• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Can ministry become an idol?

That’s a hard one to answer.  In one sense, it’s difficult to believe that ministry can become an idol when the very nature of ministry is to help people “turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  It’s a spiritual work.  It certainly is not true that ministry has become an idol when we are saddened or upset when someone or something frustrates the spiritual work in which we are engaged.

Yet, in another sense, many of us may have become functional idolaters without realizing it.  One writer describes idols this way: “[They] are objects or persons to which we give inordinate attention.  Idols are things that we glorify other than God.  An idol is anything that gets more glory, more weight, more importance in our eyes than God does.”

What do you lead with in conversations?  That question alone can reveal the core direction of our heart.  Is our conversation sprinkled with what we do (ministry) or who we serve (God)?

When there are difficulties in ministry, how do we respond?  Are we devastated, do we blow up at others, or do we turn away in self-pity?

Idolatry, Os Guiness says, is to “inflate something to function as a substitute for God.”  Ministry can become our god; it can function as a substitute for God when our lives revolve around the work in which we are engaged, rather than the God who called us to that calling.

We need to keep asking questions like the ones above to help us expose the roots of idolatry of ministry and in our ministries.


4 Responses

  1. Ouch. Unfortunately, too true and an easy trap to fall into. Thanks for the warning signal.

    • Yes, that’s why that first question ‘hurt’ when I read it: “what do you lead with in conversations?” Thanks for honestly sharing the struggle.

  2. In the school year of 1946-47 Burt Harding had a very fruitful year in disciple-making as a High School Senior. (I was one of those he lead to Christ that school year.) The next year he went to the the Citadel and continued to be a witness for Christ sharing the gospel faithfully but he saw almost no results and became discouraged wondering if the Lord had abandoned him. Then in his devotions he read Luke 10 and the Lord spoke to his need in verses 17 to 21 and especially verse 20. Burt realized that his source of joy and feeling of self-worth was misplaced and that his joy should be just in the fact that he was among those whom God had redeemed and that his name was in the book of life and not rooted in ministry results. Burt shared his experience with me and warned me of the danger of the idolatry of ministry. Although warned early in my Christian life of this danger, I fell nevertheless into this sinful pattern of thinking and behavior. Workaholics, it seems, are especially tempted to make ministry and/or results of ministry an idol.

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