Monday, September 29, 2008

The Pitfall of Pastoral Pride

Pastoring a church is a great joy. I continue to be amazed at what a wonderful privilege it is.

Sunday, in particular, is my favorite day of the week because it is when our church family gathers twice. Spending time together and building one another up is something that I look forward to all week long.

Sunday is also a day that I must be careful. Many folks within the church say very nice things to me on that day. This encourages and edifies me. However, there is a danger. The danger that lurks in the midst of this is pride. Once in a while, after someone has said something nice, I can sense myself feeling good about myself. I am not referring here to some sort of healthy self-concept. Rather, I'm talking about feeling prideful in my own actions, skills, and abilities.

When I realize that I am feeling this way, it makes me sick. Over the past few weeks, I have been preaching through Genesis chapter 1. That chapter makes it painfully clear that all abilities come to us as a gift of God. In fact, even our very lives are a gift from His hand. In light of this, pride is absurd.

When we become prideful, we are basically dethroning God in our lives and placing ourselves on the throne. Because of this, God condemns pride.

Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom."

Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Proverbs 29:23, "A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor."

In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus lists pride among evils that come from within man. He says, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."

Additionally, Paul writes something interesting to Timothy in discussing qualifications for an elder/overseer/pastor. In I Timothy 3:6, Paul says that an overseer should not be, "a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil."

Pride is a sin that all followers of Jesus Christ should resist. When the temptation arises, we should squash it by remembering that it is God who has given us all we have, including our abilities to do any good at all.

As pastors, we must fight against this temptation when the church gathers. In fact, even as we are being edified, we must watch out for Satan's attempt to use this to make us think that we are something special.

As pastors, we should pray that God will constantly remind us that we are profoundly unworthy of our calling.


Alan Knox said...


This is a very good post, and a good reminder. All of us - pastors and nonpastors - need this reminder.

Like you - and probably everyone else - I struggle with pride. There are a couple of things that help me with this. First, I'm not the only one that teaches, so I can learn as much as, if not more than, I teach. Second, when I do teach, other people talk as well, sharing what God has been doing in their lives - sometimes from the same passage, sometimes from a different passage, sometimes from an experience. So, even when I teach, I have the opportunity to learn. Third, when someone complements my teaching, I ask them specifically what they "liked" or what they "learned". Then, I ask them to elaborate (i.e. what are they going to do about what they've learned). When they elaborate, I often find that I'm the one being taught/exhorted.

Thus, I think the more we take teaching out of the hands of one person and put it into the hands of the church, the temptation toward pride for elders is reduced. There will always be that temptation though.


Eric said...


Thank you. You've made some excellent suggestions.

If pastors (or anyone else) ever reach the point of not being able to be taught and/or learn, that is a dangerous place to be.

Aussie John said...


Good, and timely post. I liked Alan's suggestions also, but your comment,"If pastors (or anyone else) ever reach the point of not being able to be taught and/or learn, that is a dangerous place to be.", is so very pertinent today. Many "pastors" of my acquaintance, publicly consider themselves above learning, especially from those terrible, low class "laymen/women".

Richard said...

I'm curious (and I know this is off topic), what is your initial opinion about churches that have large crowds on Sunday morning and but a fraction of them on Sunday night?

Eric said...


I feel pity for those pastors.

We can all learn so much from one another. I love the insights that other Christians have into the scriptures. Also, I can learn a great deal from simply watching my brothers and sisters minister to one another in the life of the church.

Eric said...


Thanks for the question.

I have mixed emotions regarding meeting times. Quite frankly, it makes no difference to me when a church gathers. Sundays are fine if that is what the body chooses to do.

I am a realist. The vast majority of churches are going to want to meet on Sundays. My preference would be for our church to meet from about 9AM until about 2PM. This would give time for teaching, preaching, singing, praying, discussion, eating, fellowshiping, etc. Also, after everyone goes home in the mid-afternoon, they would have time to rest.

I'm afraid that for many churches, including ours, Sunday has become a day of great activity but little rest.