It has amazed me to recently discover how many Christians consider podcasting, television preachers, and radio sermons to be just as beneficial (sometimes more beneficial) than participating in a local church. As a local church pastor, this kind of foolish thinking is enough to deserve a poke in the eye. However, as a local church pastor, I cannot always allow my desired response to be my actual one.
So, for the benefit of anyone who will consider them, allow me to present five reasons why you need a real-life pastor.
1. You need a pastor to remind you that preaching is not just presenting a good message (1 Tim. 4:11-12).
Your favorite podcast preacher will never speak to you with the same loving care for your soul that you pastor has. While your pastor may never speak as well as the other guy, your pastor will preach with a heart full of love for you – personally. Your pastor will pray for you by name, and he will have your spiritual health in mind as he shepherds you through preaching.
2. You need a pastor to remind you that Christians are real people (1 Tim. 4:12, 15).
That TV preacher isn’t real… at least you don’t see who he really is. Of course, I’m not saying that all TV preachers are lying fakers. What I am saying is that you will never get to see that TV preacher hurt, apologize, play with his kids, or decide between adding one more church responsibility or guarding his family time. You need to see a real man live an imperfect and godly life in front of you. Your pastor will both encourage and challenge you through his exemplary life.
3. You need a pastor to look you in the eyes (1 Tim. 4:15).
When have you ever run into that radio preacher at the grocery store, after having neglected to listen to his latest message? Ah, but you will have to look your pastor in the eye after you’ve neglected to participate in the last couple of Sunday morning worship services. That eye-to-eye encounter is more meaningful than you are likely to understand, and you are likely much less grateful than you should be for it. Your pastor will be an encouragement and motivation to you as you seek to live a more consistent Christian life.
4. You need a pastor to teach you stuff you don’t want to learn (Titus 2:1).
Even your favorite preacher or teacher is going to talk about stuff that you don’t really care for, or stuff you think you already know, or stuff you disagree with. But when he does it, you can just turn him off. You need to revisit things you think you already know. You need to think longer about some things than you already have. You need to read and consider passages of the Bible that challenge your existing beliefs. And all of this only happens when you have a pastor who loves you and who loves God’s word enough to pastor (shepherd) you well.
5. You need a pastor to say “no” to your face (Titus 2:15).
No TV preacher is going to tell you anything to your face, but he will certainly never be near enough to challenge you when you are playing with sin. Sin is devastating; it crushes hope, destroys harmony, and numbs your conscience. When you sin, you easily justify it. You need a pastor who loves you, who will demonstrate that love by forcing you to call your sin what it is, and who will help you go about putting it to death.
There are many more, but only a fool would say that these are insufficient to demonstrate your need (Prov. 1:7).
My pastoral advice: Find a solid, Bible-saturated, Christ-loving, God-fearing pastor; then love him, pray for him, encourage him, and thank God for him every day.