iPod Preachers & The Local Church

Last week Stephen Altrogge posted a wonderful article about podcast sermons, celebrity pastors and how we should follow our local church pastor. I have nothing against big name pastors. I live in a world where the celebrity pastor is a very big deal. I’m the son of one. I work in Christian ministry where I interact with some of them regularly. I write books and ask them for endorsements. They are quite definitely a driving and shaping force in my life, pretty much by default.

But, like Stephen advised, I have moved away from depending on them for my sermonic intake. A few years ago my iPod was filled with sermons from the usual gospelly suspects, and I listened to them fairly regularly. But I realized something wasn’t quite right. I was even more critical than usual. I was subconsciously grading my pastor’s sermons. My enjoyment of worshipping at church diminished. So I quit listening to sermons from famous guys.

And this is what I noticed. My own pastor’s preaching became enormously important to me. I went to a non mega-church with a faithful pastor named Chris. He is not a celebrity. He is a preacher it would have been too easy for me to judge or ignore when my mind was filled with iPod sermons, not because his preaching falls short but because his last name doesn’t give him cache. My own bent towards being critical and critiquing played a significant role in this as well. But Chris is a wonderful pastor and preacher, and I was missing it.

Since then I have moved states and switched churches. My current church has an interim pastor who does an excellent job. Would I think it was excellent if I was “grading” him? Probably not. All the worse for me and my soul.

By doing away with my mental dependence on supplemental sermons I have gained the ability to go into church with an appetite for the preached word of God that isn’t choosy or finicky. I have been able to set aside so much of the comparison or criticism that once plagued my listening. Sunday mornings are not an exercise in homiletic or exegetical judgment for me. They are a meal for a hungry heart, and I usually head home with a take-out bag of truth to keep me fed through the week.

My intention is not to judge or criticize or condemn. I don’t want to get polemical or ecumenical. For many people sermons are precisely what they need for nourishment and encouragement. But for many others they are leeching your soul, stealing your enjoyment of church, and undermining your pastor. Take stock. Are iPod preachers helping or hurting you?

I live in the Nashville area and spend my days helping churches with leadership development. My nights are spent writing and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. I also podcast a bit. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, and The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life