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Friday Thoughts – Idols

American Idol started this week and I can’t be more excited. Yes – Sarah Beth and I are Idol junkies. We love to watch people succeed and we love to cringe when people mess up. I’ve got my favorite American Idols – Carrie Underwood and Daughtry, as well as my least favorite – that “Soul Patrol” guy. But all in all – I really, really, really like American Idol. In fact before we got DVR we wouldn’t answer our phones during that sacred hour. Now I know what you’re thinking: Chip is about to write about how we idolize people and we should be prioritizing Christ. No – that isn’t it at all, but I do want to reflect on some of the major idols that the church deals with.

If you watch American Idol there are several critiques that the judges give that they think will help the “star-wanna-be” better. 1) You must be able to sing, but the best singer doesn’t always win. 2) You must “look” the part, this is a big deal. 3) There must be the “x” factor, something about the person that is like-able – Kelly Clarkston was a great example of that. She wasnt’ the best singer (in my opinion), but she did have that “x” factor. All of this combined will hopefully propel this person to success. Here is my point: The church tends to be the same way in its desire to discover “success” or become “successful.”

For the last few weeks I’ve been wrestling with the “idols” that the church has erected in order to be “successful.” So here are a few thoughts:

1) The Idol Of Nickels and Noses – If you have a lot of people, and you have a big budget then you must be a great church. Well let’s back up for a moment. I do believe that a healthy church is a growing church, but unhealthy churches attract people as well. There are churches everywhere that don’t teach the gospel, but attract large crowds. One prominent preacher stands up every week in his coliseum out west and never speaks of repentance, forgiveness and holiness – but there is a lot of positivity going on. We have to be very careful because this is the idol that we tend to buy into the most.

2) The Idol Of Programs – Now this is something that may make you a little uncomfortable, but it is so true. Many see that a churches success is built upon the number of “programs” that they have. I recently read of a church that had about 400 people in weekly attendance and over 150 different programs. Guess what was happening to that church? It was losing more and more people each year. Programs are relatively new thing to Christianity – in fact the word “youth minister” or “childrens minister” did not exist 75 years ago. Programs are important and good, but they don’t make a church a “good” church.

3) The Idol Of Being Trendy – If we wear our jeans, have a kicking worship team, serve coffee before worship, and multi-media in our service (and anything else creative that you can think of) then it must be a “good” church (sounds a lot like our church). Do you know that worship music is only about 500-600 years old in the local church, that the hymns that we deem as old and traditional were probably set to bar tunes in order to better relate to those who had come out of the bars and into church, and that the music that was cutting edge in 1995 is now seen as “old”. Think about it: how many people still wear the “wwjd” bracelet, when was the last time you saw a bumper sticker that said “Jesus is my co-pilot” and whatever happened to “DC Talk”? Trends come and go, so there has to be something more.

4) The Idol Of Evangelism Programs – What do I mean by this? We send out thousands of postcards every year. Next week we’ll be sending out 20,000 to invite people to church. There are business cards at the welcome center that you can take and give to your friends to invite them to church, our website is very user friendly for those who may want to visit, and I love what our greeters do for first time guests each week. Not only that, there are thousands of books, programs and seminars to teach people how to share their faith – I just read of a new one yesterday called the “evangecube” for kids. These are all very, very, important things – and we will do them because people matter to us, but I want to remind you as a leader and as a church member of one important thought: the means of expressing Christ is important, but the message of Christ is more important. We cannot count on a postcard to bring people to church – we must depend upon Christ, and act accordingly. The Bible tells us that “blessed are the feet who bring good news” – so bring good news to people. Christ works through you – we are his instruments. Don’t depend on the program too much.

Idols can be set up easily and quickly. We see success through the use of certain tools, we feel comfortable with certain trends, or specific programs are helpful – so that means it must be successful, right? The means of conveying the message of Christ is not the measure of success – it is Jesus. So as we walk together through the next month, year, 20 years – no matter what the size, program, trend or technique used to bring truth and people together – there must be a foundational commitment to the power of Christ (read Ephesians 1:17-22) moving through His people.

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