On Monday I began a series of articles about when ministry becomes an idol. Yesterday, we saw that ministry becomes an idol in our lives anytime we start to think that success in ministry determines our value before God. Today I want to move on to see a second way that ministry can become an idol:
We believe that the work of ministry is the same as devotion to God
Sam is a thirty five year old Pastor of a medium sized baptist church in a county seat town in the mid-south. He started preaching when he was sixteen years old and started pastoring his first church when he was just eighteen. Like many young Pastors, Sam started off as a bi-vocational pastor working full-time in the ministry while also holding down another job to “pay the bills.” Sam and his wife Sarah got married shortly after he graduated high school and a year later found out they were expecting their first child. Sam says, “Those first couple of years were very difficult. I was a new husband, a new Pastor, and before I knew it, a new father. All of this kind of swept my feet right out from under me. Something had to give, so I decided that I needed to get rid of some things in my life in order to find room to breathe.” After some long conversations with his wife, Sam decided to drop out of school and to go back later when things weren’t so hectic and busy. Things never slowed down and sixteen years later, Sam still hasn’t gotten to go back. Sam says, “At first dropping out of school freed up some time, but before long I found that the ministry was taking up more and more of my time. It seemed like I could never quite catch up. As the church grew so did my responsibilities. Before long I was struggling to keep up with everything. One area that I really struggled to maintain was my personal time alone with God.” As the pressures of balancing the demands of his family, church, and secular job mounted, Sam’s devotional life simply vanished. “Eventually,“ he says. ”I just started to excuse my lack of devotional time by saying to myself that all of the time I gave to the work of the ministry counted as devotion to God.” Like many Pastors, Sam had bought into the subtle delusion that the work of the ministry is the same as devotion to God. Eventually, this view of the ministry eroded his life and nearly consumed him.
Anyone who has been in the ministry for a length of time can sympathize with Sam’s plight. The work of the ministry is one of the most all-consuming professions a person can choose. Due to it’s nature, it is tempting for us to think that the time we give towards studying the Bible for sermons, praying for the needs of our congregation, and ministering to their needs is the same as being devoted to God. But this is not always the case. One of the subtle ways that Satan gets us to fall into the trap of ministry idolatry is to convince us that serving the church is the same as being devoted to God. He even builds in rewards for service that cleverly masquerade themselves as God’s blessings to keep us trapped. Popularity and church growth can feed our ego and drive us to work harder and harder to gain the applause and recognition of the congregation. Sadly, we often begin to our time alone with God in personal Bible study and prayer slip away. When this happens, we quickly discover that the reservoirs quickly run dry and soon we are ministering from the dusty leftovers rather than the rich overflow of our lives.
The answer is simple, we must carefully protect our time alone with God. I will never forget at my ordination service when Warren Baker, my beloved pastor growing up, whispered in my ear during the laying on of hands, “Never let anything keep you from your quiet time with God. It is the most important thing that you will do as a Pastor.” I haven’t always kept that advice but I certainly have learned the importance of what he said that day.
- When Ministry Becomes and Idol Pt. 1 (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- When Ministry Becomes An Idol: Part 2 (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- Advice for Your First Year in a New Ministry Position (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- Dealing with Critics in Your Ministry (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- The Dangerous and Risky Calling of Pastoral Ministry (getreal.typepad.com)
- Idol Confusion… (thechristiangazette.wordpress.com)