You have access to the best pastors in America.
You have at your fingertips access to a trove of virtually endless content by some of the wisest and most powerful thinkers and speakers on the planet. As soon as you finish this post you can have them piped into your office, car, or living room and be impacted by their words. And I hope you do!
What a ridiculous gift we have! If you were born five hundred and fifty years ago in Europe, in all likelihood not only could you not read the Bible, but it was likely that your parish priest didn’t own a whole copy of the Latin Bible and since he knew only a handful of Latin words, he couldn’t even read the Bible. Fast forward a few decades to the Reformation and now, for the first time, you would hear the Bible read in your own language and its words applied to your life.
Fast forward five centuries to today and not only do we (in the West) have unfettered access to the Bible, but we have almost limitless access to some of the very best Bible teaching. What a gift we have!
And yet, that begs a question: how is a normal pastor like myself supposed to compete? Why should you even bother with attending your local church? Why settle for the best I can offer when you can watch the best that Tim Keller and Albert Tate and (fill in your favorite preacher here) can offer?!
The truth is that I can’t compete. I’ll never be on an “America’s Best Preachers” list like this. And frankly, I have no aspirations for that.
But here is what I can offer that those other great preachers can’t: I’m here. I can shepherd you. I can (if you are patient and give me a bit of time) know your name and know your story. I can pray for you. When I preach I probably thought about you or a friend of yours at New Life as I prepared the sermon. If you have a question about the sermon, or are seeking wisdom as it comes to picking a college, dating, your marriage, parenting, I promise I’ll respond to your email. I will be there when you get married and I would be so honored to dedicate your children. I will pray with you when your mother dies and I commit to pursue you (if you’ll let me) if and when you go astray.[i]
I’m a flawed pastor, but if you commit yourself to New Life, I promise to commit myself to you.
In 1 Peter 5:1-3, Peter commends the elders (pastors) in the local church:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
I love that little word “among” in verse 2. That’s the word that separates me from all of the better preachers and teachers of God’s Word when it comes to you. I’m among you. I’m a fellow sheep in God’s flock. And he’s gifted us with each other. You bless me with the many ways God has gifted you and I promise to do my best to bless you with the best of how God has gifted me.
And because we are “among” one another, you are invited to speak into my life, so that I might live out Christ’s calling and exercise my compulsion humbly and in a God-honoring way.
That best won’t win me any awards, but because of God’s purpose and design, it will impact you. And I’m grateful for that fact: I’m the pastor God intended for you.
[i] At New Life, I speak not just for myself but all of your pastoral leadership. And if you attend another church, I’m sure I speak for your pastoral leadership as well.