The biggest mistake when it comes to spotting idolatry is thinking that we cannot idolize good things. In fact, everything that man idolizes is something that is perceived to be good.
Take for instance the Biblical example of the Asherah poles, a symbol of a serpent that was believed to bring healing and wellness. The figure was at one point used by God as a means of healing Israelites who had been poisoned, but later misused as a source of healing rather than God’s channel.
Idolatry is loosely defined as anything that takes the place of God in providing security, significance, satisfaction or identity that can only be provided by Jesus Christ. With that definition, we can start idolizing good things, too — work, relationships, and even our pastors. Here are five unhealthy ways that we can idolize our pastors.
1. Valuing their word more than God’s word
This is what I’d like to call the “pastor said…” syndrome. When we share too much of “pastor so and so said this…” and not too many “God said this…” or “the Bible said this…” we could be falling into the trap of idolizing our spiritual leaders.
To avoid this, it’s always good to weigh quotes and teachings of pastors against scripture.
2. Ignoring Their clear diversion from the Bible
Whether it’s out of fear or excessive reverence of our pastors, a lack of people significantly and pointing out their errors when in excess can be a dangerous symptom that we’re overvaluing our pastor’s office. This does not mean members should judge their pastor’s every action, but they must be conscious enough to know when he completely goes off the ways of the Bible.
In the same way, excessive rebuke and overcorrection can also be a means of neglecting its importance. When we overdo it, we seem to value it less.
3. Focusing too much on how They conducts his relationships
Some people don’t find themselves blindly parroting a pastor’s words but could probably be mirroring their actions. When we start disciplining our children, discipling followers and treating spouses the way a pastor would just because he or she is the pastor, that’s not always a good sign.
4. Desiring uniformity over unity
This can also be an overzealous mistake, especially if, for instance, you’re church has multiple pastors, and you want all the pastors of your community to be exactly like your favourite one — preach the way he or she does or dress the way he or she does.
All leaders have their own personalities and they comprise corresponding strengths and weaknesses. That’s how God made them and it’s probably how they should more or less be.
5. Shunning other ideas that are not aligned with theirs
Shutting down doctrine, leadership styles and behavior just because it’s not like the pastor’s is also a bad sign of a bad case of idolatry. The body of Christ thrives on a strong diversity of leadership.
1 Corinthians 12:12-30 is a good picture of what our leadership should look like — different and diverse leadership skills, styles and functions just like body parts to a whole.