Can a preacher be idolized? This question is like asking, “Can a party invitation take credit for a good party?”(Think about it…) The two do not seem to flow together. However, as any honest person would affirm “our hearts are idol factories.” People can make anything or any person an idol. We can take any sort of good thing, make it an ultimate thing, and there you have your idol.
What about idolizing a minister of the gospel? Could it be possible? More people than we may think are dealing with this issue. With the development of mega-communication systems and mega-churches, preachers of God’s Word can get quite a bit of attention. Yes, even the preachers who are telling people, “Repent of your idols and trust Christ,” are being thought to be potential idols. Their conferences are well advertised and well attended. Their podcasts are downloaded by the millions. Their books fly of the printing presses.
So, what may one do if he finds himself in such a predicament? Here are few things to think about.
First, however, let me throw in a disclaimer. Someone may read this and think, “What a bunch of weirdoes! Worshipping a preacher?!” Before you go that route think about this: All idolatry is weird to at least some people. For instance, when I see hundreds of thousands of people give their time, money, devotion, commitment, and praise to a football team it makes me think one thing: dumb. So, all idolatry, even Christianity, is going to be seen as weird to at least some people. Before you hate on preacher-worshippers just think how silly you look when you get giddy because of your new gameday tee-shirt.
Back to how to squash preacher idolatry:
1) Idolize God:
God is more powerful, more holy, more humble, more loving, more knowledgeable, more faithful, more joyful, more just, more experienced, more patient, more peaceful, and more gracious. Not to mention He is the only self-sufficient being ever. He is eternal, immutable, ever-present, and absolutely sovereign. Too put it simply, He is the better God. We are dumb to choose our preacher-gods.
Meditating on the truth about the true God will liberate us from our false gods. I do not mean just memorizing these truths, but I mean we need to absorb them. They must be the framework of our lives, the sustenance of our souls.
2) Get your own preacher:
What I mean by “Get your own preacher” is, “Join a church.” Partner yourself in the most serious way with a local congregation. Immerse yourself into their community. Covenant together with them to be as biblically faithful, Christ-centered, and God glorifying as you can. If you do this, then you will have your own preacher.
How does this help with preacher idolization? It helps in two ways. If you have your own preacher you will see him for who he is: a sinner saved by grace. You will know, firsthand, he needs the same gospel that you do. His remedy is the same as yours. Then you will think to yourself, “This guy is a terrible idol. I need the real thing. Give me Jesus!”
This direction will also help in that you will have less time for outside preaching. You will be following your church’s agenda for studying the Scriptures. There will simply be a lack of time to listen to the famous guys.
3) Use good preaching rightly:
There are two parts to this one: (1) Use good preaching and (2) rightly receive it. To avoid preacher idolatry make sure the preaching is similar to the church you will join: biblically faithful, Christ-centered, and God glorifying. If the preacher is doing his job, then he will be constantly steering you to Christ. His arguments will establish the truth of Christ. His plea will be to repent to Christ. His wisdom will flow out of the fear of the Lord. His adjectives will exalt the name of the Lord.
If you stopped right there, then you would be on a good road to not worshipping the preacher. Still, we need to receive good preaching rightly. The preacher worshipper goes wrong when he thinks, “What great preaching! That preacher is great.” Instead he should think, “What great preaching! God is great.” We must know that preaching is a means of the Holy Spirit to make known Christ’s gospel. It is not a means to make known a preacher. Thus, we should ask after every sermon we hear, “How did this time spent under the preached Word reveal to me more truth about who God is for me in Christ? How did this time help me root out the stingy sin stealing my affection for Jesus?”
Any other ideas?