Your session will end in  seconds due to inactivity. Click here to continue using this web page.
The Study Bible - A Bible that gives you instant access to all of John’s teaching on the passage you’re reading.
Friday, May 25, 2012 | Comments (10)

by John MacArthur

People often compare pastoral ministry to the work of a surgeon. Both require intense study, disciplined training, and a deep concern for the health and growth of others.

But biblical ministry isn’t anything like a clinical, academic procedure performed in a sterile, controlled environment.

It’s much more like working in a military field hospital. It’s unpredictable and complicated—sometimes even messy.

That kind of urgent, life-on-life connection simply doesn’t happen if you only know your shepherd as a face on a video screen or a voice on the radio. There’s a key element of pastoral ministry that cannot be virtually simulated or duplicated.

What’s missing in those kinds of mediated ministries?


You have 3000 characters remaining for your comment. Note: All comments must be approved before being posted.


#1  Posted by Jordan Bushey  |  Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Agreed. It seems to me that in many cases the real message of Christianity has been lost in the medium by which it is presented.

It's unfortunate that face-to-face communication has been so marginalized in today's world of technology, making it essentially obsolete.

Technology provides great and useful tools for ministry and many other things. However, there will always be some things that can never be replaced by technology. One of those is a pastor, a church leader.

#2  Posted by Earlene Lamnek  |  Friday, May 25, 2012 at 5:27 PM

In the spirit of churches and the media I have a daughter in law that has been roped in by this and just got a certificate for ordained minister. She took a paid 3 day course from Joan Hunter here in Houston which she found online. We have shared our Biblical opinions with her in love, but she has not taken them with an open mind and feels offended and will not socialize with my other son and family because of this. To give you a little insight on her personality I have to say she is an extreme homopathic, has had all my grandbabies born at home with a midwife and none have had immunizations. She keeps the "TV ministers" on all day. To keep the peace in my sons family he has sided with her. She has shared with me that her reason was to visit the foster children in hospitals and couldn't without being an ordained minister. She has started a bible drive for foster children. She has gotten several hundred and has given them out. I have supported her in these drives and the church she passes them out at is a Methodist church. I asked if she talks about God's Word to them and she said the foster parents won't let her. I feel her heart is genuine in her mission. She also feels led to become a foreign missionary sometime in the future. I feel God and time will take care of this situation. What do you think I should do or say? I want my family back together again as this is the first time we have had a division. It is not our intention to offend but to properly divide the Word of Truth.

I would be grateful for any leadership you can offer.

In His Love,

Earlene Lamnek

#4  Posted by Orlando Delgado  |  Friday, May 25, 2012 at 8:25 PM

I understand what JM is conveying, and agree with him. He is not saying that watching or listening to radio/TV ministries is wrong, it is the fact that some "believers" have substituted the congregation for these TV or radio programs as their main source for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is encompassing and entails all kinds of elements that only can be achieved through the Holy Spirit, the teaching of the Word, and interacting one another in one Spirit. This also includes and I believe is JM's main point that the testimony of the leader, pastor (s) within the congregation is vital as it brings conviction to unbeliever. Leaders have to walk the talk according to Scripture.

Going back to the subject of TV programs, one has to be very attentive and with much discernment to what it is being said, if not you end up, if a woman, painting your hair pink, and if a man you end up buying rags or bottles of water that will bring good fortune to you as it is the case with 99.9% of TBN's programming or STARZ.

Through GTY's ministry I dig deep into the Bible and found that the church I used to go was preaching a different kind of Gospel. Most of the sermons were very psychological, using most times passages from the OT, mixing passages from OT with NT, they also had these "prophets" that would come from time to time to tell me that God told them to tell me that He had not finished with and that greater things are ahead of me; Thus said the Lord to tell you." GTY assisted me in teaching me how to read the bible, to aware of human centric ministries versus bible centric. Trough the solid teaching of JM in GTY I was able to find a church that teaches from scripture where my pastor uses the expository method of explaining Scripture.

I will summarize the entire thing I went through as God guiding me in the process via the radio/tv teaching of GTY. Thru much prayer I found a church in which my entire family is involved and serving. See listening to tv or radio ministries is not all bad, it is when you make them your center of spiritual growth and no one supervises you or you do not give account of your faith.

Thank you, and God bless...

#5  Posted by Joseph Stringfellow  |  Friday, May 25, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Editor's Note: We normally don't post off-topic comments, even when the comments are substantitve or have merit. However, since this thread has developed in two previous posts, we want to make sure both sides are represented before closing that part of the discussion. We will post this comment from Mr. Stringfellow, and then we won't entertain any more comments on the subject in this thread. Thank you, Travis Allen.


Thank you kindly for your response. I support the fact that our faith is contingent upon God's redeeming grace alone, not our health choices. In the case of Earlene's family it is most important that all family members ask God to place them in the best position to share the Gospel, both as a unit and as individuals. In that respect, I agree with your approach.

However, I did want to provide a counterpoint to your assertions about the danger of hospital births and vaccinations. It would be ill-advised to suggest that home births are universally and necessarily safer than hospital births. In the case of low risk pregnancies the relative safety may, in fact, be equitable or perhaps slightly favorable to home births. In intermediate to high risk pregnancies, however (and in the case of some difficult low risk pregnancies) the safest decision would be to deliver in a hospital. This risk stratification is something that should be done by a licensed obstetrician. Cautioning against hospital delivery can be detrimental. I offer that rebuttal in case someone were to read your comment and assume that home birth was the optimal choice without consulting a physician or nurse-midwife.

Secondly, no statistically or clinically significant link between vaccinations and SIDS or autism has been demonstrated. The "landmark" study that snowballed the autism-vaccine link was found to be fraudulent and was recanted from the journal that originally published it. As a result of the debacle, the physician who led the study has since lost his license to practice medicine. You can read Time Magazine's summary here: ( There have recently been, however, localized epidemics of Pertussis infection ("whooping cough") and measles in areas where misinformed parents have been refusing to vaccinate their children due to these unsubstantiated claims.

Your response was obviously well-intended and presented in a spirit of gentleness and support. However, if we want to assist our brothers and sisters in making sound decisions, we must be careful to offer sound advice supported by sound knowledge.

#6  Posted by Lamar Carnes  |  Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 8:30 AM

This is certainly so true. Just try and be married and communicate with your wife or husband via a big screen. Yeah, it won't go forward at all. Nor can a film, a live streaming video or other forms of communication substitute for the "real live" person being used by God and His Spirit in a close proximity to others. Sure, it is absolutely helpful and the "words" spoken are just as powerful and just as important as if we hear them from a live close at hand human being or read them in print! But there is something really special and different when the "live" human being is in front of you - it brings a very close personal touch which is what we call "reality"!

I mean the REAL person. All of his or her emotions, things you can sense which are not available with a electronic media apparatus.

#8  Posted by Rhonda Taylor  |  Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 6:23 AM

I depend on Radio, Internet, TV and any download from GTY. I also read my Bible & study everyday. I thirst for my Lord. I am also Agoraphobic. I can't help but worry sometimes about not being able to go to Church but I think I worry more about the destrutive effect that loneliness has on a soul. My spirit gets down & out but His Spirit in me fills me with hope. One day, I pray, God will break these chains that bind, but untill then I will continue to listen & watch from home. Does anyone have helpful comments or advice for me? Comfort maybe?

With Love, Rhonda

#9  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Rhonda, although I cannot begin to say I understand what you experience I will say this. I have a tendency to be introverted but my desire to be obedient to God has helped me become more extroverted and serve Him in ways I would not have done before surrendering my life over to Him.

Please do not take that last statement in any way to say you are not serving the Lord, that is just what has happened in my relationship with Jesus.

Through a Bible study I have become very close friends with a brother who I discovered we both have alot in common. We get together weekly and do a Bible study and then discuss life, marriage, raising our children and what the Holy Spirit is doing within us.

My suggestion is this, find someone who also loves the Lord and desires to study and grow in their relationship with Him as well. Invite them over and grow together in the Lord. Perhaps the encouragement from that relationship will help you (with the Lord's help) break free from the chains that are binding you and help you find a church and other believers to spend time with.

I do not believe that God intended for us to be alone and without the fellowship of other believers. It would also seem an ideal situation for the enemy to launch attacks against you because of the isolation and loneliness.

I hope my words were encouraging and that you continue growing in the Lord.

#10  Posted by Randall Kirkland  |  Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 6:38 PM

Pastor John, thank you for this very helpful perspective on a widespread ecclesiological trend which is not at all Biblical. I've personally seen an example of this phenomenon in my own a very well known church planting group. They have a seminary trained man who has pastoral gifts sitting in the pew while a widely publicized guy preaches on the big screen. It pains me to think of the sheep not being shepherded in person by the man who is preaching on the screen, and a pastor sitting by when he could be opening God's word to the sheep. Thank you for reminding us all of the need for integrity in ministry demonstrated real-time to the sheep.

#11  Posted by Lamar Carnes  |  Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 8:38 PM

Am I missing something here. I mean if a person speaks God's word over a screen via modern technological methods, it suddenly becomes "not" the word of God, and the Holy Spirit is limited and God doesn't bless or help anyone? Certainly to limit God to such ideas is dangerous and not Biblical. Also, perhaps due to the work of establishing a new Church plant properly perhaps the most gifted minister is best suited for the primary message to the new flock. And also, if there is another minister present at the "screen" location could not he minister to the flock prior to and after the meeting and during the week -days? Sure he can and most likley does. I agree that an objective should be in place to eventually have a "real live in person at the site" minister preaching, but to "limit" God in the other situation is just not recognizing the God whom we have to do. Also, even though on a screen the person is "LIVE" at the moment and from the one's I have been present with it is almost like they are actually there even though they are "not" physically there. I also like to watch and listen to John MacArthur and I certainly am blessed and perhaps more so because of no distractions from the audience who is listening in a real live place. In fact, in large auditoriums you can't hardly even see the minister, he is far away, unless they have "big" huge screens on each side of the auditoriums and say, that is just like the new Church plant situations - and yet it is at the main physical live person's venue. He is in the middle, and he is on a screen on each side. So should we "NOT" watch those screens because it is wrong and unbiblical. Show me where it states such is unbiblical by the way. To me folks are getting parnoid about something that really is not helping the body of Christ at all but rather being used of the evil one to cause divisions and strife among the brethren. I think some ministers and body of Christ members need to grow up and mature and begin perhaps to pray God will bring an awakening to our nation and help us get the Gospel out to as many as we possible can as He command us to do. I think this stuff has gone way to far and it is being "fed" by some of our more prominent men of God who perhaps are weak in their abilities to control their own personal preferences and try to make things like it is direct from God and His word on the issue when it really isn't! Sorry for the negatives but someone needs to try and help get a rational and Biblical perspective on all of this in all of the heat generated and problems it is causing. I wonder WHY these things are being so much of a "high" priority suddenly when it is not harming anyone at all. really folks it isn't!!

#12  Posted by Micah Marchewitz  |  Monday, May 28, 2012 at 5:16 AM


The video answers all your concerns and questions. All JM is saying is that it is not possible to biblically shepherd a flock over a TV screen. I live in Washington state and there is a well known multi site church with campuses all over the Seattle area, one in Portland, at least one in California and another all the way in New Mexico. It is a physical impossiblity for that pastor to be shepherding those churches. He is not pastoring that church in New Mexico. He just preaches at them once a week. The congragation does not see how he lives his live and that is JM's point with this video blog.

On a side note, your last sentence states that this is suddenly a high priority. I am not sure what you mean by "suddenly" but I have heard Pastor Macarthur state his concerns more then once in the last couple of years regarding this issue. I know that you can track them down here on this site. If I remeber correctly at least one of them was during a question and answer session. Possibly with Phil Johnson??

Anyway, I am grateful that the blog is back up. I usually do not say much but I am a constant reader.

God bless