Christian Idols. Idols vs. Heroes.

What must the church do to guard itself from idolatrous worship of its leaders? Please understand that it is idolatry to worship the musicians, authors, pastors, evangelists or conference speakers instead of the One, True God these evangelical leaders represent. It is wrong to idolize men and women of God who humbly seek to serve the Lord with their God given gifts and want no part of the slippery slope of hero worship.

Additionally, what must church leaders do to guard themselves from becoming objects of idolatrous worship? How do leaders protect themselves the intoxicating attraction of popularity?

While it is wrong to worship church leaders, it is not wrong to have heroes who happen to be church leaders. The difference between idols and heroes is that we tend to not worship our heroes, but rather respect them and appreciate them for their gifts and talents. At least that is what we should do regarding the men and women, both past and present, who we recognized have been uniquely gifted by God.

My heroes from the past include the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans. I have also appreciated such recent leaders such as J. Gresham Machen, Jerry Bridges, William Hendrickson, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur. However, I believe that I have never worshiped them, nor would they seek such adulation from me or anyone else for that matter. As you can probably tell, there exists a fine line between idolatry and heroism.

What must church leaders do to guard themselves from becoming objects of idolatrous worship? How do leaders protect themselves the intoxicating attraction of popularity?  I Peter 5:1-5 is a good place to begin.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, commands church leaders and elders to figuratively dress themselves with the character of humility. This means to have a lack of arrogance and to esteem others as better than themselves (Philippians 2:1-4).

The Prophet Micah expressed it this way, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 says, 14 When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by] the Levitical priests.19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”

Have many within the evangelical community exalted men to the same level, if not above, God? Rather than cast criticisms, l encourage each of us to examine our own hearts to see if there is this tendency to worship the leader rather than the One, True God who leads. At the same time, leaders need to make sure they are seeking to not only walk humbly before the Lord, but also before the congregations of which they are God’s stewards.

Only as the church achieves this delicate balance will fame and honor be directed to where it truly belongs and upon whom it truly belongs: the Lord.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!


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