Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Internet "Killed" the Local Pastor

On August 1, 1981 a significant cultural shift occurred as MTV launched by showing their first music video: Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles. Culturally, music moved from an almost strictly audio venue to one that included video. No longer was an audio track sufficient; a creative (or at least corny) video was needed to keep up and compete in the world of music television. Thirty years later another significant cultural shift has occurred- the Internet pastor.

Francis Chan, David Platt, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, and Matt Chandler. With just a few keystrokes or mouse clicks anybody with Internet access can watch hundreds of sermons by these and many other popular pastors or download their many books. As an unfortunate result, we may sit in church on Sundays comparing our pastor to the teaching styles of these men. Critiques may sound something like:
  • “Francis Chan would have used a great object lesson to illustrate that point"
  • “Driscoll would have gotten much more fired up about that”
  • “Dr. MacArthur would have never used so many stories”
  • “Matt Chandler would have inserted a pithy comment right there”
  • “Does he really even care for the lost? David Platt would almost be crying if he made that statement”

And the list goes on. Because our local pastor’s podcast probably won’t be listened to by more than a few of the congregants or write best seller books- we can dismiss him as sub-par compared to the other guys. The Internet has “killed” the local pastor. Fellow Christians, this cannot be!

Our local pastors have been given a tremendous responsibility to shepherd their local congregations (1 Peter 5:1-3). Instead of comparing them to our favorite Internet pastors, we need to:
  • Praise the Lord that they faithfully and accurately teach the Word of God each week.
  • Be thankful for their everyday pastoral care for the local congregation: counseling, weddings, funerals, hospital visits, etc.
  • Encourage them to continue “raising the bar” for the congregation to become Great Commandment and Great Commission Christians- engaging a lost world for Jesus Christ!
  • Come along side them as the body of Christ- serving in the mission and ministries of the church. It is everybody’s responsibility to share the Gospel and make disciples, not just theirs.

 I am so thankful for the pastors in my church: Pastor John, Pastor Gary, Pastor Dave, and Pastor Ben. I have learned much from them and it is a joy to serve alongside them. May I never take them for granted, unfairly compare them to popular Internet pastors, and strive to make their ministries a joy.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be no advantage to you.

Hebrews 13:17

For the record, this video has never been cool, rad, or awesome

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Engaging Our Cities

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare for the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you find your welfare. –Jeremiah 9:4-7

Consider the following statistics from Rockford, Illinois, my city:
  • 50% of Winnebago County 2008 births were to unmarried mothers, the highest since 1980
  • Ranked the 9th Most Dangerous City in the U.S. based on 2010 data
  • Violent crime 251% higher than national average (2011)
  • 10.3% unemployment, almost 50% higher than national rate of 7.3%
  • 30% of regional households have income before the poverty guidelines
  • 63% have high school or less education. National average is 57% 

This is alarming data about a city in desperate need of improvement. Thankfully, the Transform Rockford initiative has launched to turn the city around in the coming years. This is a great time for followers of Jesus Christ to engage by working toward the welfare of the city and be a gospel presence in the process!

It is easy to complain. It is easy to flee. But, it is difficult to stay and engage in the improvement effort- with a good attitude.  The prophet Jeremiah instructed God’s people to seek the welfare of Babylon, a dark and pagan city, during their exile. As exiles in this world (1 Peter 2:11) let’s do the same by being attentive of the needs of our cities, rather than ignoring them or dismissing them as “somebody else’s problem”.

While attending a Transform Rockford visioning and brainstorming session this week, I met a mother and her twenty-year-old son. Less than five years ago they fled from a refugee camp in Congo and landed in Rockford, Illinois. A few months ago, her other son and his brother was gunned down and killed in the city streets. They stated, “we left one war zone and entered another”. Powerful words.

Ultimately, the Gospel is the only answer to ultimate transformation. Yet, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must first step out of our comfort zones and engage in the process- for the good of the city and the Glory of Jesus Christ!