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A Scarecrow in a Melon Patch

Church leaders face a serious temptation: letting ministry become an idol. Here’s how to resist.
Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier
A false idol is as useful as a scarecrow in a melon patch

Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good. No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power.

Jeremiah 10:5-6

A false god is like a scarecrow in a melon patch. It can’t see. It can’t talk. It can’t change your situation. All it can do is take up space and scare away birds.

I’m not referring just to the types of idols that one sets up on a mantel and bows down to, as in ancient days. I’m also talking about the types of gods that are worshipped on Wall Street, Main Street, and back streets everywhere. Whether it be the love of money, an addiction to technology, acts of sexual promiscuity, religious pride, or the ultra-deceptive idol of ministry worship, the 21st century can hold its own with any pagan culture of the past when it comes to idolatry.

Walk down the main drag of any city, and you’ll see firsthand the idols that abound. They tempt us with instant gratification and deceive us into thinking they hold the answers to all our problems. If we buy it, if we try it, then we’ll be happy. Their very presence whispers: “Bow down. Pay homage. Satisfy your inner pagan urge.”

But only God is great and mighty in power. Only God can bring lasting joy. Only God is worthy of our worship and affection. Everything else falls grossly short. Everything else is blind, deaf, dumb, and impotent in its ability to satisfy—including ministry “success.”

WHEN MINISTRY BECOMES AN IDOL

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Romans 1:25

Ministry success is the scarecrow that battles for my heart. This is the idol that fights for my allegiance. It’s the Baal that taps me on the shoulder when things are going well and when they’re not.

In the midst of ministry mayhem, meetings, and mission, it’s easy to let a passion for ministry success edge God off the throne of my heart. In the name of spiritual impact, I can—like any other depraved leader—“exchange the truth of God for a lie.”

Soon the ministry altar that was erected to honor God becomes the idol itself. Soon I’m worshipping “created things rather than the Creator.”

HOW TO KEEP GOD ALONE ON THE THRONE

That’s why verses like Jeremiah 10:5-6 hit me so hard. These power-punch passages are necessary for me to read, re-read, and meditate on, and I encourage you to do the same.

That’s why I also love and need the communion table. The bread and wine remind me that my idolatrous tendencies were nailed to the cross and that I’m risen with Christ with a new identity and a new object of worship: Jesus Christ Himself! I urge you to use your communion time to examine your heart and make sure you haven’t allowed anything else to replace the Lord’s rightful place as your King.

Let’s burn the scarecrow. Let’s refuse to bow before anyone or anything else—including ministry—except God alone. For He is the only one worthy of our praise.

As a side note, why am I suddenly hungry for watermelon?

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