I've been thinking lately about one of the intriguing things about living in an information age. For all the downsides of the Internet and the cultural transparency, one of the real positive things is that I can learn from some of the greatest theologians of our time. I can listen to sermons, read articles and even interact with great preacher that I otherwise would have only read about. Just imagine if Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley or Charles Spurgeon could have had access to stuff we have today. How cool would it have been to watch Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God on YouTube or read the latest from the Sword and the Trowel on your iPhone?
However, there are some dangers that come with this opportunity. One is that we can start to compare our heroes to our local pastor. When we start wishing that our pastor was as articulate as John Piper or as passionate as Voddie Baucham, we're already at a loss. We need to appreciate of our spiritual leaders' individual gifts and not start comparing them to celebrities.
Another problem is that we start to heroize (that's a homeschool word, by the way) and idolize the great contemporary preachers. It gets to the point where they can do no wrong and if they say something then it must be right. While we condemn the Corinthians for claiming to be of Paul or of Apollos we have no qualms we saying that we're of Piper or of Driscoll. Rather then helping us grow closer to Christ they can actually be harmful to our relationship with Him.
I like what Francis Chan said when he was asked about this subject:
Basically, it comes down to utilizing our resources to grow closer to God without letting them distract us from Him. When it aids our spiritual growth and the work of the family and local church, it's a very good thing. When it distracts us and divides our loyalties. It's a very bad thing. We need to make sure we are worshiping the God our heroes and not the heroes themselves.
"These are things that I am trying to figure out right now, so I want to be careful not to speak too soon. What I will say is this . . .
I have benefitted greatly by hearing biblical preachers via podcast. I’m glad that there is so much solid teaching available. However, I am struggling with the celebrity status that comes from this kind of exposure. It’s not healthy for the preacher, nor is it healthy for those who talk about their ministry heroes so often (I am guilty of this).
In many ways, we are conforming to the pattern of the world. While it is good that people are talking about what they have learned from “Piper, Driscoll, Keller, Chan, etc,” I am concerned about how much we speak those names rather than the name of Jesus. It has gotten to the point where I believe we have taken glory away from Jesus. Personally, I am intentionally trying to mention human names less and speak often the matchless name of Jesus.
All believers have received the Holy Spirit. We must go forth in His power with confidence. God has placed people in your path. You are called to disciple them. We too quickly direct converts toward podcast preachers and neglect our God-given mandate to disciple. We must believe in the power of the Scriptures themselves, and we must trust in the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Let’s use the resources God has given to the church at large, but let’s not shirk our responsibility to the local church. Let’s not boast too much of others, and let’s not underestimate what the Spirit desires to do through us."