Maybe it is just me but over the last few years it seems like “today’s idols” has become a bit a trend topic. This discussion typically looks at the trends of culture and what pulls us away from God outside the church, but what about inside the church? What about the programs? Or even philosophies of ministry? Could something intended to bring us closer to God really be a distraction or even replace God?

Idolatry – noun, plural-tries
1. the worship of idols
2. excessive admiration

One area that I have been pondering about has taken on many forms and has been used in many different ways. It plays an important and vital role within the church however at times it has become an idol. We become obsessed with it and lose sight of God.

Could evangelism be given excessive admiration in the church today?

The Christian section at Chapters is filled with books that fall under the category Walter Kaiser Jr. calls “recovery & pop-psychology”.

There are several ways the evangelical church today typically measures the fruitfulness of a ministry. In regards to evangelism numbers tends to be the stick used. Numbers are quickly used to justify or cancel a certain ministry. Being “seeker sensitive”, preaching the health wealth & prosperity gospel , or making church into a rock concert have all proven themselves as great ways to have skyrocketing numbers. I have seen a church let a pastor go because the church was not showing a growth in numbers. Increasing numbers are seen as healthy and fruitful. Walter Kaiser Jr. warns us that “pastors have decided that using the Bible is a handicap for meeting the needs of the boomer and “X” generations; therefore they have gone to drawing their sermons from the plethora of recovery and pop-psychology books that fill our Christian bookstores. The market-forces demand that we give them what they want to hear if we wish them to return and pay for the mega-sanctuaries that we have built. Scripture, therefore, is lost in the shuffle for relevancy and “meeting needs.”( When preaching the Word of God doesn’t draw a crowd we look to be more relevant and culturally sensitive. Churches use evangelism as the driving force behind what they do. Is this what we are called to focus on as a church?

Paul was an evangelist. As one reads his letters you cannot help but see he had a heart to reach out into the darkness.  As he evangelized Paul also discipled those that believed. For the economy in Ephesus to change (Acts 19.21-41), the church must have been living lifestyles that were radically different from how they lived before converting to Christianity (Tim Keller – The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry). Changed lifestyles are not something that happens at the time of conversion, but is part of the process of being sanctified as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2.12). We change as we are drawn closer to the Father and this in turn leads to people noticing that something is different. In Ephesus it resulted in a riot, but Christ warned that people would be offended. It also set the Christian community apart from the rest of the community and that would have given them opportunities to show who God is and why they no longer worship false gods. Healthy discipleship led to the changes, while evangelism opened doors.

You must also look at the question “are numbers count a true sign of success?” Numbers are mentioned in the Bible and how the early church grew, but we also see that true fruit is measured by less tangible things. Galatians 5.22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. These are the things that show true belief and true transformation. Numbers are not bad and we should seek to spread the Gospel which will increase numbers, however, numbers that do not show true fruit are no numbers at all. Numbers and programs that are aimed at attracting numbers with no method of discipleship is  idolatry as they give the desire for numbers “excessive admiration”. The great commission calls us to make disciples not merely converts. David Platt reminds us in Radical Together we must remember that “the blessing of God does not mean acceptance by the world” (pg. 53).

This means that we must ask the question what is discipleship?

Dig a little deeper into this conversation by checking out this 8 min video from The Gospel Coalition that looks at quantity verses quality.