Paper Pastors, a real problem for Real Pastors

Today at TeamPyro Dan Phillips has written a post that addresses what I view to be a big problem in the church today.  Here is a large excerpt:

But others do attend a church — physically. They come in, they sit down. They sing, they may give financially. They may look at you, Pastor, as you preach.

But you know their heart belongs to another.

Their real pastor isn’t you. It’s Dave Hunt. Or it’s John Piper. Or it’s John MacArthur, or Ligon Duncan, or Mark Dever, or David Cloud, or Joel Osteen. Or it’s Charles Spurgeon, or D. M. Lloyd-Jones, or J. C. Ryle. Or Calvin, or Luther, or Bahnsen, or de Mar, or R. B. Thieme, or J. Vernon McGee.

And they’re such better pastors than you are! You know they are!


Well, paper pastors are never in a bad mood. They’re never cranky, or sleepy or sick. (Especially the dead ones.)

They’ve never just had someone else pull their guts out with a rusty fork, and then had to turn and listen graciously to your complaint about the translation they preach from, or argue about a Greek word you can’t even pronounce. They don’t have a family who loses the time you use. They never half-listen, never have an appointment that cuts short their time. Their office hours are your office hours. They’re available 24/7, and everywhere, at your whim, and you always have their undivided attention.

What’s more is they always have all the answers! They can tell you with complete confidence and masterful eloquence. They never stammer, guess, nor search their memory. And they can prove it — whatever they’re saying! With footnotes!

And these paper pastors maintain the perfect distance. If you don’t want to hear something, they don’t press it — or you can instantly shut them up, snap! They never ask you to do something uncomfortable and follow up on you. They never persistently probe an area of sin, in you, in person, eyeball to eyeball… nor will they. Church discipline will not be a threat with them. Ever.

Because they don’t know you from Adam.

Yet how many pastors know that there are people in their flocks, thinking, “John Piper would never say it that way. Dave Hunt says that what he just preached is heresy. John MacArthur isn’t like that. Mahaney says that… Mohler says that… Lloyd-Jones said….”

Based on my very brief experience, this seems to be a growing problem in the church today.  The internet, while providing wonderful tools to Christians all over the world, also allows people to become “experts” on every area of the church.  Thus, every time your local pastor gets up to preach, in the minds of some people, he is competing with preachers like MacArthur, Piper, etc.  This is a problem for at least a couple of reasons.  First, as Phillips aptly points out, these men are not the pastors that God has placed over you.  Do not forget that.  God has divinely ordained to place local leadership over you.  These are the men that have to answer for your souls! They are the ones praying for you, and investing their lives in you.  They are the ones that you are responsible to submit to.

Second, this kind of attitude detracts from worship.  When you show up on Sunday morning comparing one pastor to another, you are not there to worship.  The Sunday morning service is a time for communion with God, and the sermon is the Church’s corporate opportunity to hear from God.  This communion, or worship, is not something that can be reduplicated through a podcast.  When a local community of believers hears from God, together, they then have the opportunity to live out what they have heard together.  As helpful as podcasts, blog posts, and Christian literature can be, they cannot reduplicate this kind of worship.

I have a lot of thoughts on this issue, but no time today to say more.  Thus, I will let you read all of Phillip’s article and formulate your own thoughts.



  1. wow, i have never thought about this. i am guilty…but i don’t want to be. thanks for the insight!

  2. simplyjy,

    Thanks for the comments, and don’t feel too bad. I think that those of us on the internet, and with an ipod are all a little guilty of this. But thankfully, now that we are aware of it, we can work on it.


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