What Happens When Your Church Becomes Your Idol?
When I started publishing a blog I knew there would be backlash. When my book came out, I had no doubt there would be backlash. I knew what the response would be from many people, at least, I thought I knew.
I fully expected mud to be thrown at me personally, and I expected to step on people’s toes and be on the receiving end of a comment or two made out of raw emotion. As much as I knew that would pain me, most people, including myself, take their religious beliefs very personally, as they should, so I get it. It is a touchy subject.
And, yet, after carefully weighing and accepting my potential consequences I still chose to proceed.
That being said, I can only speak to what I know, and having spent twenty-five years in the United Pentecostal Church, that is what I know.
But, the thing that has surprised me about this the most, is the responses from many people that are comprised of veiled threats to my family, claims that I am blasphemous against God, and that speaking against the church would most certainly land me in the innermost circles of hell itself. Such comments have zero scripture that can be used to back them or at least, scripture used in context, and are simply scare tactics.
Wow. Didn’t see that coming.
In an online support group I am in, someone made a very real comment. And it made sense to me. The reason so (very) many people tend to spew out these vague, haphazard responses to my published material was simply this:
The church has become their god.
Yikes, that stings a little. And I can’t say I have never been in their shoes, I would be a hypocrite to stand here and say that at one time my responses wouldn’t be the exact same. In fact, I really don’t even blame them for this oversight.
This is really a problem that spans across all denominations, but like I said, I can only speak to what I know.
Several years before I left the UPC, a friend of mine posted a paper that she had written for her college class about the organization, and how she thought it was a cult. My stomach dropped when I read this and I quickly without even giving her opinion a second thought, unfollowed her.
Why did I respond like that? Why was I so quick to be offended by someone else’s opinion of the United Pentecostal Church? She wasn’t saying God wasn’t real, she wasn’t even writing negatively about any one person, she was writing about an organization.
Everyone knows the Ten Commandments. What is the very first one?
“You shall have no other gods before me”.
It was written in stone, plain as day, yet for some reason that seemed to be the one Isreal struggled with the most.
How do we know when we are putting idols ahead of God? And what happens when we do?
I think a telltale sign is when someone says something critical of whatever is dearest to your heart, it becomes obvious where your allegiance lies.
In the UPC, you are taught that anytime the church doors are open you are to be there. Rain, snow, vacation, sick doesn’t matter you should be at church. You are taught that your pastor has the authority to give you additional rules that aren’t clearly scribed in the Bible, and you are to comply. Your money is top priority, and it is widely believed that your finances will be cursed if you don’t give enough to your church (other charities don’t count). You go to conferences and hoop and holler when the main man in charge of it all dances a jig across the stage.
Your entire life is wrapped up in the church.
Is it possible, with so much focus being placed on the outward appearance of having God around, we fail to invite him at all into our day to day lives?
There is verse after verse in the Bible scorning those who have forgotten the main reason while they are caught up in being busy for the main reason. (Think Mary and Martha.)
My childhood pastor preached a message once that stuck with me, “You gotta keep the main thing, the main thing”!
Meaning, if Jesus isn’t the main thing, what is?
I am completely preaching to myself here as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy. And it’s easy while we are in the thick of the business to lose perspective. I get it.
But, do you put more effort into attending a building and working like a bee than you do worshiping God and entering into the beauty of his holiness? Do you put more emphasis on what your pastor says than what the Bible says? What would happen if you found the pastor’s words to be false? Or if you felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit leading you away from your congregation? What would you do?
The Bible tells us to test the spirits to see if they are of Christ.
Test your own spirit. Are you as much or more offended by someone critiquing your church organization or your pastor than you would be of them criticizing God himself?
If you feel a little twinge by reading that, maybe your church is your idol.
Here’s the thing, like I have already stated, I can only speak to what I know, and what I know is a whole lot of people have compared me speaking out against the UPC to if I were spitting on Christ himself. And to be honest, if I weren’t already a believer, those comments would probably turn me away from Christ altogether.
I have said it before, and I will probably say it again: the UPC is NOT in fact God. And speaking out against the man made doctrines of a man made organization (which has been around for less time than my grandparents) while using scripture to back my statements is most certainly NOT blasphemous.
I challenge you, search your heart, test your spirit. Be honest with yourself. If you find that someone saying something negative about your religious organization ruffles your feathers to the point you are dooming their soul to hell, maybe, just maybe that organization is your idol and you have forgotten all about the main thing.