Updated: Aug 1, 2019
I’ve held the position for many years that pastors and Bible study leaders should stop quoting other pastors so much in their sermons. The reason? When you rely on that pastor for theological truth, if they disqualify themselves either through scandal or theological error, your sermons become invalid. The reason is because, if someone looks back on their notes from your sermon, they’ll have a negative view of a quote by someone kicked out of ministry for disqualifying himself.
Part of the problem is that we have so many pastors who are not qualified in ministry. This is because the system of church is warped. As I’ve explained before, an 18 year old is deciding to go into ministry, they go to college, then go to seminary, and then send out job applications to any church looking for a pastor. The leaders of the church are typically not raised up in that church family. Instead, it’s like a corporation. We need a pastor? Let’s put the word out and see who applies! It’s no longer a church family where the pastors are training up leaders to fill the needs of the local church. It’s kids deciding they want to go into ministry, whether they are qualified or not, and then churches hiring them based off of non-biblical criteria: their age, how entertaining and dynamic they are, how smart they are or who their friends are.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 gives us the qualifications of a pastor:
If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
I’d say that the modern day American church has failed at holding pastors to those qualifications. Why? Because the role of the pastor is no longer simply a qualified position within the local church body, but a career path that you choose when you go to college. It’s a career path. Most of the pastors have degrees in ministry. They don’t know how to do anything else. They aren’t trained for anything else. So they have all their eggs in one basket. Which is why, I believe, that we have so many disqualified pastors in the ministry.
But back to the main point. Because disqualified pastors are so rampant, I would make the argument that we need to stop quoting them in our sermons. And really, there are two main reasons why I believe that we should stop constantly quoting our favorite pastors in our sermons and Bible Studies:
1. It takes the focus off of Scripture. We are to point to God’s Word for truth. Only the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God. So when you are constantly quoting your favorite theologian to explain what the Bible is saying, you are telling people that your source of truth is that pastor, not God’s Word.
2. If something happens to that pastor which disqualifies him from ministry, all of your sermons and Bible studies become invalidated because you relied on that pastor’s teaching instead of God’s Word. Man may fail us, but God never will.
So let me say this: If there are pastors that you relate to and you trust, use them for your own study. Use their sermons, books and commentaries as a springboard for your own study. Use them to help point you in the right direction as you prepare your sermons. But the end goal should be to teach those learning from you what GOD says, not what your favorite pastor says. So then just teach God’s Word in your own words, after you’ve used some of your favorite pastors to help you study. I feel like that is the more responsible way to do things. After all, Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
If you rely too much on your favorite pastor, those learning from you will also rely on him. We don’t want that. As I said before: Men may fail us, but God never will. Remember, God’s Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” not the words of your favorite celebrity pastor.
“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.”