As ministers of the gospel, it is easy for us to see the idols in other people’s lives but much more difficult in our own. Specifically, I am thinking about the ways that ministry itself can become an idol in our lives. By definition, an idol is anything we put before God.
In my own experience this was one of the single greatest contributing factors to my own ministry meltdown. Looking back I can see the roots of this problems developing for over a decade in my heart. Like many ministers I started to think that success in ministry determined my value before God. When I was Pastoring Open Door Baptist Church, in Colliers WV we experienced a period of tremendous growth. We became one of the fastest growing churches in our state convention and I started to bask in the success of a growing church and reputation as a Pastor. Somewhere in the midst of that time, my pride became to give birth to a subtle attitude, which caused me to think that the growth of the church was a sign of God’s favor. It is not a far leap from that idea to the belief that my value before God was determined by my success in ministry. That is a terrible trap to fall into as a minister because you start drawing your value from the weekly attendance and giving records of the church and not the gospel. I did not realize it when it was happening but now I can see that this was a subtle sign that the ministry had become an idol in my life.
The second sign that ministry had become an idol was the slowly deteriorating amount of time I spent with God and the increasing amount of time I gave to the work of ministry. Somewhere along the way I had bought into the delusion that time spent working in the ministry could replace the time that I spent alone before God. I was unconsciously breaking one of the cardinal rules I had taught others throughout my ministry and that we will cover in a later chapter of this book— that we must minister from the overflow of our lives. The simple truth of the matter is that ministry cannot be a substitute for our time alone before God. Ministry is an extension of our time with God, but not a replacement. When we ignore this principle we end up serving the ministry not God, thus we fall into the sin of idolatry.
The last sign that ministry had become an idol was that I began to believe that somehow ministry would bring my satisfaction. This is the most subtle trap of idolatry because so much in the modern Christian church is set up to reinforce this idea. After all, when was the last time that you went to a conference and heard someone speak who was not the Pastor of a rapidly growing mega-church. The books we read, the conferences we attend, the testimonies we listen to all drum the same idea into our heads — ministry success will bring you satisfaction. But I would like to challenge that idea and say that many times Satan is using our propensity to selfish ambition to undermine out joy and to lead us to make an idol out of the ministry. The simple truth that I have discovered in my own life is that nothing apart from Jesus Christ can satisfy my hungry soul. No amount of success can bring us the satisfaction that one single second in the presence of Jesus can produce. We need to reject the idolatrous notion that ministry success will satisfy our hungry souls and begin looking to the only bread from heaven that will satisfy.
Over the next few days, I am going to explore this subject in a little more detail. I hope you will come back tomorrow, for the second installment of this series of articles.
- Advice for Your First Year in a New Ministry Position (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- Preventing A Ministry Meltdown
- Recovering from a Ministry Meltdown
- Staying Fresh in the Ministry