Tim Keller sat down with Jefferson Bethke way back when to discuss the idols that are most prominent in western churches. You can watch the full video here, or you can just read below to gather Tim’s thoughts.
In Keller’s eyes, here are the three biggest idols in western churches today, followed up with secondary points that Keller includes:
Instead of looking to the Word of God to be their norm and their guide, people tend to look to their own experience, feelings, intuitions, and impressions to be their guide.7
This is part of American individualism.
Emotion and expression are very good, but when you make it more important than the Word of God, or put it higher than the Word of God, it becomes an idol.
This might surprise some people that I say this.
But I do think some people make an idol out of doctrine.
There are some sectors of the church that say if you have your doctrine straight, and if you have your doctrine right, then you’re pleasing to God.
If you have your doctrine right, they say, then you are part of the solution, not the problem: you’re not heretical like everyone else.
There is a pride and a smugness about having good doctrine that, to me, almost puts it into the place of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Instead of looking to the church to give themselves into community, people look to the church to get the services they want.9
They have emotional, vocational, and relational needs and they go to a church because it is a good place to network.2
People see the church as a mall, rather than a family that they give themselves to.3
Consumerism becomes the idol — that is, my felt needs become an idol; they are more important than being apart of a community.
From Keller’s point of view, these idols are the ones that are most prominent. But this is not the consensus — not every church struggles with the same idol in the same way. Keller adds, “These idols don’t exist equally across the whole church. Certain sectors of the church struggle more than others, but these idols are all there, and they hurt us quite a bit.”
Idols can’t just be removed; they must be replaced. As Keller points out so well in his outstanding book, Counterfeit Gods, if we don’t replace an idol with the gospel, another idol will grow. And by God’s grace, if we’d all just recognize, remove, and replace these idols, our churches would be much better off.