The Bible speaks pretty clearly on idolatry. It’s a big no-no all throughout Scripture, for obvious reasons. Just a few examples to refresh our memories:
“The acts of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” - Galatians 5:19-21
“Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”” - 1 Corinthians 10:7
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” - Colossians 3:5
As any Christian that reads the Bible knows, this is only a small taste of what the Bible says about idolatry, but everything we read about it in Scripture says the same thing: avoid it, don’t practice in it, it is a work of the flesh, and a serious insult to God.
And yet, it’s very possible that your church may be practicing in it every Sunday. Heck, every day even. That might seem ridiculous to some Christians, but it’s true. Most of us when we think of idolatry we imagine the images carved to look like animals out of gold, silver, and jewels, as the Bible describes how it happened a few thousand years ago.
What we sometimes fail to consider is that we can make literally anything an idol. We have a lot more ways of practicing this egregious insult to our God than we want to admit, and its prevalence within our local Christian churches has become a problem.
Worshiping something, anything, besides God, is idolatry. It doesn’t have to be a statue or a physical image that we literally stand before and worship, but that’s certainly one of the ways of doing it. Here are six ways your church could be practicing idolatry today.
Idolizing the Local Church
This one is sadly common, and it begins with our church leaders in how they set themselves up to be an idol for people, rather than God.
When churches brand themselves, cast visions, missions, and create a culture and an environment in their church that demands members/attendees be devoted and in service to them, idolatry is an inevitable result.
The church becomes a social club. A clique. A group with its own culture, membership standards, and a laundry list of events and activities makes for easy idol material. The membership agreement requires that you be active in the church, and your activity in the church soon leads to being consumed by it, rather than your relationship with God.
What you consume will consume you, and when you spend all of your time serving your church out of reverence for the church rather than God and being led by the Spirit alone, you may not be able to help but place your church on a pedestal in your mind and heart. A place that should be reserved for God alone.
Your church is not equal to or synonymous with God, no matter what your church leaders may have told you, and no matter how much you love your church.
If you believe obeying your church’s membership agreement/covenant/constitution is equal to obeying God Himself, you may be idolizing your church.
If you believe serving God just means serving your church, you could be idolizing your church.