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Pushing Past Fear

Pushing Past Fear by Giving Up My Idols

“What’s the use of a carved god so skillfully carved by its sculptor? What good is a fancy cast god when all it tells is lies? What sense does it make to be a pious god-maker who makes gods that can’t even talk? Who do you think you are—saying to a stick of wood, ‘Wake up,’ Or to a dumb stone, ‘Get up’? Can they teach you anything about anything? There’s nothing to them but surface. There’s nothing on the inside. “But oh! God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!”
Habakkuk 2:18-20 (The Message)

The longer that I stayed in ministry, the more obvious one thing became.  If my soul was going to survive, I would have to push past fear of taking a different route the one I had grown to know.

I was going to have to turn away from the idols that I had created, and turn to God.

That’s an odd thing for a pastor to say.  It’s exactly what I had to do.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to hear Bill Hull address a group about discipleship and spiritual growth.  Bill relayed the story of the day that he addressed the church he had founded and pastor-ed for decades.  He told his congregation that “today, I have made a decision.  I have decided to follow Jesus.”  He described the stunned look on their faces.  What Hull was communicating was the realization that the business of building the church had grown to consume the work of looking to God.

My ministry career had always been with the most progressive and creative churches.  I worked at churches with the most talented staffs and most far-reaching programs.  I describe it as “riding the rocket” of church growth.

It was fun. It was fast. It was loud. I was its biggest fan.

It became an idol.  Maybe it was always an idol.

At that same progressive church, we took the entire staff on retreat to define what we believed a Christ following life should look like.  From that retreat forward and through the following two years, we carefully and painstakingly defined what we thought that process should look like.  We developed carefully nuanced and perfectly weighted assessment tools. They were beautiful.  My counterparts in other churches of our ilk envied what we created.

But my heart kept feeling that something was missing.

Silence was missing.

We taught activity, acquisition, serving, ownership, agreement and a lot of really good things.

But we didn’t teach the value of silence.

We didn’t teach the value of listening.

In English, the words silent and listen are anagrams.

Silence is the first act of worship.

“Let all the earth be silent before Him” our scriptures say.

(Habakkuk 2:20)

God has something to say.  I can’t hear Him unless I stop and listen.

I promoted the idol of activity, in my life and the lives of those I led.

I had to create noise and fervor, because an idol cannot.

I had to move past the common assumption that God has gone silent after revealing Himself through His Son and the scriptures. I can systematize an idol.  God is messy, and present.

This week we I will write a lot about the ways that I am giving up the idol of “church” and pursuing a dangerous and inviting God.

But I’m curious.

What idols have you identified in your world?

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About Bill Todd

Bill Todd is a spiritual director and speaker living in Franklin TN. He is patiently loved by Jody Todd, and their children Kaleigh, Hannah, and Liam.

Discussion

13 thoughts on “Pushing Past Fear by Giving Up My Idols

  1. Bill, Powerful post. I had definitely made the church my idol. My lifetime has been one of equating the church and God as one—and so I have hated both.

    I an slowly coming to realize that God and the church are NOT synonymous. The church is made up of fallible people like me, and God is, well… God.

    Thanks for this very transparent and important post.

    Randy

    Posted by randyelrod | March 28, 2011, 9:18 am
    • Randy, thanks.

      Your friendship and encouragement has been important in helping me to process through my own approach to ministry. It has been essential in helping me to think through what ministry will look like for me in the future.

      Not to tell stories out of school, but I have heard you say several times how much you still love the church, and long to serve her well. There are so many of us trying to figure out what serving well, authentically, and creatively looks like.

      I appreciate your leadership in all of this.

      Pax.

      Posted by Bill Todd | March 28, 2011, 9:28 am
  2. Bill,
    Little did you know that your post is the “nail in the coffin” .. .but in a good way … it’s 100% confirmation that I will ABSOLUTELY move forward with a vision/dream I’ve had for 2+ years … I just finished dreamcasting with Randy & Chris a week or so ago … and the logistics of making a dream happen were starting to wear me down.

    Your post (and I can’t wait for the rest of the week) inspires me to move forward with the plan I have.

    Essentially, it’s going to be a sabbatical-style retreat where we can do that … rest, relax, and LISTEN. I’m convinced that the majority of folks in ministry or leadership of ANY type rarely take the time for solitude and listening … myself included.

    Thank you!

    Posted by Fred McKinnon | March 28, 2011, 9:34 am
  3. Good my friend..Good.

    Posted by Joseph DuLaney | March 28, 2011, 9:47 am
  4. very encouraging my friend

    Posted by Vince | March 28, 2011, 10:10 am
  5. great insight and encouragement. thank you Bill.

    Posted by Chad Jarnagin | March 28, 2011, 10:57 am
  6. wow, bill. such a powerful post. i’ve also made an idol out of activity. i too often mistake busyness for holiness, as though running myself ragged is a badge of honor. i struggle so much to just BE, but continue to feel God calling me to stillness…

    Posted by Alece | March 28, 2011, 7:22 pm
    • Alece, thanks. I have to smile when you speak of someone else being transparent. I found you through Tam’s blog. Your open heart and willingness to do hard work has inspired me, and encouraged me to do more of the same.

      Posted by Bill Todd | March 29, 2011, 10:19 am

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