Why No Podcast Preacher Can Replace Your Local Pastor
I remember driving my old Volkswagen Golf to and from College in Washington State. It was a four-hour drive that covered high plains, the massive Columbia River, the beautiful Cascade Mountains, and then eventually settled into the lush Puget Sound where my folks lived.
To redeem the time on the drive, one of my favorite things was listening to sermons on CD. Though in those days, it was a process to get the sermons from the internet onto a burnable CD, but it was worth it.
Then one Christmas, I got an iPod, and the world of Podcast sermons opened up to me. It was the best thing since sliced bread; I kid you not. I began to listen weekly to folks like John Piper, RC Sproul, and Mark Driscoll. I got to know their public personalities, their styles of preaching, and some personal stories from their lives.
They were pastors whom I respected. However, they could not replace my local pastor. They were preachers who provided quality teaching. But they did not and could not provide for me what only my local pastor could.
What can your pastor alone provide that the podcast or celebrity pastors we listen to throughout the week can’t? Let me suggest a few reasons why you are more blessed by your local pastor who knows you by name.
Your Pastor Knows You
Mark Driscoll was the only pastor of the three above I regularly sat under. Yet Mark didn’t know me. Sure, I had met him a few times and shaken his hand, but he had done this with thousands. He did not know JT Holderman or where I was on my journey of faith.
Your local pastor can know you in a way that your favorite podcast preacher can’t. Your pastor can shake your hand weekly, he can get to know you by name, he can serve with you in ministry, he can encourage you to grow in Christ-likeness, and he can point out where you’re following the way of the world. Most likely, the pastor you watch online or listen to on the radio does not do this unless you attend his church.
Do not take for granted that there may be a pastor in your life who is committed to knowing you and walking with you. That’s a blessing! No podcast or YouTube preacher can provide for you the relationship and love of your local pastor.
Seek out your pastor. Cherish being known and loved by your pastor, someone who is deeply invested in your walk with the Lord. The podcast preacher cannot replace this blessing.
Your Pastor’s Vulnerability Is Personal
It’s one thing to watch the preacher on YouTube open up about his struggles, it’s another thing entirely when your pastor, before your very eyes, gets choked up sharing something vulnerable, it hits different.
When your pastor shares about a battle with sin, or a shortcoming in his parenting this week, or how he failed a person in your congregation, these are all vulnerable moments that can mean far more to you than someone you’ve never met. God can use these moments of transparency to affect how we live. Their honesty strikes us, and that drives our own desire to be vulnerable with those whom we love as well.
And that’s the point of vulnerability, there are relationships involved. True vulnerability, which aims for the Spirit to use what is said, means more when there is a relationship. It’s costly when you know the one sharing. The celebrity pastor may be vulnerable in his preaching, but he cannot replace the humanity and vulnerability of your own pastor. Don’t take for granted the vulnerability of your pastor.
Your Pastor's Character Affects You
Every person has character, the quality that defines a person’s integrity and choices. The podcast preacher no doubt has godly character witnessed through how he preaches or teaches. But the character of that pastor can only be known to you second-hand.
Whereas your pastor’s character is on display for you to see every week. You get to see how he lives his life, how he makes time for and loves his family, how he serves in ministry to draw others to Christ, how he counsels you when you reach out for help, how he responds to tension in a meeting. Your pastor’s character is not something you hear of second hand; it is something you experience and see with your own two eyes and ears.
His character, how God has and is continuing to make him more like Christ, affects you. You get to witness how God is changing him. Hearing him preach about love and then display it to those in need, or hearing him teach on compassion and then fail to give it, after all our pastors are human and not perfect, all of this has an effect on you.
How your pastor lives and displays his character, in public and in private, affects your life in a way that the podcast preacher can’t.
Your Pastor’s Life Is Impacted By How You Live
Finally, your Pastor is changed by how you live in relationship with him. Is the podcast preacher refined and encouraged in their faith by how you listen to their podcast? I would argue no. But your pastor is deeply affected by your relationship with him.
Your pastor’s life is transformed when you are thankful, when you encourage him in seasons of hardship, when you want the best for him in the ministry, when you pray for him and his family. Your relationship with your pastor, and the impact God wants to bring to him through your relationship, cannot be replaced by the pause and play button of a podcast preacher.
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Your pastor is irreplaceable to you. Don’t seek from podcast preachers what only your pastor has been called to give. Certainly, podcast preachers are valuable as teachers, but God wants more than just head knowledge. He wants to form and transform you as you are in relationship to your local pastor. Do not take God’s personal shepherd to you for granted.