Church Worship as an Idol?

These are strange times we find ourselves in. Covid-19 has changed our way of life, especially as it relates to the church and worship. 

I left my full time pastor position at the end of 2019 for the health of my family. When I did so I knew there would be things that I would miss and others that I would not. I also knew that it would be important to find a new church home for our family. I looked forward to having my first Easter and Christmas Eve off in 20 years. I also looked forward to going to worship on Easter with my family, but only after having Easter morning at home before church for the first time in our children’s lifetimes.

When I finally lost any realistic hope of having an Easter morning in my new church with my family, I got to thinking about the many conversations I have had with other pastors over the last several weeks. The conversations always take one of three tones: focus on fear and self-preservation of the church, trying to figure out how to adapt, or looking for the opportunity both now and in the future. In the midst of those conversations and the subsequent reflection, along with my own hope and struggle around Easter, I began to realize something…

Being able to easily go to our churches and worship might be an idol that we are worshipping, albeit unintentionally so.

One colleague talked about how it was important that it not be too easy to breeze through this difficult time of Covid-19, another spoke of the need to help our people embrace this season and what it would mean for the future. Many of us found hope that this may be the thing that pushed the church into the future it has needed to move into for some time. The wisest recognized the opportunity to serve the community and join Jesus on mission. We have all been reminded that the church has nothing to do with the building. 

One of the ways we know something is an idol is how we react when it is taken from us. 

Another way to know something is an idol is how desperate we are to preserve it, often at the cost of others.

In our highly consumeristic American culture, we have forgotten that the church is the one institution in the world that exists primarily for those outside of it. As I often remind people, it turns out that it is not about me, it is not about us at all. I have argued for a long time that we need to return to our roots and begin to look more like the early church in our context today. I found people are always on board with this until they have to give up something they like or want.

As much as I love routine, as much as I love my church, as much as my family and I want to be in worship, especially so soon after me leaving full time church work, we refuse to make church worship an idol. We refuse to sacrifice the well being of others for a live worship service, economics or the ability to come and go as we please. That’s not to say that it is easy.

Have we made worshipping in person at church an idol?

I can’t answer this for anyone but myself.

That said, I suspect that for the general, American, church going population, that answer is yes.

We need to own that and we need to repent. 

Its something to think and pray about at least…

Rev. Dr. Marcus J. Carlson

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