I’ve never had the urge to bow down to a metal cow, a carved human, or a wooden pole. The idea of chanting or dancing around a six-armed deity or pot-bellied statue doesn’t even come close to getting me excited. I’ve never wanted to make offerings to rats living in a shrine.
But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to idols. The idols that trip me up as a church leader aren’t tangible figures of supposed gods and goddesses. They’re ideas and beliefs that can, if left unchecked, crowd out my worship of the one true God.
Pastor Carey Nieuwhof hits on this idea in a recent article for Charisma News. He transparently lays out the eight idols that commonly impact him in his desire to serve the church:
“John Calvin was dead on when he said, ‘Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.’ Discard one, and you'll simply create another….”
So, what idols cause him fits?
Planning how to get things done is great, and every church needs a strategy. But the problem is that such plans can’t pre-empt trusting God in faith.
God has gifted us all for service in the Church. That’s a good thing. Often, though, we’re tempted to substitute our skills for God’s supernatural work in the lives of people.
You can make an idol out of a large church size or a small one. Either way, we have to remember that God gives the growth and prunes as He sees fit.
This idol comes in many forms: volunteers, attendance, baptisms, giving, website numbers, etc. But stats don’t tell you your worth.
Sad to say, but our tribe or denomination can also be source of pride. Alliances like this can be good, but tribes don’t save. Only God does that.
“Too many times, I've caught myself worshipping the idol of more. If I had more staff... more money... more lights... more team... more square footage... more fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-your-current-obsession-is, then our church would be awesome.
“Nope. God is awesome.”
Progress can’t always be measured in upward-trending bar graphs (like we might prefer). God may want to take us through ups and downs.
“Don't get me wrong: I am all for rest, balance, margin and a life that doesn't drain the life out of you.
“But balance can become code for barely working. Balance can become a synonym for not throwing your heart or weight into anything.”
In an article on ChurchPastor.com, Pastor Ryan Huguley touched on one of these idols, alliances, and 5 dangers involved in them:
“Seth Godin insightfully defines a tribe as ‘a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.’ Each of us participates in a number of ‘tribes.’ This may be especially true for those of us who claim the name of Christ and are connected to a church. We have preachers we listen to, blogs we read, and conferences we attend.
“There’s an ever-growing number of tribes in the Church. Denominations, coalitions, and networks all serve as tribes within the Tribe of Christian faith. These tribes we participate in each play a vital role in connecting us to one another and catalyzing us for mission. Despite their many benefits, our tribalism is not without inherent dangers.”
What about you? What idols have you seen within the church? Which ones have you struggled with? How have you dealt with them?