Question: Some of the people that follow your ministry on the Internet, they get kind of frustrated with their own local pastor, and they have this desire for their local pastor who’s shepherding the same flock, he preaches in the same pulpit every Sunday, he’s going expositorily through a book, and they want their pastor’s pulpit ministry to look like your itinerant ministry with the passion and the zeal that you preach, and they want their pastor to basically be a copy of Paul Washer. What advice would you give a young man that’s feeling that way?
Paul: They know not what they ask for. Listen, sometimes I’ll walk out of a church or I’m standing there with the pastor and shaking people’s hands and they’re walking by – I have heard people come up to me and say, “I’ve never heard anything like that. That was more truth than I’ve heard in five years. And man, I wish we could hear preaching like that in this church.” And that’s just the devil. That is so wicked to say that to that man. Or, they’ll say, “we’ve never heard these truths before.” Well, just let me share with you something from when I was a pastor in Peru. When I was a pastor, I learned that men did not learn things because they heard it once. If I was going to teach on a certain doctrine or certain thing, I would teach on it for months at a time. And when I would finish teaching on it, exhausting everything that I know, I would teach on it, I would invite godly Peruvian pastors and godly missionaries who I felt would be a great blessing to the church – I would have them come and teach on the same subject. And when the members would be walking out of my church and we’d be shaking their hands, they’d look at that missionary and say, “We’ve never heard anything like that before in our life.” And that just goes to show you, that’s part of the itinerant ministry. What I like to do in most churches that I go to honestly, when I go in, I’m preaching almost the exact same thing most of their preachers are preaching. Now maybe in a different way, but it more confirms their ministry than anything else.
Another thing. I was asked to preach for about 3 months in a little tiny church last year in Alabama. And oh, I loved it. I loved it. I kind of was their interim pastor for 3 months. And a bunch of the young guys who heard me preach, they came there. Well, after about two weeks, they went up to one of the leaders in the church and they said, “I have a question. The leader said, “what?” And the leader happens to be a very good friend of mine. They said, “Has Brother Paul changed his ministry? Has he compromised? Is something going on in his life?” And the man said, “Why?” He goes, “Well, his preaching is so different.” You see, that’s because he’s gone from this itinerant preacher mode to pastor mode – to feeding sheep on a long term basis. But I want to warn the pastors, expository preaching – preaching through a book – if it’s boring, you’re not doing it right. I mean, how can you preach through the book of Ephesians without zeal? How can you do this without it having an impact on people? So, I want to look at it from both sides because there are a lot of pastors out there, they’re not feeding their sheep. You know, here’s the thing I’d like to recommend. Several years ago – many years ago – Warren Wiersbe wrote a book, “Walking With the Giants.” And in there, he’s got all these short one page, page-and-a-half testimonies of men and women of God that have been used down through the ages. And you know, I kept that book by my study for so long. You want to know why? Pastor, listen to me. When I would get where I didn’t want to pray – I just wasn’t motivated to pray – I’d open up that “Walking With the Giants” and I’d read about, I don’t know, Praying Hyde of India or David Brainerd or something, and it would jar me to want to pray. Or, I’d sit there and it was Monday and I wasn’t ready to take up the next sermon for next week and I was just kind of lethargic, I would open up that book and I’d read about Alexander MacLaren who would spend sixty hours on one sermon. And it would motivate me to get back in that study. A lot of people are saying this because they’re wrong, but in a lot of ways people are saying this because it’s right. Pastors are not staying in the study long enough to come out and give their people a word from God.
Question: There seems to be a mentality today that if you as a pastor are not invited to be one of the main speakers or a keynote speaker at one of these big conferences where all the big names are getting together, then you’re almost nothing. What damage do you think has been done today to the lack of appreciation and respect that should be given to the faithful, even though unpopular local pastor?
Paul: We have grown up as a culture that honors heroes, celebrities, whether they’re worthy or not, we’ve got to make them heroes or celebrities because we just feel like we need them. One of the things that’s terrifying me is there in reformed circles everywhere, there is this circle of celebrities. And in every big conference, it’s going to be those men. Now, those men, I could name them, I’m not worthy to carry their sandals. They are honorable men. And it’s not the men themselves, it’s just that the reformed community and a lot of young people, they’re looking to men now. And many times, they’re looking over here to the person who writes the books and the person who preaches in the conference, and they’re not honoring the very man who feeds them, prays for them, intercedes for them, visits them in the hospital. You see, what we need to realize is this. We just need to wait till Jesus comes back. And when He does, we are going to be greatly surprised. Greatly surprised. You know, it’s not tough to preach in a conference. Well, sometimes it is when everybody’s mad at you, but it’s not really tough to preach in a conference. Why? You’re asked to come to this conference. Everybody wants to see you. That’s not difficult. That doesn’t demonstrate godliness. What demonstrates godliness is the man who ministers to God’s people and is hidden and is not recognized. But when the Great Shepherd comes back, he will be recognized.