Ministry as an idol
We dream for results, but preoccupation with results can turn the churches or ministries we serve into a measurement of success. For those who feel “successful”, ministry becomes a badge of honor or trophy to be admired by others or God. When we allow the success of our church or ministry to determine our security or sense of wellbeing we are seeking from it something God intends us to receive from Him. I am describing idolatry.
At times in their history the Israelites worshipped idols. They didn’t always forsake worship of the living God – they merely served other gods with Him. Sometimes they simply made an idol of something good. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they elevated issues of holiness higher than the very God who declared them holy (Mat 12:1-8; 23:24). An idol is anything other than God in which we seek security and fulfillment. It may be something biblical or good, but if it has the power to determine our wellbeing, we have elevated it higher than God meant for us. As those who are devoted to our churches and ministries, and therefore invest a great deal of time, energy, and heart, it is easy to elevate them too high.
We know we have made our church or ministry an idol when we put our hope and trust in it more than in God – we look to it rather than God for our identity and significance. And we know we look to our church or ministry for our significance when it has the most power to lift us up or to demoralize us A great problem with idolatry is that idols require sacrifice, and we end up sacrificing relationship with the people we serve for the idol of the family. When we elevate the image of the church or ministry we serve, we effectively trade the people we serve hearts for our reputation.
Craving a reputation for success puts great pressure on us, and then on our churches and ministries – we feel quite constrained to succeed. If we grow and have “success” in ministry, then we can credit ourselves with success, but the church or ministry we serve struggles or fails, then we may live with guilt, embarrassment, and bitterness.
Our highest success is not measured by the effect we have upon others, but strictly by our obedience to God. In other words, God does not credit us that someone came to faith into the Kingdom through our words – He credits us for our obedience. We obey and speak the truth – God bears the fruit (1 Cor 3:6) (re-vised re-print Bradley) John Arcovio