7 DANGERS OF IDOLISING PREACHERS (A word of caution to Christians)
In the contemporary church, God has heavily anointed some of His servants to take the gospel far and wide, to bring healing and deliverance to many. Unbelievable testimonies of the move of God’s Spirit in the ministries of such servants of God sometimes elicit the wrong reaction from believers. This outpouring of power and the oft-repeated charge, “Touch not my anointed”, have combined to produce an elevation of some of today’s preachers that borders on fanaticism and deification. This post, by God’s grace, discusses seven dangers of such exaltation.
I realise that seeing this title, many will argue they are not idolising their ministers, but as we examine these dangers, each of us will see if the problem is creeping in or it has overtaken us.
Seven Dangers of Idolising Preachers
1. You could make them conceited or answerable to God for stealing His glory:
No matter what God has used anyone to do in your life, be careful to thank them but give the glory to God. Don’t tell them that you would have been finished without them, your life is in their hands, stuff like that. The human mind is a malleable thing. Someone hears that long enough, they may start to believe it.
Besides, it’s a burden to them to constantly redirect you to return all the glory to God. Sometimes, they may be weary after ministering and cannot do this. If you truly love this person, protect him or her by saying things like: “I thank God for your life”, “God has really used you to bless me”. Always, we must acknowledge that it is God working through His servants.The people who arrogate God's glory to themselves usually end up badly. Click To Tweet
That was the case with King Herod in the Bible:
“20. And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. 21. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. 22. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. 23. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” – Acts 12:20-23
Notice in the passage above, Herod wasn’t shouting that he was a god but those who felt dependent on him were, and the hammer fell on him, obviously for not correcting them.
Also, show the preachers you know they are human like others by asking after their health and welfare. Find out how you can pray for them or spiritually uphold their ministries, families, etc. That way, you reinforce in them the understanding that they are not God and that at the end of the day, we all need each other. If you put them in a position where they minister to you without any form of reciprocation, you are fostering arrogance and a false sense of self sufficiency in them.
2. You could lose your critical ability:
People have been known to give up rational thought and independent thinking because they are following certain preachers, swallowing what they say without reflection or verifying through prayer. This is very dangerous. That someone gave you a prophecy that came true one day doesn’t mean that every word he or she says is right. In Matthew 16:13-22, Peter declared that Jesus was the Son of the Living God, a true revelation from God. But shortly after, he tried to discourage Jesus from dying on the cross to which the Lord replied, “Satan, get thee behind me.” Be a Berean Christian (Acts 17:10-11).
While we should learn to exercise faith, we should not feel that living a life of faith is antithetical to thinking and weighing situations with the intelligence that God has given us. God does not always ask us to break natural laws except when He wants to accomplish something special.
There is a spiritual condition called hyper-spirituality – disconnection from reality due to excessive dependence on metaphysical, rather than natural means of perception. A hyper-spiritual person is constantly receiving and depending on revelations (visions, direct words “from God”, in this case to self and the preacher they adore). The problem is that often these revelations don’t come to pass (they may give a flimsy excuse for that or ignore the fact altogether) and the person’s life increasingly shows signs of confusion and a falling short of godly standards in speech and conduct.
A hyper-spiritual person, for example, will sow his salary as seed because his preacher said so or “God said” to and then go around begging and harassing people for monetary assistance. Obviously, the expected return from the seed didn’t come, which makes one wonder if the directive was from God in the first place.
3. You could lose your freedom:
You will be unable to take decisions for yourself. You joined a church willingly but you are afraid to leave because you are directly threatened by the one you idolise or you feel you will not be safe anymore without them. Your time, money and other resources could be commandeered by this person, no longer to be used for your benefit and that of your family. You feel threatened with one curse or the other unless you do exactly as they say. These are real possibilities you could be faced with in these abnormal relationships.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1Man does not make a good master. He is prone to abuse the position. Click To Tweet
That is why God told Samuel the prophet in 1 Samuel 8:9-18 to warn the Israelites of how they will be subsequently treated when they were clamouring for a king. Below are some verses from that passage.
“9. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 11. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: 14. … he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.18. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”
And when King Rehoboam and Judah sinned against God and King Shishak of Egypt conquered their kingdom, this was the Lord’s reply when they prayed and he heard them:
“But they will become his subjects, so they will know the difference between serving me and serving earthly rulers.” – 2 Chronicles 12:8 (NLT)Christ has set you free. Don't make yourself a slave to anyone. Click To Tweet
Specify your relationship with people. A lot is often taken for granted and it soon metamorphoses into the elephant in the room. You cannot speak freely, lest it be seen as insubordination and you can’t move away when you’re uncomfortable with what’s happening or it will be termed rebellion. We are freer and more assertive with the Almighty God than with a fellow human being! That is not the heritage we have in God:
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15
4. You could be derailed, lose focus – preaching and fighting for the preachers instead of for the truth:
Today, we see disunity in the body of Christ, breakup of churches, etc. Some of these arise because people are fiercely protecting the interests of different preachers whom they cherish. Sometimes, the content of Christian pages online read like political propaganda during electioneering campaigns where parties are castigating their opponents.
Our focus should be the truth as seen in the word of God, preaching the gospel and ministering to people, not defending our favoured preacher’s interpretation of the gospel or lifestyle. Even our churches don’t amount to the Church (the Body of Christ), so we should not be dismissive of those who are outside the umbrella of our church and GO (General Overseer), presiding pastor, etc.
Jesus prayed that his followers be one.
“20. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” – John 17:20-23
What the Lord prayed for should be our concern. We should not work against it by making idols of His servants and trying to win proselytes to their brand of the gospel.Exclusive and fanatical followership of ministers inhibits unity in the Body of Christ. Click To Tweet
5. You could mislead other people to worship them, especially the young and others who look up to you:
Many people learn from example. If they love someone or they are subordinate to that person, they begin to pick words, attitudes and behaviour from that person. Let no one learn slavish adoration of ministers from you.
“… be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
In one church service, the lady preaching said that if the senior pastor told her to climb up and hold on to the revolving fan, she would do it with no questions asked. This was supposed to show how much she believed in the man of God. And listening were young people and uneducated old folks who would probably learn from that sermon that the senior pastor is always right and you should retire your mind when dealing with him. That is a terrible lesson to impart to anyone.
When we renew our minds with the word of God, we will be able to distinguish between faith and foolishness and not feel compelled to do whatever anyone says in the name of faith.
6. If you idolise preachers, your faith could be destroyed when they fall:
Jesus is the only perfect example we have. If you worship a man and base your faith on his words and actions, you could be disappointed and betrayed if he goes astray. That is why Paul admonished us thus in 1 Corinthians 11:1 (KJV): “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Newer translations use the word “imitators” in place of “followers”.
I thank God for the ministers of the gospel in the world today and for the grace of God upon their lives. But they are servants like the rest of Christ’s flock. The best way to see them is the way Paul, the apostle, one of the greatest preachers to have ever lived, described himself.
“12. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14
The Amplified Bible brings out what Paul is saying in this passage in clearer terms:
“12. Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which
Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. 13. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14. I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14 (AMP)
We are all moving towards perfection. Don’t deify anyone no matter the wonders you have seen God use him or her to do. Don’t leave God no matter what anyone does or is said to do.
Always remember that preachers too are projects in God’s hands like everyone else and encourage them accordingly. Someone may have anointing but lack maturity or deep knowledge of the word of God. If you are close to them, you can assist with godly counsel and interpretation showing them from the Scriptures how to react to certain issues or where they are missing it when the need arises.
7. You could incur the wrath of God against yourself and your family:
Or rather you will if you carry this on long enough. God does not joke with His glory. Idolatry is sin and God has hard words against it.
“For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” – Exodus 34:14
“7. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. 8. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” – Deuteronomy 5:7-9Anyone that takes the place of God in your life has become a graven image to you. Click To Tweet
Honour God’s servants but reserve glory and worship for God alone. Pray for the ministers of the gospel and support them as God has blessed you and as He leads you, not out of fear or compulsion.
God, help me to have a healthy relationship with your servants that I’m privileged to know, and since we all your children are your servants one way or another, help me to be a good example to others and return all the glory to you for all you ever do in and through me in Jesus’ name.
The scriptures used in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise stated.
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