Paper Pastors | Pyromaniacs

April 21, 2009 — 2 Comments

Pyromaniacs is a blog I frequent often.  Although their tone can often be a little on the combative side, I thoroughly enjoy the truth that they dish out.

The excerpt below is from a blog post paralleling the celebrity pastor culture with pornography, and ultimately how easy it is to fall into a trap of creating a false reality of church.  We need genuine, gospel-centered community and leadership, and I pray that we would turn our idolatry of the unreal, relationship-free, hearing-driven faith.  I pray for contentedness with the community God has given us, and that we would run from identifying ourselves like the Corinthians did.  Isolation is a great weapon of the enemy, and the longing for something that isn’t real is the first step in removing us from the gospel community we so desperately need.

All this is not to say that pursuing training and education by these men that God has gifted the church with is a bad thing, but ultimately they ought to be a side dish, when the main course is gospel centered community.  Sanctification happens best not through listening to every podcast of every great preacher, but of living with and around people who see you for who you are, know what you are studying, and where your life isn’t yet lived in line with the gospel.

Below is a quote, but I encourage you to read the whole thing:

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.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Podcasting is one clear example of how something seemingly good can have unintended consequences.  How are you ensuring that the sermons you are hearing are being worked out in gospel community, and not driving you away from it?

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

2 responses to Paper Pastors | Pyromaniacs

  1. We’re starting off slow here Todd. Just a few thoughts. More later.

    Just this morning, I was talking with a friend about how it’s so easy for us to fall into a cycle of substitute the works of these brilliant, Godly men (and women) for the Word of God. Here’s the question that I had to ask myself … Why am I reading these books?

    Some possible answers that came to mind were: to understand more about God, to fit in with the Christian culture and be able to chime into conversations about these issues, to learn more about a specific subject matter that God had laid on my heart, frustration with not understanding what we’re was reading in the Bible, to appear “Godly”.

    It’s it just like us (sinners) to turn something that was an outpouring of one man’s affection for God and an effort to teach others into something that can lead us into self-righteousness?

    As it would go, as I read more Christian literature, I tend to fall in the pattern of reading my Bible less. My affections can sometimes grow for the author, instead of the Creator.

    So for now, I’m putting away all the Christian literature and reading the Bible. With God’s guidance on how much is too much, one day I’ll start reading them again.

    So Todd, what are your thoughts on the inception of the online church? How does that fit into your thoughts, and do you think authentic community can be established there?

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