Except in church, right? NOT! Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods writes, "Idolatry is so pervasive that it dominates this area (religion) as well."
As I think back to the past several months and how things have gone with our church leadership, I find a depth of understanding in some of the words Dr. Keller writes. (See chapter 5) Let me share...
- The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.” Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness. When we approached the pastor, we did it in confidence and compassion. Alone, in his office. But I cannot think of a better phrase than "scoffed at" to represent how we feel we have been treated. It is as if there is no way that we can have anything of value to say. No compassion, no open ear to listen or to offer guidance, no discussion, just a cold shoulder inviting us to leave or asking that we stop wasting their time.
- Another form of idolatry within religious communities turns spiritual gifts and ministry success into a counterfeit god. Spiritual gifts (talent, ability, performance, growth) are often mistaken for what the Bible calls spiritual “fruit” (love, joy, patience, humility, courage, gentleness). I cannot count how many times we have been told that one of the reasons that they refuse to listen is because the church is growing, as if growth equals pleasing to God. If that were true, no false religion would ever take root. So let's hear it for the Mormons, Muslims, and Joel Osteen. And I thought it was the narrow path that led to heaven.
- the default mode of the human heart is to seek to control God and others through our moral performance. Because we have lived virtuous lives we feel that God (and the people we meet) owe us respect and support. Though we may give lip service to Jesus as our example and inspiration, we are still looking to ourselves and our own moral striving for salvation. Maybe that is why the pastor was so upset that we did not mention our profound gratitude because he had sent us a postcard. Postcard, 10 cents, postage, 32 cents, morality points, priceless. Or why we have been told the facts of how the church has grown in the past 10 years, or how this past year's Easter attendance set a new record. But what numbers aren't we sharing? We never hear about how many have left the church. And if last Easter's attendance was so great, what does that say about the rest of the year? I could go on, but you know what they say...85% of all statistics are made up anyway. Or was that 63%?
- Making an idol out of doctrinal accuracy, ministry success, or moral rectitude leads to constant internal conflict, arrogance and self-righteousness, and oppression of those whose views differ. Do we feel oppressed?
Does a bear...Do birds sing? How are we supposed to feel when we are told that sermon discussion is "out of bounds?" I thought only the Pope was infallible. Guess I was wrong.