Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church, as well as Designed to Lead and Unfolded.
The following is a clip from the ETCH Family Ministry Conference in 2016.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
What stops equipping for us often, as ministry leaders, is idolatry. This longing, not to equip others, but to be the hero that needs the ministry strokes that comes from doing all the ministry.
It’s similar to, and maybe you haven’t had this experience, but in many places I’ve been, I’ve had this experience. And this is definitely not the sound people who are running the sound here at this conference. But perhaps you’ve had a negative experience with a church sound guy. Has anybody ever had a negative experience with a church sound guy?
The famous church sound guy. The guy who, when you first go to your church, you’re like, “This guy’s amazing! He’s the hero.” There’s always a buzz, like, right before you speak. You’re going to get up and do announcements and there’s this buzz going on. You’re like, “Hey man, there’s a buzz. There’s a buzz.” And he’s in the back and he goes, “Boom.” All of a sudden, it’s solved. You’re like, “Man, that guy’s awesome. I want him running sound every time I speak.”
Or there’s some other feedback coming in and he runs from the back, like right before the band’s about to lead worship, and dives on the stage and reconnects stuff. He comes over with the cord from out of his shirt and reconnects it. You’re like, “Man, that guy’s awesome. He’s amazing. I hope he’s always at our church. He’s always there. He’s the perfect sound guy. He’s the hero sound guy.”
Then you have a buddy visit you from college who runs sound at his church. And he comes and spends a weekend with you and your family. And he’s at the worship service. And he says after, “Man, something was off on the sound, man. Would you mind if I took a look at your sound board?”
It’s the first time you ever heard that something was off. You’re like, “Really? Yea, yea, yea, we can go to the church in the afternoon, take a look at it.”
So he goes up there, looks at the sound board, and is like, “Man, this is wack. This is really – I’ve never seen a sound board like this.” And then he – I’m going to try to – But there’s a padlock on it. Like the church sound guy put his own padlock. You call the maintenance guy. “Hey, do you have a key to this padlock?” “Nah man. Tommy” – or what ever his name is – “put his own padlock on the sound board so no one else can get into it, but him.”
And here’s what you find out: he built a system around himself for himself. See, more than the church needs him to run sound, he needs to be needed.
And many, listen, many ministry leaders are that way. More than the church needs their ministry, they need to be needed. This is ministry idolatry. They need to be needed.
“Pastor, nobody prays with me the way you pray with me.”
“Pastor, I wouldn’t want anyone else, anyone else to sit down with my family in a trial the way that you just did.”
“Pastor, I don’t want anyone else to be with me in the hospital the way that you were with our family.”
“Pastor, I can’t imagine anyone else marrying my son or my daughter.”
“Pastor, I, our family, needs you.”
Sadly, many ministry leaders live for those moments. They need to be needed. And ministry idolatry will crush you from equipping. If you live for the strokes of others, you will struggle to equip. Because you’ll live for the strokes that come from ministry.
Here’s a way that you know that ministry is your idol. And listen, ministry has been my idol. Ministry can be addictive. If you rejoice more in what God does through you than what God has done in you, then ministry has become your god. If you rejoice more in: “Man, this is what happened this week. And x number of kids met Jesus or x number of students are being discipled”. We should rejoice in those things that God does through us, but if you rejoice more in what God does through you, rather than what God has done in you, or what God has done for you, then ministry is your god.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Eric, where’d you get that from? Where do you get that concept from?” Well, do you remember when Jesus sent out the disciples to do ministry and to perform miracles on His behalf? And they came running back to Jesus and they said, “Jesus, this is awesome! We love this. Even the demons submit to us in Your name!” Jesus said, “Rejoice not that the demons submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
When you read the passage, you’re like, “Man, sounds like Jesus is throwing cold water on these guys.” Here’s what He was doing: He was caring for their hearts. Yes, the demons are going to submit to you, yes, you’re going to do amazing work, but if you rejoice more in what I do through you than what I’ve already done in you then ministry has become your god.
And ministry – Listen, I love ministry. I love what I’ve been doing since I was eighteen and elderly ladies would wash my clothes for me for free. But ministry, as great as it is, it is a cruel god. Ministry is a great gift, but a cruel god.
Because your church or your ministry will ask more and more and more and more from you and it won’t quench or satisfy the deepest longings of your soul. Ministry is a cruel god.