...We assume that because people want more religion, they want more of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We assume that when they gather in our congregations and ask us to lead them in prayer, they want us to lead them before the throne of a Holy God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The people in our congregations are, in fact, out shopping for idols. They enter our churches with the same mind-set in which they go to the shopping mall, to get something that will please them or satisfy an appetite or need. John Calvin saw the human heart as a relentlessly efficient factory for producing idols. Congregations commonly see the pastor as the quality-control engineer in the factory. The moment we accept the position, though, we defect from our vocation. The people who gather in our congregations want help through a difficult time; they want meaning and significance in their ventures. They want God, in a way, but certainly not a “jealous God,” not the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Mostly they want to be their own god and stay in control but have ancillary idol assistance for the hard parts, which the pastor can show them how to get. With the development of assembly-line mass production, we are putting these idols out in great quantities and in a variety of colors and shapes to suit every taste. John Calvin’s insight plus Henry Ford’s technology equals North American Religion. Living in golden calf country as we do, it is both easy and attractive to become a successful pastor like Aaron.
This quote is also increasing my anticipation for Tim Keller's new book on this topic, Counterfeit Gods, due out in October 2009.