I don’t know of a single pastor that couldn’t be nit-picked on the basis of his preaching. There will always be many voices ready to criticize on the basis of emphasis, as we discussed in that previous thread you had begun a couple weeks ago.
I think the fact is that some pastors emphasize certain truths better than they emphasize others. That isn’t a fact we should celebrate, as every pastor’s aim should of course be to preach the full counsel of God. But I think if we’re honest, we’ll recognize that all men – even pastors – are susceptible to their own biases. Pastors can tend to settle on their pet doctrines. And I wouldn’t even say this is always a bad thing. In particular times and places, whether in the context of a given local church, or the context of the visible church at large, I believe it is true that certain truths need to sort of be re-discovered.
Take our own beloved @tbbayly. I’ve heard the man preach exactly once – some sort of conference message. Moreover, I’ve listened to some podcasts, read some blogs, and read his dialogues on this forum. If I wanted to be critical, I’d tell you that this man doesn’t know how to talk about anything except manhood and womanhood; the feminization of worship; and authority. I mean, doesn’t he know how there are other things to talk about? Talk about over-emphasis.
But the fact is, I don’t know him up close. I haven’t been loved personally by him as a member of his flock. I don’t know what particular sins his congregation contends with – and at the end of the day, those are the people he is entrusted to minister to. Not Joe Christian on the internet. So I should be pretty cautious before presuming to throw shade on the man’s ministry. Obviously, my sample data is pretty limited.
I think the most we can do when it comes to preaching we encounter on the internet is appreciate the things they emphasize. I’m grateful that John Piper has labored to emphasize the sovereignty of God. So far as I can tell, the sweet doctrines of grace were essentially lost in my generation, and by God’s grace, he has been a big part of rekindling them.
Similarly, I am grateful for John MacArthur’s emphasis on inerrancy, or exposing the heresies of the charismatic movement. His has been a much needed voice in the church for the last several decades, as theological liberalism and mysticism have invaded the church in a post-modern era. And finally, I am grateful for those, like Tim, who have taken up laboring for the truth concerning manhood and womanhood, in a Christendom that has been so infected by feminism.
That isn’t to say that we can’t test the fruit of such men from afar at all. Surely, we can. I just think we need to be aware that the internet provides a unique occasion for us to fall into thinking we’re in better positions to judge pastors than we really are.
At the end of the day, the most influential pastors in our lives shouldn’t be the internet preachers anyway. It is my elders who should be the most influential, because they are positioned to speak into my life, and love me personally. They don’t even have to be great preachers to do that well. Faithful, okayish preachers will do, as long as they are loving the flock.