Why we follow pastors and teachers

Have you ever pondered the question – why do we follow pastors and spiritual leaders? I don’t mean “follow” as on Twitter, but why do we allow these people to have such an influence on our lives?If you mention Billy Graham or Joel Osteen or Rick Warren, you’ll get various head-nods from just about everyone.Why do we follow these nationally-known men (and women)?

There may be a variety of reasons, but at the core we should be looking to these people for a deeper understanding of God and our relationship to Him. That is their specialty after all. I wouldn’t expect one of them to fix my leaky plumbing, but I should expect spiritual wisdom and direction from them.

That’s why a recent text from Rick Warren is so frustrating.


Okay, I get that it is supposed to be motivational. I’m supposed to pause and consider a recent failure, pull my boots up and get back on that horse. The problem is, I could get that advice from just about any of today’s self-help gurus.

Deepak Chopra said failure contains the “seeds of success.”

Ben Franklin said something about failing to plan is planning to fail.

William Faulkner said “No man is a failure who is enjoying life.”

Mike Ditka said “failure isn’t fatal.”

Maybe I expect too much from pastors. Or maybe, as a nation, we expect too little from them these days.

Warren’s trite little saying may make us feel good, but it holds little spiritual meat to it – it doesn’t guide us back to an understanding of God. If anything, it puts more emphasis on us and our own works. Failure can have deeply spiritual context and consequences, yet Warren leads us to none of that.

Sure, 140 characters doesn’t give you much room for explanation, but at least give me a link to a sermon or text. Hey, even just a hashtag and Bible verse. Maybe Psalm 73:26 – “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Now, doesn’t that convey so much more than “Failure is not disqualification…”?

There’s even greater context of what the Bible says about failure – such as God causes some people to fail. Or how failing to live up to God’s standard (the law) is sin.

Going past that, consider the heretical statement of Warren’s second sentence – “Everybody fails.”

Uhh, even Jesus?

We know Jesus was tempted but did not sin. He accomplished what He came to earth to do. He lived a perfect, sinless life so He could pay the ransom-price for my condemned soul and yours. Far from being a failure.

If Warren had said “There is only One who never failed,” I could almost give him a pass on this vague, feel-good statement. But, he didn’t.

Is it enough that we could argue Warren only meant to encourage, and not imply that Jesus was also a failure? No, because remember Warren’s purpose. He’s supposed to be a shepherd, leading us to a closer understanding of God and our relationship to Him.

Warren’s statement certainly doesn’t do that. His comment reads more like a Fortune Cookie than God-inspired words.

Instead of pointing us to the failure of our own efforts, Warren should be pointing out that even though we are failures, Christ lived that perfect life for us. By Him, we are made wholly perfect. Only in Christ can we find that absence of failure that all of us seek.

Yet, instead of seeing statements like Warren’s for what it really is (useless babble), millions embrace it and soak in the folly of it like it’s a hot tub. Today’s Christians need to wise up, so we can see how unwise men like this really are. We need to wise up, or we’ll continue to let men like Warren keep us from enjoying the depths of God. We need to wise up so we can hold men like Warren accountable for their role as shepherd. Until we start demanding more, we’ll continue to get less – and that’s pithy enough to Tweet. #2Peter2:17-19.


8 thoughts on “Why we follow pastors and teachers

  1. Pingback: Failure is an option | Dead Pastors Society

  2. shouldn’t we be following the scriptures and our Master says to follow HIM – no man will have the right word for us – fresh manna from throne room feeds us – man’s words may tickle our ears and enterrtain us but only His manna is satisfying. that is why so many people are leaving churches.

  3. I understand completely what you are conveying about Rick Warren. I saw
    him on Oprah’s LifeIssues TV program and he was spouting a lot of humanistic rot…nothing about the Word of God. Of course, with him sitting there next to Oprah and with thousands in attendance and a larger world wide viewing audience, he was not about to critique Ophrah, yet he claims to be a disciple of Christ. Hardly.

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  6. I think humans are intrinsically idolatrous and that this is why we’re always putting people up on pedestals and watching them crash down. (Oscar Pistorius?, Lance Armstrong, etc…). And because we have that naturally sinfu,l idol-worshipping problem, even as Christians we do it to popular or successful pastors and teachers.

    Another problem I’ve witnessed is a “check your brain” at the door syndrome in churches. So-and-so is the pastor and must know the Bible better than me, so I’ll just sit back and unquestioningly absorb everything they teach. Whether it comes from humility or laziness I couldn’t say, but it is not wise or biblical in any way. And it can be downright devastating for the congregation later on.

  7. Good stuff. It’s trivial, but I noticed some extra words/wrong words that need to be corrected. The following statement: Why do we do follow these nationally-known men (and women)? Should read “Why do we follow these nationally-known men (and women)? Also, the following statement: He’s supposed to be a shepherd, leading us to at closer understanding of God and our relationship to Him. It should be “a” vice “at closer understanding”.

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