With the advent of the internet over the last fifteen years, a host of new possibilities have emerged. One of these new possibilities, in relation to the church, has been the availability of online church-based resources. Pastors can record their sermons and post them on the internet for anyone anywhere in the world to access. The same is true regarding print resources. This, in my opinion, is no small development. Now, the work of world-class pastors and leaders has become instantly available for anyone to access. Audio resources can not only be listened to online, but downloaded and put on an ipod for further use.
Let me begin by saying that I think this is a wonderful development and a gift to God’s people. Great teaching is accessible to exponentially large numbers of people, people that probably would have never had access to such teaching and instruction. There are many important voices in the church today that have the opportunity to be heard by far more people than might be otherwise. I think this has the potential to yield a healthier church. I access many of these resources from other pastors and scholars myself, for my own edification and my own training.
And yet, I am somewhat concerned about this development as well. While great sermons and great teaching from top pastors and scholars can be valuable, I believe it can also create a few detrimental effects for some. I offer a couple of these concerns.
First, and most concerning to me, is the potential lack of confidence that this can create in local church pastors and teachers. Ipods full of John Piper, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, John MacArthur, Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll, and David Platt is hard to beat by most pastors. One cannot ignore that these preachers and teachers are excellent at what they do. They stand apart from the rest in their depth of study and training as well as in their ability to communicate. I am concerned that a young generation that rightly desires to sit under the quality teaching of such individuals, with unlimited access to their teaching, will become critical and uninterested in what the pastor of their local church has to teach. God did not give the teaching and preaching ministry of the local church to one individual or one small group of individuals. He calls many to serve as pastors and teachers. God also anoints leaders over their particular congregation. He puts certain men in places for His purposes and for that flock. Each flock is unique. Each flock is at a particular place corporately. Each flock might have different needs at a given period of time. We must understand that while not every pastor and teacher may set the world on fire, God anoints each leader over their flock and His Spirit speaks to him through God’s Word for the edification of that body. We must see the value of this if we are to have a healthy appreciation and respect for the leaders and teachers God has specifically appointed over us where we are.
Second, I believe some can become content to allow this to suffice for their church. Who needs to go to church on Sunday if I can have the kind of teaching I need anytime during the week. And it’s really good too. And it’s better than the preacher at church anyways. I think many will still long for the community that cannot be found in front of a computer screen, and so they will still value some connection to a local church body. However, I think some have to be cautious in this regard.
I applaud those who take advantage of the resources that are uniquely available in our age. I applaud those who seek to learn and grow in knowledge and truth, and who seek good teachers. But I offer a word of caution: John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler are not YOUR pastor. Learn to value those who may not be so equally gifted, but who labor faithfully with the gifts and talents that they have been given, understanding that God, as they are faithful to His Word, anoints their instruction and gives revelation into the concerns and issues that need to be addressed for YOUR church. Be thankful for their faithfulness. Honor them by valuing their commitment to you and your congregation.