As of last night, Together for the Gospel 2012 came to a close. While I understand that’s hard to evaluate an event like this when it’s just concluded, I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare that this has been the most soul-helping conference I’ve had the privilege of attending. Each sermon and panel discussion, it seemed, was a well-crafted tool of correction in the hands of God for the parts of my heart that I have been neglecting. Again, I commend the website to you so that you can hear and watch for yourself.
The most impacting part of yesterday’s contribution to the conference, for me, did not come in a sermon, but in a panel discussion on the issue of celebrity pastors. Among a panel of guys including Matt Chandler, David Platt, and Thabiti Anyabwile, Carl Trueman made a statement about the young men that he is educating as future pastors at Westminster Theological Seminary. He said that the vast majority of these students, when asked who has influenced them most or who they want to be like, list names of men who are not those serving as pastors in their local churches. Their answers are these “celebrity” pastors they listen to on their ipods or watch on vimeo. This, Trueman admits, does mean that the men who have been given celebrity status have sought it out intentionally, but it does mean that we (the listeners and watchers) have a tendency to let ourselves become fanboys, allowing these men who do not know us, pray for us, and shepherd us personally to influence us more than the pastors who do.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t listen to sermons by popular preachers and read their books as well? Certainly not! I recommend John Piper and C.J. Mahaney regularly. But we do have to remember something if we’re going to do this: just because our pastors are not celebrities does not mean they are not gifted preachers who know God and his Word.