There is a subtle, seductive disease of the heart that often disguises itself as a holy ambition for the glory of God.
What is this spiritual heart disease? It’s called finding your identity in ministry. Instead of worshiping Jesus, you worship the ministry Jesus gave you. Instead of finding your significance and worth in Christ, you find it in what you accomplish for Christ. Instead of ministering from the overflow of Christ’s love, you minister to receive the love of others.
The catastrophic consequences of ministry idolatry are awful for pastors, their families, and the congregations they serve. Ministry idolatry can lead to affairs, burnout, neglect of family, spiritual abuse of the congregation, pride, and envy.
The only defense
There is only one defense against ministry idolatry––Jesus and his glorious, life-giving gospel of grace. Let the words of Paul David Tripp from Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry heal your bruised heart:
“You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. It is only worship of Christ that has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. It is only the glory of the risen Christ that will guard him against the self-glory that is a temptation to all who are in ministry and that destroys the ministry of so many. Only Christ can turn an arrogant, ’bring on the world‘ seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry. It is only in your brokenness in the face of your sin that you can give grace to the fellow rebels to whom God has called you to minister. It is only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.”
Preach the gospel to yourself all day, every day. Set your mind and heart on what Jesus accomplished on your behalf and sift each moment of your day through his work of grace. Jesus and his glorious, living-giving gospel are your defense against ministry idolatry.
Preach the gospel to yourself all day, every day.
Marinate on that.