I confess that these thoughts are not original. The idea for this post came from Lewis Allen's book, The Preacher's Catechism, where Allen lists the first three signs of preaching idolatry listed below.
At the same time, my lack of preaching opportunities during the current COVID-19 threat has forced me to evaluate my own heart. Thus, the remaining evidences of preaching idolatry are my own suggestions:
- We can never read the Bible for our own soul's profit. Instead, we've come to the place where we read the Word only with sermons in mind. Developing outlines for others trumps any personal application of the Word.
- We can never say no to a sermon. We always look for opportunities to preach, and we squirm in the pew when we're not preaching. Indeed, it's almost impossible to listen to a sermon without critiquing it.
- Our moods are dictated by our ministry. It's a good day if we received positive feedback for our sermon; criticism, on the other hand, leads to rough days and sleepless nights. That's because somebody has spoken against our idol.
- We spend most of our time in our study, giving little direct attention to the people we're called to shepherd. Prioritizing our sermon preparation isn't wrong, but isolation in the office may reveal a battle in our hearts. Sometimes it's a battle with our ego—or a battle to be like our preaching heroes.
- We're struggling right now because we're forced to preach to a camera or an empty worship center. This crisis has required us to evaluate our own motives in preaching. If we're disappointed because we don't have any immediate crowds, we may be more interested in the recognition than in the message.
- We watch clips of our own sermons not to evaluate and improve, but to hear how good we are. No preacher I know would describe his heart this honestly, but some I know—beginning with me at times—live on this line. In our arrogance and idolatry, we impress ourselves too much.
- We linger after the service to hear more good comments about our sermon. When idolatry sets in, we want to know that we've done well with our gods. When we look forward to affirmations of our preaching—and even put ourselves in a position to hear more—we've crossed lines into ungodliness.
- We get jealous when other preachers are recognized for their preaching. It's hard to imagine why they would be recognized over us. If the people in charge would just listen to my sermons, we think, they'd know why I should be on that platform.
- We have no time to give to our families because we spend so much time getting ready to preach. I'm a seminary professor—so I strongly believe in preparation and study. Sometimes, though, we spiritualize our excuses to follow our idols at the expense of our home.
Too many of these descriptions hit home for me. How about you?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
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