As we were about to finish day three of our two week module for the Wheaton Graduate school with 25 students from 8 nations which includes South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, USA, Singapore, UAE, and a creative access nation, our professor Ed Stetzer ended the day talking about our role as pastors based on Ephesians 4:11-12.

We are called to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. He then lists down typical reasons why pastors don’t equip much. The following reasons were:

Job security
Insecurity
Pride
Idolatry

He focused on the topic of ministry idolatry. Idolatry is when we make a good thing the ultimate thing. And according to Tertullian:

“The principal crime of the human race … is idolatry. For although each individual sin retains its own proper feature… they all fall under the general heading of idolatry… all murder and adultery, for example are idolatry for they arise because something is love more than God – yet in turn, all idolatry is murder for it assaults God, and all idolatry is also adultery for it is unfaithfulness to God. Thus, it comes to pass, that in idolatry all crimes are detected, and in all crimes idolatry.”

Not all idolatry is carved stones of primitive people.
When idolatry drives us, idolatry dominates us.

If idols are not made with carved stones, what then are they made of in this day and age?

For the pastor, it may be:
– praise of people over pleasing the Father
– the value of career over faithfulness to Christ
– fear of failure over trust and obedience
– professional performance rather than personal devotion

How can we tell if we are prone to committing ministry idolatry?

1. How much of my contentment is connected to the tide of my ministry influence?
2. Do my prayers reflect that I am more thankful for the salvation God has provided for me or for the ministry He has given me?
3. If I had to choose, which would I prefer: a closer walk with Jesus, or a more “effective ministry?”
4. If my ministry were suddenly taken from me, would I still rejoice that my sins are forgiven?
5. Do I seek God only for His blessing and direction or do I also seek God simply for Him?

These are heart piercing questions and they are worth asking ourselves every so often.

May the Lord grant us the desire for Him alone, passion for His Word and love for the things that He loves.