There are plenty of things we can make idols in our lives. Pretty much anything can have the potential of being an idol. I often find that there are things within Christianity and the church itself that we can often run the risk of setting up as idols in our lives. I would like to talk about a few of those briefly. I think it is crucial to be reminded of the risks.
1. A specific local church. Being involved in a local church is crucial. Enjoying being a part of that church is important. It is healthy to like your church, but sometimes we can run the risk of thinking all other churches pale in comparison, and that all members of other churches just don’t get it as good as we do. When we need to move away from that church family we always set it up on a pedestal looking for a church that can top it, and be like it in every single way. God’s church is more than just your local church.
2. Church programs. How much is your church our ministry doing? Are you having at least 2/3 events a month? If not then you better get on that because an active event church is a church that is spiritually healthy. Sometimes we can get so involved in doing church that we leave God on the sidelines.
3. Your pastor. This is such a dangerous one. I love preaching and teaching. It is something I absolutely love doing, and hope to do it for years to come. If you take everything I say as gospel though then we have a problem. That should be the case no matter who your pastor is. Seek God for yourself. Don’t just trust your pastor’s sermons to get you through life no matter how good they are. You may not realize this is the case, but think of the false teachers in this world who have people who follow them blindly. They have made their pastor their God. It always leads to pain and sorrow.
4. Worship style. This is probably one of the biggest emotional charged arguments in local churches today. Everyone has their preference. My preference admittedly changes. I have gone through times where I prefer the really loud, emotionally charged, energy crazed worship. I have also gone through seasons where I really just prefer quiet, methodical, meditating worship. Through all of that I have come to understand this much, if you demand for others to follow your worship style then you have severely tarnished the purpose of worship. Worship is not about us. There is no right style for worship. Chances are none of our styles today look anything like it did in the early church. We need to care more about the words, and the intent of our heart than what kind of beat is going on. This means we can’t assume hymns are automatically boring just because they are quiet. It also means you can’t assume louder music is less godly just because it does not match your personal tastes. That being said, we all have preferences and I always encourage people to make sure they find ways to be in a setting regularly where they can worship in a way that feels natural and comfortable for them. It is sad that this is the point I spend the most time talking about on this list when it should be such a small issue, unfortunately this is one of the most common idols in the church today on all sides of the argument.
5. A minor theological/doctrinal view. Sometimes we try and cram more needs into the gospel message then are really there. We make theological issues the issue. It always saddens me when I see someone who cares more about converting a Christian to their view on a certain interpretation of Scripture than they do reaching the lost with the gospel. Not only does it sadden me, but it continues to remain one of the most embarrassing acts one can perform for God’s church. Taking an interpretation of God’s word and making it an idol in your life is a low point.
6. A Bible version. Now this one may feel a bit outdated, but it is still pretty strong depending where you are. Everyone has a personal preference on what Bible translation works best for them. Preference is ok. Preference is even a good thing. It gets sticky though when you assume all other translations are inferior. Now there are some translations that are more accurate than others in terms of straight from the original language. If someone were to ask me what version would be good for a hardcore study on a topic in Scripture then there are some version I would suggest over others, but in the end most translations can be good to use for studying God’s word. There may be a couple I would not recommend, but in general this really shouldn’t be an issue. If you assume there is only one English version of Scripture that is inspired by God then you have created an idol. Ironically we see this happen the most with the King James version of the Bible. Sadly it is also one of the hardest to use for hardcore study since the translators cared more about showing off the English language than being careful to preserve the exact meaning of words in the text. There are other translations today that are arguably more faithful to the original text than the King James version. Don’t divine authority as an excuse for tradition and preference.
7. The biggest idol is you. What can the church do for me in my time of need. What can I get out of Christianity that will make me happy. What programs does this church have that I think I would enjoy? How energetic is this preacher so that I don’t need to work too hard at paying attention to his sermons? We all need to find a church family that we can connect with. It is those connections that help us grow, but we must not be so focused on ourselves that we forget the purpose of God’s church. Often we just become selfish and look for what we can gain from a church family. If everyone looks to take but never put anything in, then pretty quickly there is nothing for anyone to receive.