Podcasts are great. I love Podcasts and benefit significantly from them. They make my long commutes to school or runs through my city way more enjoyable and edifying. Podcasts are super duper. A+. Wonderful.
However, though great, Podcasts can be abused. The specific abuse I am thinking of is when Christians use Podcasts as their only source of spiritual nourishment; when Podcasts become the resource instead of a resource. I am thinking about those who trade in church membership for Podcast subscriptions. Those who believe it is OK to be disconnected from the church as long as they’re connected to their favorite Podcast. This, my friends, is an abuse of a good gift and, in the end, will do more harm than good.
Why the Abuse?
Why would someone use Podcasts in such a way? One reason is that people love to cater to their specific preferences. We have custom playlists on Spotify, show lists on Netflix, and radio stations on Pandora, why not have a custom preaching list at our fingertips too? If one searches long enough, they can find the preacher or Podcast host that perfectly matches all their unique and personal preferences. It is really hard to find a church that meets all of your particularities, but the Podcastosphere holds limitless options.
A second reason people abuse Podcasts in such a way is because many churches are not teaching God’s Word very well; or at all. Many pulpits are more fast and less feast. Because of this lack, Christians often go looking to be fed God’s Word (Matt. 4:4) in other places. As Shai Linne so eloquently put it:
God gives the increase: holiness, love, unity.
The Word faithfully preached builds up the whole community
If not, your Sunday meal will not last
And you’ll have to supplement it with the Podcast
For these reasons, people pursue Podcasts in place of their pastors.
Your Pastor is Better Than a Podcast
Although the reasons for relying on Podcasts are understandable (after all, it’s nice to have our preference met and God’s Word delivered), the practice is not good and, ultimately, will hurt more than help. How is it hurtful? At least one reason is this: a good pastor is better than a good Podcast. In replacing pastors for Podcasts, many are choosing the lesser gift. A recent blog post by Thom Rainer illustrates this well by listing seven reasons why good pastors are better than good Podcasts.
Your pastor is there for you. The podcast pastor has no way of being there for you in times of need. Your pastor is available in good times and bad.
Your pastor knows your family. The podcast pastor has no idea who all the listeners are, much less their families. No doubt, you can remember times when your pastor ministered to your family in a very personal way.
Your pastor is at the hospital for you. The podcast pastor does not know the names of the hospitals in your community. Hospital visits are some of the most joyous and painful times of a pastor’s ministry. Your pastor is there to celebrate and grieve with you.
Your pastor is a part of your community. The podcast pastor may interact with the online community by making an occasional comment on the podcast or blog. But your pastor is a recognized face in your community, eating where you eat and going where you go. Your pastor ministers to those outside the church as well as within the congregation.
Your pastor preaches as one who is informed by the needs of your church and community. The podcast pastor does not know the needs of your church and community. Your pastor takes on the burden of bringing God’s message to you, your fellow believers, and those in your community. The pastor does not take this role lightly.
Your pastor was called to your church. The podcast pastor was not.
By replacing pastors with Podcasts, many are actually cutting themselves off from much greater blessing. Podcasts are great, but they are not pastors.
What About You?
Unfortunately, though I believe pastors offer much more than Podcasts, I don’t think many Christians have a relationship with their pastors as is described above. Lots of pastors don’t know their people and lots of people don’t really know their pastors. Congregants often see their pastors more as leaders of an organization rather than shepherds of their souls. Unfortunately, they think that way because many pastors act more like CEOs and less like pastors; more like ranchers and less like shepherds. Therefore, even among church going folk, there remains a wide chasm between the lives of congregation and clergy. Thus, the beautiful gifts of good pastors as described above are reduced to sermons on Sundays and nothing else on the days between.
So, let’s end this by asking, “What kind of relationship do you have with your pastor(s)?” Do your pastors know you and your family? Do they know your weaknesses, needs, or struggles? Do they know where you work? Do they know where you live? Would they visit you if you were in the hospital? I am not saying one must have an intimate relationship with every pastor at their church, but there must be some measure of relationship between shepherds and their sheep that goes beyond simply recognizing a face.
After thinking about the above question, now answer this, “Is your relationship with your pastors like it is because they stand aloof from you or because you haven’t sought that kind of care?” Whatever the answer, what needs to be done in order for you to experience the blessing of your pastor’s ministry?
My heart behind this post is to help Podcasters understand there is much more God has for them. I want God’s people to experience God’s blessing through God’s church. God has gifted His church with pastors (Eph. 4:11). Don’t miss out on this big blessing by replacing it with a smaller one.
For another great article on the subject of Podcasts and the local church, check this out.