“Pick your favorite four or five. Listen to only their sermons, only respect the words that come out of their mouths. When you visit other churches coming from different traditions, look down on them, although they’re preaching the same message. Elevate the man, not the message. Be impressed by their super-size churches, their books, and their conferences. Look down on older people who might not appreciate the preaching style of your favorite pastors. Consider that the best way to gauge the health of a church is by observing the charisma and public speaking ability of the pastor of that church.”
If you’re looking for a sneaky, hidden path to idolatry, just follow the above directions.
This might be an exaggerated description, but I have done a little of all those things since being in college. I have found myself looking down on my family’s home church whenever I visit, because they don’t have the “right” music (in reality, they say the same things), or the pastor didn’t use the right words in his preaching, or the preaching seemed less “captivating.” I oftentimes elevate the pastors I appreciate on a pedestal where they do not belong, to the point that they are the only authoritative interpreters of Scripture I know. I find myself wanting to be just like them, with their popularity, speaking skill, writing ability, and productivity, forgetting that if any of them found out I was thinking these things, they would properly rebuke me.
Satan’s not an idiot. He knows all the “soft spots” for Christians, and just like anyone can idolize politicians, athletes, or celebrities, we can idolize our “super-pastors.” This is an area in which I need to take Jesus advice in Luke 17:3:
“Pay attention to yourself!”