Pastor Google: The Most Influential Pastor in the World
According to Scripture, the job of a pastor is to shepherd people (1 Peter 5:1-2). This simply means he is to act as a spiritual guide, one who others can turn to for counsel and guidance. When people are in need of help, a pastor is meant to be someone who they can seek assistance from. This is why the word “pastor” means “shepherd”. Just as a shepherd watches over a flock of sheep, feeding it and caring for it and protecting it, so a pastor is to do the same for his people. This of course does not negate the need for God, who is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and is infinitely superior as a help or guide than any mere mortal can ever even hope to be. God ought to be sought in prayer by every believer first and foremost. This is fitting and right. Nevertheless, it is still God’s ordained plan that sinful, limited pastors function as human shepherds over the flock of God.
If we are right in stating that the role of a pastor is to shepherd – to guide, instruct, and counsel – then I’m led to think that the most influential pastor in the world today is not actually a follower of God. In fact, he (it) is not even human at all!
The most-used website in the world is Google. Ever since Google outran its competitors and became the world’s search engine of choice, it has been the go-to source of information for the web. Anyone who wants to know anything about anything almost automatically turns to Google. And why not? Virtually all of the information in the world can be brought to your fingertips in a beautifully organized and specified format within seconds. Thirty years ago no one would have thought this could be possible. Yet the impact of the internet, and especially Google’s information sorting capabilities, can’t be disputed. Because of Google, books are going out of print, libraries are closing down, newspapers are going out of circulation, and dictionaries are being used as doorstops and shelf decorations.
Not surprisingly, the Christian community has not remained unaffected by these changes. There is no doubt that the internet can do much good for the spreading of the Gospel, and indeed it has! Yet at the same time, because anyone can post anything online, there is also a massive amount of spiritual garbage available as well. I often find that, if I use Google to help me in sermon prep, I am overwhelmed by how much sewer I must wade through in order to find a hidden treasure. It is scary to think how many undiscerning Christians might stumble upon this kind of God-demeaning, truth-profaning filth and naively allow it to rot their souls.
There is no doubt in my mind that the most influential pastor in the world is pastor Google. He counsels more people, gives more life advice, divulges more information, and influences more people than anyone else on earth. Considering that Google is really just a collection of the work of fallen human beings who (the majority of) are hostile towards God and dead in their sins is a scary thought to say the least.
Perhaps I am sounding like an old man who wants to go back to the good ol’ days. I’m not aiming for that, nor do I desire it. I don’t hate the internet per se, but while I can see how it can be leveraged for good, I can also see how it can be used as a tool for evil in the hands of the Enemy. As a youth pastor, I know a lot of young Christians who’s faith was shipwrecked, or at least severely weakened, because of stuff they read or saw online. I’m not advocating a bomb-shelter approach where we throw out our routers and cancel our cell phones, but I am worried that the sheep have become too reliant on Google as their shepherd.
In light of all this, I would like to advocate for a healthier approach to spiritual nurturing that doesn’t rely too heavily on the internet. I’m all for information sharing and the giving of advice, but not all information is true and not all advice is helpful. We should use the internet as a source, but not as the primary source of spiritual nourishment. It should not replace the role of a local church, local pastors, a local congregation, and personal Bible reading as the main trough at which to feed. After all, these are God-appointed means for his Kingdom building and Kingdom spreading work. Instead, let’s use the internet as supplementary, exercising caution by resisting the temptation to go overboard.
A few appeals I would like to make in closing:
- Don’t diminish the role of your local church pastor. God, in his infinite wisdom, designed that Christians grow and be nurtured primarily through local churches. This doesn’t mean we can’t make ourselves available to online material, good books, radio and the like. But it does mean that your local church pastor is the main person who is responsible for the care of your soul. Hebrews 13:17(a) says “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” The next time you turn to Google for an answer, ask yourself, “Is this something I should bring to my pastor instead?” Remember that before the internet was around, the pastor was a go-to person for many believers. It has been that way for centuries – millennia even! – and things have still worked out ok. It’s true: the internet isn’t the be-all and end-all.
- Consider your sources. When you Google search something, remember that whatever you find has been put there by someone. Do you know who wrote that article or made that video? And if so, how much do you know about them? Are they a credible source? It is not a small point that God chose local pastors to shepherd people. The reason he did so was so that people could see their pastor’s lives up-close and personal. Hebrews 13:7 says “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” In other words, the Bible places high standards on pastors and church leaders (Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3) so that these men would be credible sources. Believers should be able to look at their pastor’s life and see that it is worth imitating and bringing about a desirable outcome. For instance, if your life is falling apart and you’re not sure how to fix it, you should be able to go to your pastor for help and you should feel confident about doing so because you know him to be a man who has his life put together. On the other hand, you have little way of knowing what the people behind the content of the internet are like.
- Exercise discernment online. I do believe that Christians should avail themselves to the internet for spiritual (and other) matters; however, I am trying to advocate doing so in a discerning way. 1 John 4:1 says “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” When we use Google, we should be careful to investigate what we find with a discerning mind, cautious to receive something too quickly as true or helpful. It is a dangerous thing to read or listen without thinking critically. Christians should be like the Bereans, who didn’t simply take Paul at his word but compared his teachings to the Scriptures to “see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Likewise, we believers should approach what we encounter on the internet with the same thoughtful mentality.