Your Online Pastor Doesn’t Love You the Way Your Local Pastor Does
I will never forget the day I sat across from a young man in our church and was tempted to say, “Online Pastor [Fill-in-the-Blank] doesn’t love you the way I do!” I had been discipling him for a couple years, walked through a host of circumstances with him, and cared deeply for him. As his pastor, I took seriously the call to shepherd him as an under-shepherd of the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-4). That day was a culmination of months and months of time spent caring for him.
There was a specific danger before this young man, and I had to warn him. Knowing him well, I believed he would take my words of wisdom from the Word of God and let me help guide and lead him. As I confronted him with the dangerous waters in which he was neck-deep and warned him of what could happen if he continued swimming in them, he pulled out articles from various Christian websites that supported his chosen path. In short, he was making it clear that there are a myriad of opinions on certain topics, and he was not going to let my unpopular, lack-of-celebrity voice outweigh those of these renowned pastors.
Celebrity pastor influence can diminish the influence of local pastors.
I walked away from that meeting with a realization of one of the greatest dangers facing the local church today. We live in a culture where the amount of accessible information is unlike any other culture in history. This information gives prominence and weight to the celebrity. Local church pastors/elders used to be highly respected and submitted to, but now they are just one voice that is often drowned out by the guy with multiple books, podcasts, and conference appearances.
This danger is not only a threat to the church member but also to the pastors and elders who equate faithfulness with reputation. It is all too easy for someone who is called to the ministry to feel as though his counsel doesn’t carry the same weight if he has not written a book or speaks at conferences. This danger of over-information and celebrity voices has the ability to minimize the voice of those called to shepherd Christ’s people.
A faithful shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
In Ezekiel 34, God confronts the shepherds in Israel for their selfish shepherding that proclaims peace when there is no peace. This left the people of God hungry, not led anywhere, and in need of a shepherd. God’s main indictment on them is that the shepherds of Israel were selfish and cared little for God or the people. Ezekiel 34 is the backdrop to John 10 where Jesus is the Good Shepherd who speaks to his sheep, who loves his sheep, and lays down his life for his sheep.
Jesus did not come in royal robes and was not liked by every person, but he did know his sheep and led them to places they needed to go (not just the places they wanted to go). Despite absolute faithfulness to God and living as the Good Shepherd, he was treated the way the selfish shepherds in Ezekiel 34 deserved to be treated. Being raised from the dead on the third day, he proved himself to be the Good Shepherd who leads his people through the valley of the shadow of death and beside still waters (Ps. 23). And so also pastors today must be diligent in caring for Jesus’ sheep.
Everyday local church ministry is essential for the health and growth of the body of Christ.
What does all of this mean for us today? It is a call to be faithful to the Good Shepherd. This means that the church member will listen to his/her pastor and make it a joy for their church leadership to shepherd them (Heb. 13:17). This means that the pastor/elder will make it his business to be faithful to the gospel, even when it seems mundane. It is a call for the local church to be thankful for the platforms God gives to some of his people, but to be content in the everyday ministry of the local church. The words of Paul to Timothy seem just as needed today as they were two thousand years ago:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure soundteaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:1-5)
Wes Van Fleet is editor-at-large for Beautiful Christian Life.
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