By Doug Bing, Washington Conference president
Did you have a teacher that played favorites in the classroom? Or at least you thought they were playing favorites. And did you then go out on the playground and tease that person and call them “teachers pet”?
Maybe you were absolutely sure that your parents had a favorite child. Maybe your siblings thought you were the favorite child and held that against you. Sadly, sometimes those childhood hurts even make it all the way into adult life.
Before the pandemic, a trend was starting in the church and now during the pandemic it seems to have increased. That is playing favorites with whose sermons we listen to.
We all like a good sermon. Good sermons are important. We all like a good speaker. There is certainly nothing wrong with good speakers.
However, at times we play favorites at the expense of our own congregation and our own local pastor.
More than once I have heard, “Why can’t our pastor preach like the person I saw on Youtube or 3ABN or Hope Channel?” This has certainly become intensified during the pandemic when people of all ages stayed at home in their pajamas and watched their favorite pastor (rarely their local pastor) deliver a sermon.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with watching a great speaker and growing from the spiritual lessons they bring, there is something missing when we disengage from our local congregations and only listen to a great sermon and lose the connection of a local congregation.
By the way, this is not a new trend.
In the New Testament we read of church members who were playing favorites between two preachers, Paul and Apollos. They were choosing who they were following and who was the best.
But Paul pushed back on this and said that He may have planted the seeds of the gospel and Apollos came along and watered them, but whatever the increase that happened, it was all from God. He went on to say that they were both laborers together with God.
In the book Sketches from the Life of Paul Ellen White wrote this about different pastors.
It is seldom that one minister has all the qualifications necessary to perfect any one church in all the requirements of Christianity; therefore God sends other ministers to follow him, one after another, each possessing some qualifications in which the others were deficient.
Playing favorites with pastors can limit our growth as Christians and our walk with God.
It also is not what the congregation needs or what we need as individuals. Each pastor, and frankly each Christian, is part of the body of Christ that is to help the rest of the body of Christ. We don’t play favorites within the body of Christ.
The challenge for us today, as we enter into a new way of life in the next chapter of this pandemic, is to find our way into an active fellowship of believers.
We need to help each other along the path of life and not just play favorites with a preacher or leader that only feeds us but doesn’t get us off the couch.
May God help each one of us as we continue to serve Him in our local churches and communities.