Christians often have animated discussions about who their favourite preacher is. In my tribe it would most likely be someone like John Piper, Tim Keller, Voddie Baucham, Conrad Mbewe, John McArthur, Alistair Begg, or Paul Washer. And, usually, the choice of favourite is substantiated: Piper for his passion; McArthur for his gravitas; Mbewe for his authority; Begg for his accent; and so on.
With the advent of podcasts, social media, church websites, and YouTube, sermons are extremely easy to access. It’s a great way to redeem the time when taking a road trip or doing the washing. It’s a wonderful thing to have access to these great resources (though there is a real danger of becoming professional sermon listeners and critics, which is spiritually hazardous). Of course, we are thankful for these men. We’re grateful for their gifts and ministries. The global church has been enriched by their faithful work, along with the work of many others. But these globally appreciated pastors and preachers do not pastor you!
Your favourite preacher should be your own local church pastor.
Without a doubt, your favourite preacher should be your own local church pastor, or pastors. Because he is the best preacher? No. Because, in the purposes of God, he is your pastor. A critical part of his shepherding is his preaching and teaching ministry that you sit under on Sundays and probably during the week as well. His faithful preaching of the Bible, unlike the big-name preachers, is slanted and directed at your congregation at your specific place at a specific time.
They Don’t Know You Like He Does
Let me develop this. The preacher in your local church is your shepherd. He knows you. You know him. Just as we dare not separate the pastor from his preaching, we dare not separate the man from his ministry. You don’t know Keller, Begg, or Mbewe from a bar of soap. Furthermore, they know absolutely nothing about you.
The preacher in your local church is your shepherd. He knows you. You know him.
Voddie Baucham is not your pastor. God didn’t appoint him to care for your soul. Voddie, just like Piper or McArthur, doesn’t bear the scary burden of being accountable for you (Hebrews 13:7). Washer has not been tasked with discipling you. Piper has no obligation to see you growing in grace, and your knowledge of the Lord.
These men know nothing of your family, your job, your joys, and your sorrows. You can’t phone Timothy Keller at 2am, to pour out your heart to him. Baucham has never, and will never, pray for you. He won’t visit, encourage, or lose sleep over you. You have never seen Piper handle severe pressure at a church meeting. Nor have you seen Begg’s sorrow as he leads a funeral for one of his sheep. Yet these things cannot be separated from the man’s ministry.
You have no responsibilities or duties toward John Piper. You need never pray for him, encourage him, honour him, obey him, rejoice with him, or weep with him. But we have these duties to our own pastor (Colossians 4:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). How can an unknown preacher be an example to follow (1 Peter 5:2-3)?
You Can’t Follow Someone You Don’t Know
We are called to follow mature Christian leaders we know and have regular contact with—in real life. We aren’t called to follow cardboard cut-outs. You very likely have a warped opinion of these men. Though you would not readily admit this, in your mind’s eye they are adorned with golden halos. And you see your pastor with less of a halo. But this is far healthier.
How can an unknown preacher be an example to follow?
And, we need to be careful of the celebrity culture in the Evangelical church scene. Our “favourite” preachers and pastors have huge reach. They’re known globally. I’m not suggesting that these men are seeking celebrity status. I’m pretty sure they aren’t. No, we put them there. And we’d be extremely foolish not to learn from the tragic Ravi Zacharias and Mark Driscoll debacles.
So, who is your favourite preacher? Does your pastor even enter into the reckoning? Does he make the shortlist? Shame on us.