Why the Pew and the Pulpit Are Guilty of Idolatry
Since before the beginning of time there has seemingly been this search for accolades and the applause of others. This began with Lucifer when – as the old folks used to say – he started “smelling himself” and he wanted to remove God from his throne and take his place. That did not end well for him.
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As I mentioned earlier, there is a tendency – especially when someone has a gift or an anointing to do something well – to elevate that person. If you are in the position of the person who is being elevated or being put on a pedestal, how should you respond? When we go back to our two examples from the Bible, we will see what the proper response should be.
Whenever someone attempts to elevate you and put you on a pedestal the proper response is to take yourself off the pedestal. This is exactly what Paul did. He never made himself the focal point of the ministry, he made Jesus the focal point and rightfully so.
I have heard the term used in the media of a “celebrity pastor” or “gospel superstar” and I cringe when I hear this because this is right on the doorstep of idolatry. If a leader does not take themselves off that pedestal when people lift them up, then they are guilty of encouraging idolatry.
Here is a lesson I learned from my former pastor many years ago. He used to say this from the pulpit in front of the congregation: “I can’t save you. I cannot transform you. Only Jesus can do that. My job is to connect you to him. If you walk out of church talking more about me than about Jesus, then I have failed.”
By saying this he recognized the pedestal people would try to put him on and he took himself off it. One thing to be mindful of – as a leader, pastor, minister or whatever the position is you hold, you cannot prevent someone from elevating you in their eyes. If you go back to the story in Acts, Paul and Barnabas, though they tore their clothes and pleaded with the people, they could not stop them.
When they attempt to do this, you must remove yourself, even if they want to keep you there it is a place that you cannot stay.
It is so important to recognize that every person who is a Christian is simply a sinner who has been saved by grace. There are no superstars in the body of Christ.
Let me correct that there is only one superstar in the body of Christ and that is Jesus himself. He is the one that is worthy of honor and glory. He is the one that should be elevated and glorified. He is the one that should be followed above everyone else. To lift anyone else into that position is idolatry. To be lifted to that position and to keep yourself there encourages idolatry.
The real blame here, if there is any, is to those who get elevated and do nothing about it. Part of the reason is because they like the adulation that comes with the elevation, and this too is shaky ground. Whether you are in the pulpit or in the pew there is only one name that should lifted above all other names and that name is the name of Jesus. When it is all said and done, he is the one who will remain standing at the end.
At the beginning and end of the day, this is where your worship should be and nowhere else.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.