9 Signs You Might be an “Information Idolater”

If we’re honest, even believers wrestle with letting go of our idols. In many cases, they’re lusts for position, power, or prestige. In other cases, the idol is a controlling desire to be “in the know.” It’s more than simply being a leader in the church who’s aware of stuff, though; it’s finding value and self-worth in knowing more stuff than others do. Use this list to determine if you might be an “information idolater.”

  1. You simply delight in being on the inside of leadership discussions. You can’t necessarily explain why it’s so important to you, but you find satisfaction—glee, even—when you know stuff others may not know.
  2. You intentionally and strategically develop relationships with the people who are most likely “in the know.” You might even be slick about it – others don’t quickly realize what you’re doing – but you know the information holders by name.
  3. You get angry at somebody when you have to learn something only through the grapevine. After all, you surely deserve to know before others do—and someone apparently failed to keep you in the loop.
  4. You get jealous when others seem to be more “in the know” than you are. You may not recognize your jealousy, but your feelings toward others are clear; indeed, you might even “righteously” condemn them as busybodies and gossips.
  5. You quietly, but clearly let others know that you know stuff they don’t know. You purposely say things like, “I can’t give you the details, but I know that’s not the case,” “The pastor and I talked about that last week,” or “I know, but I can’t tell anyone yet.”
  6. You gossip what you know under the guise of asking for prayer. You might, in fact, genuinely want others to pray—but part of your reason for sharing the request is to let others know something you already knew.
  7. You want to know what’s going on not only in your church, but also in other churches. That is, you’re aware of the controversies, conflicts, and chatter of more than one congregation—and you’re glad you do.
  8. Other church members see you as an information idolater. They’re not likely to use that language, but they still know you want to be the “go to” person if they need to know anything. They watch you work the system to stay on the inside.
  9. You’re angered by this post. That’s not my intent, but I realize some readers won’t like these thoughts. If any of them hit home to you, I encourage you to take your thoughts to the Lord.

That’s what I’ve had to do as I write this post, as I see myself in some of these descriptors. I want to guard my heart, though, so please pray for me.


  • Robin G Jordan says:

    I would suggest that there is nothing wrong in being knowledgeable and well-informed. I don’t believe that you can be effective in your ministry if you aren’t. Except where it may be a function of your ministry as key resource person where you need to maintain a high degree of visibility, going out of your way to be seen as the most knowledgeable and well-informed person in your church or para-church organization may be problematic.as was the practice of the Pharisees of going out of their way to be seen as devote, for example, being deliberately late to the prayers at the synagogue and therefore “forced” to pray in the street.They were fishing for admiration and recognition of their piety. They wanted to be seen by others as pious. We may need to ask ourselves, “Am I acquiring knowledge and information to help me be more effective in my ministry?” “Am I acquiring knowledge and information to be seen as the most knowledgeable and well-informed person in the church or para-church organization?”

    We also need to recognize that people have security needs. They may experience high levels of anxiety if they do not know what is going on around them, in their social networks, their place of employment, and so on.

    We can always overdo whatever we are doing. However, overdoing it may not necessarily be a failing.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I don’t differ with you, Robin, on the need for leaders to be well-informed. My concern are those folks who see information as power.

      • Robin G Jordan says:

        I agree that how that can be a problem. At the same time I have run into folks who withhold information as a way of exercising power in a church. They deliberately keep others in the dark. They aren’t the go-to-guys if you want to know what is going on. Rather they block the free flow of information in the church and make decisions and take actions without other people’s knowledge and then present what they have done as fait accompli.

  • Jerry Watts says:

    This is an intriguing post. There are several which I could take issue with (in person), but there is a great deal more truth in this than most (of us) want to admit. #6 has been one which, in 45 years of ministry, I have observed more than others. Possibly my 10th one would have been – “You spend more time on the web (I.E. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog sites, etc) trying to the first to glean the latest, so you can dispense the knowledge.” But that might have been too much…Thanks for your words. Have a blessed day.

  • mark says:

    In every sector, people are always trying to find out what is really going on. Information is so tightly controlled these days that people are always trying to get/be/stay in (good graces with those in) the inner circle. Besides, this is the only place where one can have any influence. By the time the information is released publicly, the decision has been made. Sometimes 5 minutes can make all the difference in the world.

  • Cameron says:

    What’s a good way to counter this attitude in ourselves? And how do we discern when we seek to learn something (i.e. pursuing further education) for the right reasons (to be more useful to the body) versus making it an idol?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Good question, Cameron. The big issue for me is whether I want to know the information simply because I feel more powerful or important if I know it. Sometimes we have to wrestle through this question. On one hand, it is good to get education. On the other hand, it’s also possible to make an idol out of degrees and positions. All of us must strive for proper balance, and seeking God’s help is a good step.

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