Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.

I am a small time pastor. Due to my personal limitations in brain power, oration skill, and the simple fact of my location, it is highly unlikely that I will ever rise above mediocrity. At least, that is the case as far as the perceivable measure of success is concerned. I do not say this with any regret or bitterness; I am content in the portion that the Lord has given to me.

I also need to admit, and I do this gladly, that I have been heavily influenced by big time pastors. I should say that I owe much to imminent men, both living and dead. Pastor John Piper challenged and changed my view of God. Pastor John MacArthur taught me to take the Scriptures seriously. Athanasius taught me how to love Christ as God. Tertullian opened my eyes a little wider in my understanding of the Trinity. Augustine taught me how to see and despise my sin. I could go on and on with the influence that good pastors, most of whom I will never meet, have had on my person. I am eternally grateful to them and for them.

I do not believe it makes one bit of difference about how famous a pastor or teacher becomes. It seems to me that the terms ‘celebrity pastor’ and ‘rock star pastor’ are used simply because we despise someone’s success, as if success itself were something of which a pastor ought to be ashamed. We are what we are by the grace of God. I am deeply grateful for the ministry of men who can articulate the great things of God better than I can. If you happen to be in a church with such a man as your pastor, you are blessed. Odds are, however, your pastor is small time like me, but that does not mean he isn’t valuable!

I urge you to consider your own pastor as a person worthy of your esteem. He is probably not nearly as articulate as John Piper. He is probably not as cool as Mark Driscoll. He probably does not understand culture like Tim Keller. But he has an advantage that those men do not have: He has been commissioned by God to help you in particular, and not in general. If he is a good pastor, he worries for you personally; he prays for you by name privately, and he probably wonders if he is serving you as well as he should. He wonders this, not because he is worried about the growth of his church or reputation in pastorly circles, but because he genuinely cares for your well-being. He knows he isn’t as eloquent as other men, that is precisely why he puts the books of men that he esteems into your hands. He wants you to be helped by them. This man loves you; you are his joy and his crown. If he doesn’t feel this way about you, then he is not really a pastor at all. He is a hireling. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, just as his Master taught him.

I hope that you know how blessed you are if you have a pastor whose heart has been made big by love, even if his brain is little. I pray that you will resist comparing him to those who are more imminent in an unfavorable way. Your local pastor is a gift to you from God. If we could see our them as such, we would find that those distant pastors, however brilliant they may be, will begin to lose  a bit of their shine. Your pastor may never write a book, but if he will wrestle for your soul and for the souls of your family in prayer, if he will come see you and sympathize with you in your weaknesses, that man is worthy of the highest estimation, and we ought to honor him accordingly by giving him affection.


  1. Brad, I love this article and agree wholeheartedly. I would however argue that a pastor may be small time and still be as articulate as John Piper, as in touch with culture as Tim Keller, and as cool as Mark Driscoll (not sure why you’d want that, but anyway). I don’t think you were saying that these limitations keep these pastors “small time”, I just wanted to make sure that was clear. I’m sure that the masses are totally ignorant of pastors who, in all reality, are extraordiinary men on alot of levels. I know a few myself ( ;

  2. Amy,

    You only say those things because you are fabulous. There probably aren’t ten pastors who could have written a book like “The Justification of God” and still had the ability to preach to normal folks on Sunday like Piper does. Aaaand there probably are only five who can pull off wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt to preach and still be taken seriously. :D

    As for culture and Keller, I’m tempted to challenge him to a banjo duel, but I think if I did that I would immediately lose the cultural battle in the eyes of many. Alas!


  3. Brad, success is not found in results, but in obedience. “Small time Pastors” are successful when they are faithful in their calling.

    When the servant invested his five coins and earned five more coins, the master said:

    [i]”Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”[/i]

    What did he say to the servant who was only given two coins, but invested them and earned two more?

    [i]”Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”[/i]

    There’s nothing small time about being an obedient local Pastor!

  4. Chris,

    Yes, but two is still less than ten! The point is that we ought not be sad when we count our talents and find that we are the two talent guy. Instead, we ought to be thankful that there are ten talent folks around at all.

    Really, it is fairly obvious to me that God likes the two talent folks better since He made more of them. I wasn’t going to say anything because I didn’t want to embarrass anyone. ;)

  5. Brad, I wanted to say something cool and I couldn’t think of anything. I will say, good article. Thanks!


  6. Brad, I found this article to be helpful in two ways:

    1) I would hate for my pastors to feel like I/my church wished they were BT pastors. I don’t expect them to be, but maybe increased appreciation would ease those pesky feelings of inadequacy.

    2) Writers also feel this pull to be BT. Applying your ideas to a writer, the same is true: not every writer is called to be a ten-talent writer. As a two-talent writer, I want to be faithful and write for God’s glory. So freeing! Thanks.

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