This age provides the great benefit of being able to listen to talented preachers from around the globe. Distance no longer creates a barrier. We can sit in the confines of our home and download the most recent sermon, conference talk, or keynote speech. This is no small gift, and it’s something we should all take advantage of. Though this gift is great, it should also be accompanied with a warning: this gift becomes a liability when it steers us away from appreciating our local church pastor. Unfortunately, this is a real temptation.
The Faithful Preacher
Your local church pastor may not be as well read or as well spoken as the speaker you heard at the latest conference. He might readily admit that his best sermon will never rise to the excellence of sermons preached by others. His gifts may possess little outward flair. His sermons may never be compiled in a book and he may never headline a future conference. He knows that conferences can be of great value to the local church and to his church in particular, but he is content not to attain renown. He is comfortable with his calling to minister primarily and almost exclusively to his local congregation.
He knows this is his great challenge. Though it receives little fanfare, maintaining a consistently faithful preaching ministry over weeks, months, years, and even decades at the same church requires much effort and perseverance. He is willing to expend himself in this labor because he knows that a lifetime of nourishing spiritual meals is essential for the growth and maturity of the people under his care. Week in and week out, he opens the Word, preaches the truth, and applies the text. In a word, he is no less faithful to his flock than are those preachers and teachers who receive greater acclaim.
The Ordinary Preacher
Most likely, your local pastor is also a humble pastor. He labors hard and faithfully. He always strives to preach to the best of his ability, though his sermons may not often possess the illustrations, applications, or depth of more well-known preachers. His preaching doesn't lead to mountaintop experiences each week. He knows this fact and wishes it was different, but he also rests knowing that the Christian life is not lived from mountaintop to mountaintop. Rather, the Christian life presses on in the valleys and depressions of life. It is one faithful step after another. It is a pilgrim’s life in a foreign land. And his faithful weekly preaching witnesses to this reality. Sometimes with conference speakers, we miss the fact that they are in fact ordinary preachers, but with our local preacher it is unmistakable.
The Godly Preacher
In fact, not only does his preaching reflect this reality, but his very life shows it as well. His congregation sees him labor through the struggles of the day and the natural discouragements of ministry and persevere through trials in the church. His marriage, parenting, service, attitude, and dedication are all observable. Everyone knows his quirks, his struggles, his failings, and even his sins. He displays before the eyes of his church the strains and joys of the Christian life. He cannot hide. And though he has room for continued growth and maturity, his congregation finds a man worthy of respect. His character and the way he lives his life encourage faithfulness. Your local pastor not only preaches a sermon each week, but his very life to you. In a word, he is no less godly than those preachers and teachers who become more known than him.
The Pastoral Preacher
And as your local church pastor labors and strives in these ways, you occupy his thoughts, and more importantly, his prayers. He has your face, yes, your face, before his mind. He knows you. He is informed and sensitive to your life. Therefore, your struggles, your joys, and your passions inform his preaching. This is of necessity. His preaching is never to a nameless set of faces. His prayers are never general. His study is never performed in a void. You are one of his people, his joy and crown (Phil. 4:1). He is a pastor. He lives his life to care for the sheep under his charge. He seeks to be a drink offering poured out for their sake (2:17). He knows that his life is not his own, but belongs to the Lord and the people he serves. In a word, he is as pastoral as those preachers who write books on pastoral ministry and are featured speakers at conferences for pastors.
Listen to the podcasts, attend the conferences, stream the video sermons, and rejoice in the Lord at these opportunities to learn from incredibly gifted men in our age. It is a benefit that few of our brothers and sisters through the ages have enjoyed. We must not neglect this gift. Yet, even as we embrace it, let us rejoice in the undershepherds laboring in our local church.
Dear Christian, your local church pastor is a gift. Like most of us, he is probably not special or extraordinary. He may not wow or shine. But you have much to be thankful for. In fact, he is exactly the model most of us need before our eyes. Be thankful for his faithfulness, his ordinariness, his godliness, and his pastoral care for your soul. As you tell him this week about the wonderful sermon you listened to online, you may also mention that you are thankful for him.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 27, 2017.