Pride is a problem for everyone, and this includes people in ministry. Pride is “the mother of all sins”, and the third of the Mistakes Leaders Make. The chapter is “Allowing Pride to Replace Humility“. Since pride is our default mode as sinners, I think “Not replacing pride with humility” would be more accurate. Just saying.
“It often hides under the cloak of confidence and conviction.”
Kraft rightly says that pride is often in stealth mode. It does not often come out overtly, brash and in your face. It lurks under the surface, corrupting our motives and tainting our actions.
Often churches set themselves up for the problem of the prideful pastor. They hire guys based more upon gifts than character. We want competence, or exceptionalism, and realize that we have to let people go because their character sabotages their ministry.
What does pride do? Too many things to be exhaustive here. But here are a few things pride does. It refuses to take responsibility for any failure. It is always someone else’s fault. “If only they’d listened to me.”
“In many groups and churches, results trump character and relationships as a high value. … I wonder whether deeply rooted pride is at the core of most other sin that leaders fall into, such as sexual, financial, and relational sins.”
It always seeks center stage, like Michael Scott. Everything becomes about you: how if affects you, reflects on you, etc.. You essentially become the hero of your illustrations. You slowly, insidiously supplant Jesus as a function savior and model for the people. People don’t see you as an example of one who knows they need grace and mercy.
Pride means that I have all the answers, and the church should do what I think we should do. Pride doesn’t listen, but always argues for its way.
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4 (ESV)
Pride does not receive help from either God or man. Pride leads us to think we are self-sufficient as if we have arrived. Because of this God opposes the proud, because they oppose Him. Humility receives grace precisely because it seeks grace. The humble person knows they need grace and comes seeking it. But the proud person acts as if they have it all together, and may have even deceived themselves into thinking they do. They seek to maintain control of everything, and have a hard time delegating because “no one can do it as well as I do.”
Kraft encourages us to honestly assess ourselves. Humility is an accurate assessment of ourselves, both strengths and weaknesses. False humility focuses only on our weaknesses and drives one to coming across as pathetic. Humility recognizes that the strengths we do have come for the wisdom and goodness of God. Humility submits to God (James 4) not just morally, but providentially. It submits to how he made us, the circumstances he has placed us in, and the calling he’s given us. Pride refuses to submit, thinking we are something we are not (like Andy Bernard) and always demands better circumstances. Pride always wants a better stage. Humility serves where God has placed you until God places you someplace else.
Pride <– Humility –> Worm Theology
We have dignity because we are made in the image of God. Unlike like God we are weak and finite. But we are also depraved as sinners. Humility holds on to both of these truths, our dignity and our depravity. Pride stresses our dignity and can even ignore our depravity. So we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Worm theology embraces only our depravity and neglects our dignity so we think worse of ourselves than we ought.
I find I must fight against pride & selfish ambition many Sunday mornings. Even as I pray, my pride arises. I have to keep putting it to death with the power of the gospel. The worship service is about God’s glory, not mine. But my personal quest for glory, thankfully, arises. I say thankfully precisely because I can confess it and redirect myself (hear the inner GPS saying “recalculating, recalculating”).
This is pretty much what everyone in ministry needs to do on a regular basis- catching themselves before they go too far astray. Before meetings and services, the replacement of pride with humility in prayer is very important. The one who thinks they don’t need to do this has probably already fallen into the trap.