Here’s what’s tricky: none of you think it’s you. Most of you would never categorize yourself as unfaithful. Few of you stay awake at night imagining yourself in the lineup of pastoral mega-studs who’s mug shots have landed in the news section of Christianity Today. Those are people who got sucked in to platform building, Facebook friending and shameless self-promoting, you say. But what should scare you is that some of you reading this will be some of those guys, with or without the headlines. In fact, some of you already are some of those guys and you don’t even know it. Because before the maniacal overworking, questionable leadership, familial neglect, inestimable health problems, inappropriate relationships, suicidal tendencies, and under-the-radar substance abuse, what happened to THOSE GUYS is the very thing that’s happening to you today and it’s this: you’re a “churchaholic”.
From dawn to dusk, your life is church. Every thought revolves around church, every conversation rolls back to church. You read blogs and books about church. You pray for church growth, plan church strategies, and prepare church sermons. You meet with pastors to talk about church: your church, their church, and how to do to church better, smarter, and more successfully. Thankfully, when you get home, your obsessive church disorder fades and you finally spend some quality time with your wife and kids. Except you don’t. You stare vacantly into your wife’s eyes while she talks incessantly about something that has nothing to do with church. You play halfheartedly with your kids as your eyes glaze over because another “idea for children’s ministry” keeps spinning in your head. You can’t concentrate, you can’t sit still, you can’t stop the wheels turning. You conceal your disorder while phrases like “excited for what God’s doing”, “just stayin’ out of God’s way”, “tryin’ to be faithful”, and “been goin’ through a hard season” regurgitate out of your mouth like obscenities at a Jay Z concert.
You read books, scan blog posts and attend break-out sessions about pastoral burn out, making carefully crafted internal check lists of why it isn’t you. After all, since when do pastors have perfect marriages? Who doesn’t have conflicts with their elders? There’s not a pastor alive who has time for real friendships. Nobody’s ever told me to slow down. In fact, I’m the one they seek out to ask how I’m doing what I’m doing. We’re the church our network is constantly bragging on. I’m the guy with the healthy church. Since when is hard work a bad thing? You should see the good we’re doing in our community. I can send you a list of all the ways we bless our city. Have you seen how many small groups we’ve multiplied the past year? Do you know how many campuses we’re launching next year? God is blessing! This is great commission work! This is…everything.
Except, it was never supposed to be. And you’re already failing. And no amount of selfies with you on date night with your wife are going to change what’s slowly unraveling beneath the surface. The problem isn’t church. The problem is the idolatrous love affair you have with your church, because the church is not God.
Are you cheating on God with your church? Ask yourself these diagnostic questions. Slowly.
1. How would you react if I told you that today was your last day as pastor of your church?
2. How do days off make you feel? Happy, refreshed and energized, or angry, guilty and lazy?
3. Do you spend more time or less time on “church” than you used to?
4. Do you feel nervous, uncomfortable or fearful if significant amounts of time go by without engaging in any church activity?
5. Do you spend more time or less time with your spouse, kids and friends today than before?
6. Have you ever tried limiting the amount of church in your life but find it impossible to make it stick?
Are you cheating on God with your church? I’m just asking the question. I think you should, too. And when you finally come to realize that you are, what will you do? To whom will you confess?
To whom will you repent?