Be honest with me, now. How do you view yourself, your abilities, your family, your assignment, your people, your successes versus failures? A good leader must have confidence in order to be effective. But what happens when your confidence edges into pride? What are the risks? How does it affect your relationship with God? How does it impact your future ministry?
I often deal with clergy who, because of too much power and too little accountability, take liberties with their assignments and, in the end, hurt people. The list of offenders is unfortunately endless, and it continues to grow as Christian leaders ignorantly set themselves above a standard that we Christians are all called to maintain, above a perception and example that we in leadership are to provide. Clergy colleagues are often knocked off their lofty, self-imposed perches because they will not allow anyone to tell them “no” or monitor their financial dealings or to confront them on their attitudes.
Paul writes, “It is by grace you have been saved … it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship” (Ephesians 2:8-10). That’s really who we are — God’s workmanship. The credit and glory belong to Him.
It is tiresome to hear so many ministers talk about what they have done. Solomon wrote, ‘‘The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse” (Proverbs 10:32). Again, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). One more: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). So much is said and so much sadness surrounds careless men and women who, to make themselves look good or successful, verbally diminish others. We will be judged by our words. I know it’s a fine line between praising and boasting, but all our boasting should be about Him!
I have been with some very high-profile Christian leaders who have jockeyed for position, have been demanding, and have made the mistake of “thinking too highly of themselves.” I also hear a lot of boasting as I travel the country: “I did this,” “we did that,” “I spoke here,” “I wrote this” — probably more “I” than is called for. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Romans 12:3).
There is also a tendency to elevate some in our profession to an almost godlike position. Some time ago, a national magazine referred to a well-known clergyman as ‘‘America’s Pastor.” When I read that, I thought about most of you. You are really “America’s pastors” because you visit hospitals and sit across from the brokenhearted. You struggle to make ends meet. You care about your people. You take what you do seriously, but not yourself. I have seen a lot of our colleagues fall because of pride. Walk humbly, colleague. Please!
I wonder if we in ministry can ever have the luxury of thinking too highly of ourselves. How can we ever look at our successes as something we have done or achieved? The truth is that we are all servant-shepherds. Some have been given a larger pasture in which to work, but in the final analysis, we have all been called to feed the flock of God.
Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).