Dangerous Idols and Treasures of Church Leaders

My wife is reading Paul Tripp’s book “Dangerous Calling” and she is “calling me out” as she reads through the book and as she sees my blind spots clearly, as clear as day. That’s why I love her to death. I can get away with NOTHING as long as I am married to her. Last week, after reading a chapter, she came up to me and said rather pointedly, “Didn’t you once say to me that many other women in the church would be so happy to be married to you??” Oops! Double oops!! Where can I hide???

I promised her that I will humbly blog on some of my special unique sins as a pastor and leader in UBF. This is going to be painful, ouch.

Tripp calls it the encroachment of the kingdom of self into our Christian ministry/church, where we shift our treasure from Christ to ourselves. This is then expressed through the way we serve the ministry/ church. He identifies five of a long list of what he calls “treasure shifts,” which is idolatry–the idolatry of self, expressed through our pastoring, preaching, teaching and leading the church.

1. Moving from Identity in Christ to Identity in Ministry. For decades my most deeply felt identity was in being a so-called “exemplary fruitful UBF shepherd and 1:1 Bible teacher.” Of course, I say that I identify myself as being a child of God (Jn 1:12), saved only by his grace (Eph 2:8-9). But the reality is that for decades I have been far more moved and happy about my horizontal identity in UBF as a fruitful exemplary shepherd.

2. Defining My Spiritual Well-Being by My Ministry. Yes, I had many sheep and many disciples. But Tripp says that growth in influence must not be confused with growth in grace. The fact that many became Christians through my shepherding is really no measure of my spiritual maturity in Christ. Because of my “outward success” I viewed myself as being more mature that I actually am. I became primarily inclined and motivated to teach others, without clearly coming under my own teaching and preaching (Rom 2:21).

3. Hunger for Honor and for the Praise of People. I am always so happy to hear whenever anyone mentions my name. Since there are many doctors in UBF, whenever anyone says Dr. I anticipate that it would be Ben following the Dr., even though countless times it is Dr. “someone else.” That is how self centered I became in living for the praise and acknowledgement of people in the church (Jn 5:44; 12:43). Clearly, I have become seduced by the treasure of my own reputation.

4. Seeing Myself as Way Too Essential to What God is Doing. Basically, I think and feel as though I am indispensable, and that without me, the work of God would be greatly and negatively impacted. Functionally, I think and feel as though I am the Messiah and savior for many “helpless sheep.” Without me, who can solve their “marriage problem”?

5. Depending on My Own Experience and Gifts. My “gift”—for what it’s worth—is that I am direct and confrontational, bold and blunt, abrupt and abrasive. So I tend to think that unless people are clearly directly challenged, they will never repent. I also depended excessively on my decades of experience in serving sheep, such that my prayer and wisdom are clearly deficient. Once, I would not listen to others about waiting before blessing a young couple to marry, thinking that through my own shepherding, dozens of people have previously married by faith. Then when this couple subsequently divorced, I saw my own ugly overweening pride in depending on my own experience.

This likely just touches the tip of the iceberg regarding the depth of my depravity and sins. May God have mercy on me and lead me to himself.

I hope my wife is pleased with this post!! (I hear a voice saying in my head, “Repent, you incorrigible sinner!”)

Can you relate to these “leader idolatries”?


  1. Mark Mederich

    it is a horror that believer leaders/believers waste time with honor,
    evenmoreso training others so (children, students, lifestyles, etc are damaged); unfortunately religion now bears the cost of burst honor bubble..

    when people are taught to think too much of themselves, they end up too dependent on system support or too in debt getting good things in world to live better..

    now honor must be rescinded from all & debts must be paid as of first importance

    • Mark Mederich

      the Christmas children’s cartoon classic: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has ‘Silver & Gold’ sung by Burl Ives: isn’t values the real problem?
      Jesus said: only 2 loves, God or $

      Christian’s corrupted by world tell lie from pit of hell: ‘it’s ok to have $ if use for God’; then they accumulate secret Swiss bank accts of collected $ rather than dispensing it to those in true need;

      Acts: deacons like Stephen dispensed bread to widows in true need; ‘rich’ like Barnabas who had land to spare sold it & shared

      many love to tout the bible, but does anyone love to actually do what it says?

    • UBFers, such as myself, thought that we “absolutely” obeyed Mt 28:19 and Jn 21:15-17 to “make disciples” and “feed sheep”—better than all other churches in the whole wide world!

  2. Mark Mederich

    may God elevate Himself Alone & pull the rest of us up by our bootstraps..

    • Mark Mederich

      the only real treasure is relationships but those are destroyed by powermonging, manipulation, works drivenness, ultracompetitiveness, overhonor, faith fantasies, emotional bondages, etc

      but thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit can rescue us & He can restore good fruit

    • Mark Mederich

      idols & treasures sounds like ‘sex,lies,videotape’:)
      idol: honor
      treasure: $
      saw parts of tom cruise movie (in spanish:) about trying to assassinate hitler
      (15th such attempt it said at end of movie); they failed, but guess what?
      they were shot (died heroicly trying) but before long the war ended & hitler suicided (or is he really still alive in u.s. underground bunker colorado?:)
      point: ultratransgressors can run but not hide…hitler was too chicken to face his adversaries directly when his chips went down (we are all transgressors but not all are ultratransgressors);
      correlated point: 15 reform movements may fail (though those who try go down in history heroically) but when THE TIME comes, the war will end: ultratransgressors will end in defeat (surrender, whatever);
      trust me, tender talk on these matters is abused to the hilt by honorous unrepentant, but tough talk might break thru someday (if so, they will thank for rescuing them from such honor demon)
      i trust my kids much more than honorific (horrific) religious demon-controlled/mind-deceived twisted-theology panders:) panders must be set free from devil by Holy Spirit who Alone can help them..HALLELUJAH!

    • Mark,

      “saw parts of tom cruise movie (in spanish:) about trying to assassinate hitler…”

      Valkyrie was an excellent movie. Part of my journey of recovery included watching numerous Nazi movies, including “Amen”, “Downfall” and “Good”. That was what I call my “rebuilding conscience” phase of my journey. I’m over that phase now, but it is fascinating to see others hit that phase too. I think it means recovery is possible.