One member spoke to me after church, saying she’d been watching some sermons online. All the alarm bells rang at that point, although the names she gave me reassured me. But as we chatted through the importance of being discerning, I also mentioned the challenge the web gives to a pastor like me, and a church like ours. And yours probably.
You see, we’re a normal church, and I’m a normal preacher. Nothing too fancy, nothing too out there. Just us.
But on the web, it’s a different world. You can see the world’s most accomplished preachers, at the top of their game, on a good day. I don’t mean the slick ones, the shiny ones – I mean the really good, solid preachers who are excellent at their ministries. It’s not hard for our folk to be fed by superb bible teaching from around the planet.
Then they come to church on Sunday, and it’s plain old us. Not a Christian songwriter with half a dozen albums dropped – just the usual band. Not five cameras and a jumbotron screen – just the usual laptop and projector.
Not Piper or Keller or Chandler or Groschel – just me, doing my usual thing. I don’t even have a tattoo.
And while I’m thrilled that our folk can access great stuff at the drop at the click of a mouse, my pride takes a kicking knowing that that’s who they’re comparing me with.
So if you’re in the same self-pitying, prideful boat as me, just think of the advantages our churches have over the famous ones.
- We’re local. We’re walkable, and we can meet up during the week, or bump into each other while we’re grabbing a coffee. People know where I walk the dog or buy my lunch. And that’s true of the mingling faces on a Sunday.
- We’re real. There’s no make-up for the TV lights, or style guru to make sure that my shirt goes with the set.
- We’re fallible. When the projection fails or the instrument’s not in tune or I lose my place in my notes (which never, ever happens, of course), there’s no editing suite to cut that out. No endless rehearsals or retakes. We do the best we can with what we’ve got, and sometimes that mean it doesn’t work.
- We’re unexpected. I was preaching on Psalm 19 yesterdays and decided I needed some honey in a honeycomb. It wasn’t hard to source, and I stuck it on a plate and had it ready to use. which meant I was completely bowled over by how super-sticky that stuff is. I grabbed some Wet Wipes from the baby changing table, and had them with me on the lectern, but it got everywhere.
- We’re knowable. Ordinary pastors like me aren’t celebrities. There isn’t a crowd of people wanting to have selfies taken, or things signed. No-one gets a special status for knowing ‘Chris.’ Being on first name terms with me isn’t a big deal.
Praise God for the hugely gifted people he gives us to bless us. Praise him for their intellectual speed and clarity, boundless energy, communicative creativity. Pray for them too, because as we keep on seeing, those pinnacles are dangerous places to sit.
But praise God for the ordinary churches you and I are placed in, with ordinary pastors like you and me to serve them. Because, all in all, although we might not be in the most glamorous place, I think we’re in the safest.