Jeff Christopherson: Five Signs My Church May Have Become an Idol

Most of us have misspent precious time on WebMD. We’ve developed a peculiar malaise and launched our own investigative examination (with unquestioned personal expertise) to secure a speedy and satisfying diagnosis.

Although we were troubled by our original symptoms, we soon become suspicious that we’ve contracted a far more exotic condition. After a few hours, that tickled throat is now proof-positive of a chronic, excruciating death-sentence just around the corner. We close our computer, draw a deep breath, and pray that a real doctor has better news.

Symptoms are funny things. To some, they are in themselves the problem. Heroic efforts are braved in order to mask the evidence of a deeper and more malignant issue. To others, symptoms are snubbed. With clenched teeth and firm resolve, we soldier on, feigning as if nothing is out of the ordinary.

Still to others, symptoms become a source of paralysis. With fear and dread we cocoon, hoping for a miraculous delivery while we dawdle in our emotional fetal position attempting to conjure happier thoughts.

All three responses are inadequate. Symptoms are never the problem, should never be ignored, and cannot be wished away by a pseudo-counternarrative. Symptoms are God’s way of getting our attention.

Consider the case of the church in North America.

Symptoms of disease are everywhere. Church closures. Dismal baptism numbers. Disqualified pastors. Negative cultural influence. Infighting. Dysfunction. Scandal. Failure. The symptoms are all pointing to a deep problem somewhere, but the question is: Where?

Before we round up the usual left-wing suspects to pin sole culpability, an internal evaluation is in order. A Kingdom-centric worldview understands that the pervasive darkness of our day can’t be corrected with hyper-focus on the darkness. The commissioned carriers of light bear the full burden (read Jesus in Matthew 6:23). Therefore, the pervading darkness emanating from sacred sources can only be explained by an exchange of gods, an idolatry of ecclesiology, a form worshipped (2 Tim. 3:5) that comes with none of the light or authority of King Jesus.

A Christ-less kingdom dressed in sacred clothes.

So, if a church, even a growing church, can become an idol, how can we see the signs and repent? What should I look for in our church’s culture? What should I look for in my leadership?

Here are five signs that we are heading in the wrong direction.

1. Syncretistic Positioning of our church as God’s Kingdom

When a local church sees herself as the goal, instead as the means to the goal, she finds herself in a perilous place. By seeing our church as the prime good, sacrifices will be demanded, but they will be made by others exclusively for the purpose of corporate increase instead of missional engagement.

The Mark 8:35 call for ‘losing ourselves’ is routinely reduced to an evangelistic text on ‘how to get into the Kingdom,’ without thought given as to ‘how Kingdom people live.’ In fact, all of Jesus’ Kingdom teachings are applied individually with no effort given to corporate application, because, synchronism spells Kingdom, “c-h-u-r-c-h.”

And in this dark exchange, we have reduced ourselves to a profane object of sacrifice instead of being the sacrifice itself.

As sacrifices, we appeal to our constituents to vacate their natural places of community and credibility in order to satisfy the insular, artificial, and self-focused appetites of our insatiable organizations. Attractional quickly becomes extractional. Dissemination becomes consolidation. And giving becomes taking.

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Source: Christianity Today