And in the end not 1 person noticed we were gone. Ironically people I used to buy drugs from decades ago still contact me once in a while. So that's that.

DJP said...

Kimberly, that's a valid point and a valid issue, but let me (A) say it's off-topic and I don't really want this meta to veer off onto it, and (B) offer some kind of a response as I do.

So at the same time, I'm trying to discourage others who might prefer to pursue this topic instead of the post's topic, and encourage you. We'll see if I can pull that off.

As I recently observed, posts can't be about everything. This post isn't about that. I want it to stay with what it's about.

You are too right: there are pastors who don't take the shepherdly model of John 10:2 and 11, and passages like Acts 20:20 and Hebrews 13:17, seriously enough. Richard Baxter in particular beat me about the head and body on that issue. It should not be thus. I am sorry to hear of your experience, and you have my sympathy.

At the same time, I have to balance by saying that 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 indicates that the sheep should also reach out to the shepherds, and make efforts to contact and get to know them as well. So ideally there will be outreach in both directions.

Hope that's of some help.

Rob said...

I think this is right on, and as excellent as some of my favorite "MP3 Pastors" might be, one of God's greatest blessings for us is our individual church pastor and the many ways that he is a blessing to our family directly.

Tom Chantry said...

The 2013 revision of the Westminster Confession is going to include a clause for podcasts under "appointed means."

OK, first up, that made me spew coffee - very funny.

Second, it made me reflect on something I think is a complementary point to Dan’s post. I apologize if this looks off-topic, but I think it circles back and relates.

The Westminster standards acknowledge “the reading, but especially the preaching of the word” as a means God uses both in conversion and also in strengthening the Christian. Today we face an interesting question as to whether or not recorded sermons are a “means of grace” in the same powerful sense. I would suggest that they are not.

Many churches (my own included) now record sermons and post them on the internet. This is particularly helpful for anyone who is sick or traveling in the middle of a series. The availability of so many good sermons on the internet has been a great blessing to many who are providentially hindered from attending church for a period of time, often through illness. And of course a repository of the regular preaching ministry of a church is a great resource to those seeking a congregation.

None of which means that we may expect the Spirit of God to work regularly and powerfully through the means of recorded sermons as He does through live preaching. The biblical reason for this is that God has commanded the assembly of the saints, and He works in that assembly. The practical reason is that it is through the gathering of saints together in fellowship and love and through their hearing the word of God from the mouth of those who have charge over their souls something unique and personal happens. The fellowship context of preaching cannot be duplicated through any recording, nor can we expect the Spirit to move through our iPods when He has promised to move through the assembly.

When we think thus in terms of the ministry of the word as a means of grace, we should think more biblically about the rating of pastors. Who is the greatest preacher in the world today? I believe that question has a very simple answer: your pastor.

Preachers are nothing without the accompanying ministry of the Holy Spirit. Eloquence counts for nothing in the regeneration of lost souls or in the uplifting of struggling Christians. Only the Spirit does those things, so the greatest preacher in the world is the one who is aided by the Spirit. The Scriptures give us no reason to think that the Spirit will aid the ministry of John MacArthur on the radio in the same way that He does in Grace Community Church. If what makes a preacher great is the work of the Holy Spirit in and through Him, then your pastor is the greatest preacher on earth.

Granted, that won’t apply if your pastor is a heretic. But presuming he is not, then he may be a stumbling, stuttering, unclear speaker. He may be a deeply flawed man. He may not be fully engaged in his ministry as he ought, for which he must answer to the Lord. But so long as he preaches God’s word, he is the greatest preacher you will ever hear.

HCT2 said...

Dan,

This is a WONDERFUL post! A needful reminder to all believers. It also makes me thankful for my pastor here at home.

DJP said...

Tom, that is a really terrific point, adds value to the post. Thanks.

I'd frame it this way:

I am commanded to put myself under the care of a flesh-and-blood pastor in the context of the local church (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17).

I am not commanded to listen to the sermons of, nor read the writings of, any pastor who is not my pastor (excluding the authors of Scripture).

There is a promised blessing that attends believing obedience (cf. John 13:17).

There is, by contrast, culpability for refusing to obey in faith (James 4:17).

I hope that contributes to framing this turn of the discussion in a Bibley way.

Thanks, Tom!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

My paper pastor would not look good in a centerfold.

All joking aside, good post.

Bill Honsberger said...

I knew a Pastor who was fired because he wasn't funny like Charles Swindoll.
Lord forgive us our foolishness.

Tom Chantry said...

Oh, be careful Bill! You probably don't know it but Pyro is being closely monitored this week by fearless defender of pulpit humor. He is likely to leap out of the shadows and accuse you of implicitly damning every preacher who has ever produced the least guffaw from his congregation. Be on guard!

(You're right though: our foolishness does call out for His forgiveness.)

kateg said...

My new pastor proclaims the gospel clearly every Sunday, and I am so very grateful for that because I need to hear it often. But another reason I am grateful is that, apart from my Bible, the only human reason that I know many things about Jesus, and God, and the gospel is because of “paper pastors.” I was converted and as a new Christian started going to a kind of church that I knew as a child. The pastor there did not proclaim the gospel nor teach in any real way that I could understand. For a little while, I thought that was how church was supposed to be. It was through “paper pastors” that I learned more about my faith, the foundational beliefs, and about how the gospel worked out in life. My pastor knew the gospel, and was not a heretic, I am pretty sure, but I didn’t hear the the gosepl from him. Maybe, you are not talking about this kind of “real” pastor, but I just want to say that this pastor knew me, and cared about me, and likely prayed for me, as I did him, but he did not share what he knew and what I was hungry for, the one thing we all need, Jesus.

JMS said...

"I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephus..."

Sadly this has been going on for 2,000 years. It's just that in our age of mass-media, we have hundreds more "Apolloses" and "Cephuses" to choose from.

Thank you for an excellent reminder to the Church.

Reggie Reinhold said...

There is a paper pastor that has stated the same thing; dare I say his name is Mark Driscoll? Agree with both Mark Driscoll and you on this issue. Excellent post.

semijohn said...

"I follow Paul. I follow Apollos. I follow Cephas."

Is this the first mention of Twitter in the Bible?

Sara Dick said...

You know the funny thing is at big churches like that the preaching pastor is rarely "your pastor" John Piper is whose teaching we were blessed enough to sit under but we would both consider Sam Crabtree to be "our pastor". Piper's gifting isn't pastoral necessarily but far more on paper and in the pulpit. I think these "normal" pastors need to remember that just because people are quoting a paper pastor doesn't mean they don't see the need for their local pastor to be that for them. Nor does it mean that they should discourage their congregation to listen to the Christ focused teaching they can get from these guys! They need to remember that they aren't Piper but God has uniquely gifted them for their congregation. They should surround themselves with people whose giftings complement theirs in the shepherding of their flocks.
I would also say that the Holy Spirit has uniquely moved outside of time and space to speak to people through the recorded sermons in many people's life.

Kimberly said...

Thanks for responding DJP. Wasn't trying to take the conversation off topic. It just came to my mind as I read your post. :)

Tom Chantry said...

kateg,

A few thoughts:

First, I am certainly neither deriding the effort nor discounting the effectiveness of the ministry of many preachers who are large in the public eye. Their ministry does much good, and your comment attests to that. The point that I would make, and I think Dan would agree, is that no matter how biblical and effective a ministry through books or podcasts may be, it is no substitute for the regular ministry of your pastor in your assembly where Jesus has promised to send the Spirit for your blessing.

Second, your comments about your pastor are very heartening: not only are you part of a local congregation, but you thank God for His servant in that pulpit. You already appreciate the very point which Dan made in this post. The post was aimed not at Christians who have benefited from public ministries, but those whose eyes are so blinded by the brilliance of the famous few that they cannot appreciate the ministry they have in their own local congregations.

Finally, my point about heretical pastors was meant as an example of a case in which this point would not apply. I was not making a blanket statement along the lines of, “Unless your pastor has said something that enables you to label him a heretic, you must listen to him and no one else.” Remember, I also wrote, “But so long as he preaches God’s word…” I would say that any pastor who, as you say, “did not share what he knew and what I was hungry for, the one thing we all need, Jesus,” was not “preaching God’s word” in any biblically recognizable or otherwise meaningful way.

Hope that helps.

Father of Eleven said...

Dan,

Good words.

I have noticed that some pastors encourage this idea among their people. They quote particular paper pastors as if the fact that said paper pastor agrees with their interpretation of a particular Scripture means that they are right. If you are always appealing to the paper pastor's authority, then don't be surprised if your people just start going straight to him.

Different sheep require different diets and we need to be fed by our own shepherds who have received from the Chief Shepherd what has been prepared for us. We should encourage our pastors that God has prepared them to minister to us. Have them teach us what God has taught them, not MacArthur or Piper.

Manfred said...

Not only does this book:http://www.reformationtheology.com/2010/10/book_review_a_portrait_of_paul.php do a GREAT job bringing Scripture to life, the authors end each chapter with piercing questions for "Fellow Christian" and "Fellow Pastor" that address the "paper pastor" and myriad others that plague God's people. Pastors much know their flock; the people must know their pastor. Each must thanks God for one another and pray for one another; exhorting and rebuking in love, for the glory of Christ.

Geoff said...

Dan, this is a good re-post. Carl Trueman wrote similarly last Friday, "What I do now believe, however, is that evangelicalism has its own set of fetishes which are also superstitious and just as potentially harmful. Evangelicals too imbue objects with a power which they do not possess. Celebrity conference speakers would be one such category. Few conference speakers are actually any better than many unknown men who faithfully fill pulpits in unknown churches week by week; but the evangelical culture ascribes to them great power. That is why people pay to go and hear them and would often rather talk about hearing them than about the unknown local man who faithfully ministers to them every Sunday." http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2011/03/superstition-catholic-and-evan.php

One question/concern I would share is, in a big church whose preaching pastor is not "your pastor" is that pastor actually fulfilling his role of keeping watch over the souls of the flock? I agree with primacy of the word ministry, but shepherding (keeping watch) necessarily entails more than only preaching, no?

Rachael Starke said...

Now this is downright spooky.

I had just been thinking about this post, along with Frank's many on sticking with your church. I recently had the blessing of hearing one of my favorite paper pastors in person (Mark Dever), and experiencing what felt like the Best.Worship.Service.Everrr.(TM). Back at home, our pastor has been seeming to take our church in a direction that looks, well, not good, to put it carefully. As I drove back to our church last week, my head was filled with a lot of unprofitable thoughts/fantasies about "if only we could up and move to D.C....." But I remembered what you and Frank have exhorted on this point and repented.

Our pastor and his dear wife are the first pastoral couple we've had the privilege to become personal friends with. Prior to this recent season of change, every time I've been a "disappointed customer" about a sermon or some aspect of church life, God has providentially revealed a "backstory" - a solid week of unbelievable crises, multiple ministry interruptions in the middle of a desperately needed vacation, etc. And that's in addition to some of what we've experienced - meeting people who've been sitting under his faithful preaching for years but seem to still exhibit no more evidence of conversion than our hamster. That makes me despair, and I'm not the one whose been pouring my soul into teaching and ministering to these people like he has. It likely explains where some of the changes are coming from. But the answer can't be to just have a holy hissy fit and flee to the Internet; it has to be, like Paul says, to love them and pray for them.

Sara Dick said...

4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

9(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?a 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdsb and teachers,c 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,d to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."
Speaking of my personal experience as a member at Bethlehem Baptist since 2000 (reg attender from 1998) I can say that the I see each of the pastors striving to be good stewards of their giftings and humbly deferring to others who are stronger in the areas of their weakness. (of course remembering that they are all sinners and thus prone to sin) It is a beautiful picture of the body working the way it should. I don't see someone equipping the saints through the preaching of the word as failing at shpeherding anymore than I see someone who is tending to wounded souls through counseling but not preaching in the pulpit as failing at shepherding. They are each fulfilling the roe within their God given flock.

Stefan said...

Geoff:

In a large church, the shepherding responsibilities must fall to more than one man. It would not be possible for the preaching pastor to exercise proper duty of care to a thousand or more people: someone would fall through the cracks.

The pastor whose primary responsibility is preaching the Word to the congregation must be able to share the burden of pastoral care with other elders and pastors. He himself should be accountable to a board of elders or overseers, along with other pastors who are responsible for other areas of ministry. The entire flock is thus under the care of pastors or who know them and watch over them.

Stefan said...

"...The entire flock is thus under the care of pastors or elders who know them and watch over them."

Stefan said...

Phil:

This was a good post, but you're no Dan Phillips.

donsands said...

One more thought that I had, was that my pastor encourages us, his sheep, to go to the internet and hear the Word. See how our Lord is working in the mission field. Take as much of the Word in as you can, and hide it in your heart.

Also, he encourages us to read and study the Bible on our own, and have small groups, and he encourages us to have solid devotionals, such as Spurgeon's: Morning & Evening.

Some very good comments from the post indeed.

Geoff said...

Sara and Stefan, I'm not saying that one shepherd is to bear the entire ministry burden or that he must be the pastor of everyone in the church. I'm a firm believer in a plurality of elders/shepherds. However, a shepherd very well should be the "pastor" of some portion of the congregation. I don't believe that Scripture shows that a shepherd may have only one focus in the church. The Ephesians passage quoted supports what I'm trying to say. O'Brien argues that the last category is shepherds and teaches, instead of two separate categories. In this reading teachers are a subset of the larger category of shepherd, so that all teachers are shepherds but all shepherds are not necessarily teachers. A shepherd may have the lionshare of the preaching responsibilities but he is still called to shepherd the flock (part of which is preaching).

Note: I do not and have not visited BBC, so I am speaking in general.

If an elder's sole responsibility is preaching, do we not end up with a "paper pastor" who is live and in the flesh?

Stefan said...

Geoff:

At this point, I can't really add much more to the discussion. I don't know how it works in other churches; there may or may not be some that are exhibiting what you describe; I'm not qualified to comment.

I can only speak from direct experience on this. In the large church of which I am a member, the senior preaching pastor is himself also an elder (as are almost all of the pastors), leads a home Bible study group of his own, exercises theological oversight over the pastoral ministries, and has other responsibilities as well that are key to church governance.

I'm not totally sure I can agree with what you're getting at, simply because I see exactly the opposite phenomenon in the one church with which I am really familiar.

ZSB said...

This remains one of my favorite blog posts from anyone, anywhere, EVER.

ANiMaL said...

Great topic. Great point.

It's been a tough road for me so far. As I've looked at Roberts history, I can imagine at what stage in the process I'm in. I come from a near identical background as him. I started paper pastoring last summer after talking to my actual pastor about the state of our church home. This lead me to going through the books of Acts (from before I was born) with JMac. The 3 sermons on Paul's love for the church really peeled away much anger in my heart, and God used that to allow me to love my church once again, possibly truly for the 1st time.

Now, I would never say porn ever did someone a world of good, so the association between paper porn and paper pastors is obviously unfair. One wants to destroy your life, the other actually wants to build it up. But if you are going to find yourself a paper pastor, I recommend one that does exactly what this paper pastor (DJP) has done today, and that is recall God's love for his church and his sovereignity in the pastor of your local church.

Then the question you have to ask yourself is, am I going to a paper pastor because I don't actually have one, or because my sin has clouded my judgement and I need to repent.

H.L. Jackson said...

An instructive and edifying re-post. Thank you.

You never really know someone until you have witnessed them at their weakest, ugliest and most vulnerable. Having a pastor who confesses and repents with you is so meaningful in pointing us away from himself and to the cross. I truly value having a leader in the trenches with me, rather than barking instructions from above.

Most of us cannot know the sins of the celeb pastors from experience, so how can we know if they are serious or honest about what they preach and live? Perhaps if more of them would be honest about their sin and constant need for the gospel, we would see more effort from them to eschew praise and accolades instead of producing radio-perfect sermons and ghost-written books that encourage the paper-pastor phenomenon.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Pemberton said...

I agree completely.

A friend on Facebook, a fellow who used to go to my church before he remarried, posted a status asking who our favorite preacher was, listing several celebrity pastors as examples. I kindly lifted my own pastor as my favorite. He actually is a great preacher in his own right and studies hard to get it right every week. My FB friend scolded me because he was looking for radio preachers.

Preachers who are regularly broadcast over radio and internet, or well-published, are fine and I benefit from some of what they say. However, as you pointed out, God has provided a pastor for me and my family (and me as a pastor of sorts for my family).

Whenever I teach in my church, I rarely say, "it's like Piper [or whatever famous pastor] was preaching the other week". I most often recall the preaching of our senior pastor or someone on our pastoral staff. We're blessed with them and my fellow church members should be encouraged to appreciate how God has provided them to us.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Chris, is that satire or are you serious? Dan's addressing the fact that our hearts, bent on sin and therefore unaccountability, gravitate toward pastors who can't see or hear, else we should have to relate to someone teaching us and be held accountable to come under his leadership and love him as the one called to shepherd over us.

Sir Aaron said...

@Rachael:

I know its a wee bit off topic, but I wanted to encourage you.

I too, have often had that desire to flee to another church (and I actually have the ability to move to D.C. at nearly any time). But I thank God frequently for the wisdom Phil, Dan, and Frank have offered about remaining with your church body through difficulty. Plus, I know from experience, that moving often solves one problem only to cause a lot more.

I wish more people would stick it out by getting involved rather than leaving. (FRank should really think about reposting that series).

Silene said...

In another hand, it´s piece of advice so pastors should take care when preparing his sermons, 'couse sheeps really can find better pulpit food than on their home church.

Aaron Snell said...

Chris,

I think there's an important distinction Dan made in his post that you may not be gettting and that may help your concern. Paper pastors don't exist. If John MacArthur is your pastor, he is not a paper pastor for you. The issue is not that these men who some people use as paper pastors are not desireable or good to have as pastors. They clearly are. But John MacArthur - the real John Macarthur who you see every Sunday - is not a paper pastor. John Piper is not a paper pastor. he's a real pastor shepherding real people. It is only when Christians use any of those men on the list Dan gave as idealized stand-ins for your flesh-and-blood, eyeball-to-eyeball pastor that fantasy version of the man becomes a "paper" pastor. Does that make sense? Dan, did I get you right?

WoundedEgo said...
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Chris said...
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DJP said...

Off-topic and off-rocker, W.E.

Chris said...

To Dan, Aaron Snell, and Webster Hunt,

Thank you, Aaron and Webster, for pointing out the obvious to me...which wasn't so obvious when I wrote my comment. I now see exactly why my bonehead comments were out in left field. Well, that's what I get for trying to breeze through one of Dan's excellent posts without reading it as thoughtfully and critically as I should have done (and not thinking there would be a twist, as is so common in Dan's posts). It is also what I get for posting a comment without reading the whole comment thread first (which is not something I usually do). Well, that was embarrassing. Sorry Dan.

Tom Chantry said...
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DJP said...

No problem, Chris. I thought it'd be self-correcting. (c:

Yes, Aaron, you had it. Except you say, "The issue is not that these men who some people use as paper pastors are not desireable or good to have as pastors. They clearly are." Some of those names I picked were rancid, and if they're pastors at all, I'd not say they were "good."

Tom Chantry said...

Wow. That was dealt with in a hurry.

WoundedEgo said...

>>>Off-topic and off-rocker, W.E.

HAHAHAHA!! I like that!

But scripturally accurate, no?

One flock. ONE shepherd. Unlike Israel of old with her many shepherds.

And one headquarters, not one for each "denomination" (which Paul gags on).

WoundedEgo said...
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Tom Chantry said...

WE:

OK, I'm leaving this up this time; as a wise man once said:

Perhaps it would be good for you to read for awhile and get to know something about the forum before commandeering our comment-threads.

Alternatively, you can find a blog with a high tolerance level for heresy and homebrew doctrine. There are plenty of them out there. But we have never hosted that kind of free-for-all here.


I'll just add this, your hermeneutic is frightening if you think that your list of out-of-context proof-texts speaks to this issue at all.

Tom Chantry said...

I'd answer you, but in five minutes after Dan deletes all your comments I would be speaking to the air. Someone might get the idea that I am the crazy one.

DJP said...

Read the rules, WE. You're about to get yourself banned.

You obviously have some really Biblically out-of whack notions. There are posts in this blog that answer them, if you'd take the time to look. But I'm getting the impression you didn't come to learn. Pity, that.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Dan, I remember reading this post two years ago, and the idea of a paper pastor has never left me.

Back then (and even now), I was tempted to share my story about how a paper pastor has been a blessing to my life and marriage, but I cannot do it without making my then-pastor and now-pastor look like 1) a loser and 2) a decent man who deserves honorable mention, respectively.

The more time I spend under his teaching and his preaching (though I sometimes wish he would preach longer), I am more and more endeared to this sweet, humble, flawed man who faithfully feeds his flock, and is very accessible. Not in a "free download" sort of way, but in an "I'll treat you to Chick-fil-A" and comment on your facebook sort of way.

And I know it's late and this thread may be all but shut down for the night, but I wanted to share this in response to those who might not feel like their pastors are accessible. Pastors are real people. With families, emotions, and responsibilities. (I'll spare the personal story here, and just get to the point.) Instead of wishing that he/his wife would invite you/yours over for dinner, why not you invite them to your home? It might just be a way to minister to the minister. Just sayin.

Steve Berven said...

Who needs one of those clutchy pastors who is always all up in your business, calling you and always wanting to "drop by?!"

I want somebody who will leave me my nice, safe anonymity, 6 rows back on the left.

I need the freedom to set my own schedule, show up when I want to. Who wants a church with that kind of built-in accountability?!

Extremists.

Frank Turk said...

This was, and is, and will continue to be for a long time, the best post, bar none, on this blog.

This post proves out why Dan is the only one of us is published under his own name, and why he ought to write more books.

If this post took root in Evangelidom, it would revolutionize English-speaking Christianity.

Completely seriously. I wish I had written it, and I am proud for DJP that he did.

Frank Turk said...

FWIW, Regier knows about the catechism because I am making him blog it. It's like beating a fish because he refuses to fly.

Aaron Snell said...

Dan,

Thanks, I did catch the truly "dastardly" ones on your list. Should've clarified with a parenthetical "at least most of them are."

I'm seriously going to start using that word more often now. Thanks, Doug Pagitt!

Michael W. Brewer Jr. said...

Dan,

Holy crap! (Am I allowed to say that?) That was an intense, in-your-face, gravity-defying, adrenaline pumping, nail biting, edge-of-your-seat kinda ride. And sir, I am quite guilty.

Thank you, and amen.

Blessings,

Michael

WoundedEgo said...
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DJP said...

Wounded Ego (and readers), I suppose I must apologize. The sidebar rules, to which you have been referred more than once, says "After no more than three warnings, you will find yourself banned...." You have had well more than three warnings and/or deletions.

You could have listened, read for awhile, learned something, and participated. Commenting on-topic isn't that hard. You could have watched others done it, learned to do it yourself.

But you've made your choice and, albeit belatedly, it appears I'm the one to finalize it.

You're banned.

Joni said...

Well said and a post I will share members of our small mission church.

Nate Archer said...

Fantastic post!

Alex Guggenheim said...

Sometimes one does not get to be face-to-face with the man he or she has identified as their Pastor and in a case where they are geographically removed from their Teacher we may thank the Lord that there are many means of communication such as print to aid the sheep and shepherd (Paul greatly executed his Apostleship in the manner). And even if one is geographically removed and there exists a local church, even a like-minded one, we should not assume that a person is obligated from Scripture to join that body in place of the church to which they belong in another geographical location. So there is a place for non face-to-face communication, even for extended periods.

Jim Pemberton said...

Alex,
You may have a point in the case of military deployment or missionary work. In my deployment to Saudi Arabia, for example, there was not always a chaplain where we were. Some of us would have Bible study anyway. We certainly were away from the churches we were members of back in the States.

There are missionaries who are members of our church. They attend a church where they do missionary work anyway. And that's the point I would make here:

Even though you might have good reason not to move your membership to a local church, mature Christians will still yearn to find other Christians with whom to worship. The writer of Hebrews encouraged them to not neglect to "meet together, as is the habit of some." We were saved, not to some individual faith, but as part of the Body of Christ, the Priesthood of All Believers.

And God appointed some as pastors - not perfect, but appointed nonetheless.

Alex Guggenheim said...

Jim,
A good point. If one has to be isolated that is one thing, if one need not be isolated but seeks to remain isolated from other believers then indeed that is symptomatic of a dysfunction and needs remedied.