Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paper Pastors, Multi-Site Churches

I have been thinking about a few issues lately that I think are actually rather interconnected: Pastors as celebrities (whether they want to or not), paper pastors (that isn't how John MacArthur would preach that section), and multi-site/-campus churches. From what I can tell, each of these are ultimately products of the same sin, the desire to elevate one person above others and worship them instead of God.

If a pastor is a celebrity, then individuals in local churches are likely to place the words of the celebrity pastor over those of their local pastor. Don't get me wrong, listening to other preaching can be an extremely good thing, especially as a sounding board for the theology of your local pastor. My eyes were slowly opened to the apostasy of the elders in one of my old churches thanks to listening to men like John MacArthur and John Piper, and I am thankful for their ministries. But except for those types of instances, should we not be listening and meditating more on the words of our local pastor than those of men such as John MacArthur, John Piper, Al Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, or Mark Dever? I don't think these men have sought out celebrity status in the Reformed camp, but it seems that they have become celebrities, and there are many who idolize them as celebrities.

This feeds right in to the idea of paper or perhaps "virtual" pastors (paper being for reading books by other pastors, virtual for listening or watching sermons by other pastors). Due to the successful ministries of many pastors (see the list of celebrity pastors above), many are able to read books by and listen/watch sermons by other pastors, in addition to sitting under the preaching of their local pastor. Again, in many instances this can be a good thing, not everyone is preaching on the exact same thing, and it is often good to hear other points of view. But if you hold up the words of a "paper" or "virtual" pastor above those of your local pastor, I think there is a problem, especially because John MacArthur or Mark Dever or Joseph Pipa doesn't know you personally, but your local pastor does (or should).

This leads into the idea of multi-site and multi-campus "churches" (such as Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill or John Piper's Bethlehem Baptist). I am using "church" because I don't really know if these would fit the Biblical model of a church with a local pastor expositing God's word to a local group of people week after week. That is what it sounds like Paul was encouraging Timothy to do, wasn't it? Obviously, there have been times in the history of the church where this model could not be followed due to a dearth of Godly teachers, but the norm has been to return to that model as soon as men are raised up to lead and teach. But now, I think due to the idea of pastors as celebrities and "paper" pastors, we are actually seeing churches willfully turn away from the biblical model, and instead embrace one where the person doing the teaching can't even hope to know all the names of those he is preaching to. I know that those who have implemented multi-campus churches see the weekly sermon given by a primary teaching pastor as somehow different from pastoring a local group of people, but I don't think you can have a truly effective impact on people if you do separate the two.


1 comment:

Anne said...

I agree.