Thursday, February 02, 2006


Idols and Idolatry

Jollyblogger sounded like he had been reading my mind on Tuesday.
If I am in an upscale community that values family, success and financial freedom I might decide that the way to reach these folks is to build a family friendly church with classes and seminars on marriage and parenting, money management and a biblical view of success, or how to use your success in a godly way. There are many good aspects to all of these emphases, but we can miss the fact that people often value family, money and success for idolatrous reasons. In other words, it may be helpful to give someone biblical principles for budgeting, but it may be that their interest in budgeting is driven by an idol of greed.

And so I am suggesting that we not treat sinners as if they are sinless. For some time now it has been en vogue to listen to the unregenerate and tailor our ministries to their stated needs, desires and values. This has been the case with the church growth movement, the seeker sensitive movement, and in many cases with postmodern and emerging movements. In doing so we often fail to get behind the sinless and idolatrous motives that are driving the needs, desires and values.
There is so much that we make into sin, and usually it is the sin of idolatry. Watching the Super Bowl this Sunday is not a sin, unless I approach it with an idolatrous attitude.

Now here's the really incidious part - church growth is not a sin, unless I approach it with an idolatrous attitude - that is to say I operate my church in a fashion to pursue growth when I should be pursuing God.

Anything can become an idol. Have you ever thought that the Pharisees real problem was that they made the Law an idol? Think about it. They were so zealous to do what they thought God wanted, they forgot God, isn't that the very definition of idolatry?

Now here is the key question - how do we deal with attitutdes? I cannot tell you how many church planning meetings of one sort or another I have been in when I saw this attitude start to creep in. I could start getting all prophetic, but that usually just gets me booted out of the room, so my typical response is to call for prayer in an effort to refocus the conversation. But it is not uncommon for me to be told "We prayed at the start of the meeting - we don't have time for this."

Of course, changing people "on the inside" really is the work of the Holy Spirit, but somehow that seems like a cop out. Surely God has a role for us in situations like this? Ideas?

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