When Church Becomes An Idol

By Dev Menon

Many years ago, I attended what I thought was a ‘terrible service’ in another church. The music wasn’t good, the order of service didn’t make sense to me, and the sermon was subpar at best. After it was over, my friends and I spent a long time complaining about everything wrong. 

However, when I asked an older lady, who came with us, what she thought… Her answer surprised me: “It was wonderful – didn’t you hear that line about Jesus? It really lifted my heart!” Now it wasn’t that she thought the service was great. But I realised, that when she came to church – any church – her goal was to hear something about Christ. And as long as she heard Christ – the rest well, didn’t matter as much. She came to hear Jesus and His life-saving Word. 

Last Sunday afternoon, I preached about the dangers of our church turning inwards. You can hear the sermon here: https://youtu.be/PyaYfrZxU9Q

After 15 years, research shows growing churches tend to focus less on evangelism and mission but prioritise internal issues – as is necessary. However, if that trajectory continues for 20, 30 years or more, then the church is at risk of becoming inward focused and comfortable: a clubhouse instead of a lighthouse. The church – as we like it (or have made it) – has become an idol. 

What does that mean? It means instead of coming to church to hear Jesus and His life-giving Word, we come because our friends are here, our family is here, the music is good here, the timing fits our schedule, the ministries are to our preference, etc. Moreso, we find that other Christians begin to transfer here because of those same reasons, rather than to hear and be discipled in the gospel. 

Idols, my friends, are always cruel. And when church becomes an idol, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Eventually, we may find ourselves complaining more than rejoicing. Noticing all the things that are going wrong, or don’t suit our preference, rather than coming to hear Jesus and His life-changing Word. Idol-church kills our joy. 

That one incident all those years ago with that godly lady, remained in my mind till today. For all the efforts we put into building this church, we must constantly watch our hearts, that we don’t make the one place where we find life, into a place of despair. Let us learn once again that we come first and foremost to hear Jesus, and God’s Spirit will take care of the rest…

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