May I be honest with you? I started full-time ministry at 20 years old, and I quickly grew enamored with the excitement and the perceived prestige of ministry. I would never have admitted it then, but I made ministry my idol – and I confess that I still run that risk this many years later. Here are some signs that suggest ministry may have become an idol for you:
- You tie much of your self-worth to your ministry success. Even if you know better than to think that way, your heart still moves in that direction if your ministry has become an idol.
- Your spouse and family, even if they don’t admit it, feel like your ministry is more important to you than they are. This is the danger, too—many great families are reticent to be honest, lest they harm what matters so much to you.
- You tend to talk more about your ministry than about your Lord. The conversations you do have about the Lord are more perfunctory than personal, more job-related than Jesus-focused.
- You continually think about the next step on the ladder of ministry success. Idols work that way, actually – they never fully satisfy, and they leave you longing for more.
- You refer to the congregation you lead as “my church.” That’s not an automatic marker, but it often accompanies other markers in this list.
- You spend more time thinking about the temporary rewards of ministry than about the crowns you’ll lay back at the feet of Jesus in eternity. Again, that’s the way idols work: they turn our focus toward the temporal and challenge us to treat the fleeting as if it were eternal.
- You regularly compare yourself to other ministry leaders – and strive to do better and grow something bigger than they do. When we long for worldly recognition, our work becomes part of our idolatries.
- You tend to point out others you believe are guilty of ministry idolatry. Sometimes it’s easier to see in others what we refuse to see in ourselves.
- You remind others about your ministry successes. This one, of course, goes full circle to #1 above.
What would you add to this list? Where do you see yourself most vulnerable?
#5 is needs more nuance. Just because I see myself as part of a church, it doesn’t mean I’m idolizing the church. I call the family that I lead “my family” but I don’t idolize them.
Thanks. That’s why I say it’s not an automatic marker, but I could have been more clear.