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