Preaching and Pride: A Deadly Terrain

Did you see the opening battle scene in Saving Private Ryan?  Imagine the most frightening and dangerous terrain from any war movie.  What if pride be the threat and preaching be the mission?  Uh-oh, it looks dangerous:

1. Preaching involves speaking to others about their lives.  Of course it can be “we” rather than just “you” (as if you are the finished product!), but even so, there is massive temptation to pride when being the dispenser of spiritual input.

2. You might be effective as a preacher.  This doesn’t help because you will then receive affirmation and even admiration from people helped by your ministry.  Warning!

3. You might be rubbish as a preacher, but never fear, there are plenty of people who will be polite and affirm your ministry anyway.  False affirmation and feedback is a frequent feature of church lobbies and doorways.

4. You might be trained, equipped and well-informed.  That might mean numerous years of high level academic training.  Or it might mean you read a book during preparation.  Either way, you may be, or perceive yourself to be, beyond others in your knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, careful!

5. Up-front ministry will get kudos other ministries won’t.  So you’re up front in the church.  People will talk to you and about you and they will see you and they know you.  A ridiculously low-level celebrity status awaits everyone who steps into a pulpit.  Warning!

6. What if you see lives change “under your ministry”?  That’s a scary thought, since you might think you achieved that.

7. The enemy would love to see you believing the hype.  Was it Spurgeon that was approached by a congregant and told that was the best sermon she’d ever heard, only to reply, “The Devil has already told me that.”

8. Public speaking presents continual opportunity to perform, or as we might say to children, “show off.”  Listen to me, see what I know, watch as I impress you with my Greek, or cultural awareness, or translation critique, or ministry experience, or name drop, or … warning!

9. You are not yet glorified, so your flesh is still pre-programmed with a prideful operating system.  So you are not immune to any of this.

10. You may find it hard to have genuine close friendships since you are in a position of influence, so you will be lonely and vulnerable while everybody affirms and endorses your spirituality.

11. You may find yourself, or put yourself, in a separate spiritual category to everyone else.  Sort of a clerical bubble that promises immunity from spiritual struggle, but guarantees a greater exposure to the attractive fruit of temptation.

12. There are probably a dozen more reasons that pride may be lurking behind every pew as you stand to preach.

To be honest, I think the terrain looks absolutely frightening, terrifying, a deadly terrain and the only way to go there is in absolute reliance on God!  Exactly.

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9 thoughts on “Preaching and Pride: A Deadly Terrain

  1. If I could add one to your list, just to make the terrain even more treacherous.

    –> Maybe you don’t see all the fruit in your ministry you’d like to see, and the temptation will be to either a) claim your “results” are your own, and not God’s, and thereby sink into the funk of a wounded, prideful ownership of an ineffective ministry, or b) get mad at God for not blessing you in the manner you’ve prayed for with such fervency.

  2. I’m a musician and women’s Bible Study leader, so I relate to these comments. I understand that this is largely an internal battle. We must look to God, rather than people for affirmation and also wage this war with God’s strategies. As a Bible teacher/leader I get to know the women closely and I find it not too bad, although there’s always the temptation of intellectual or spiritual snobbery.

    I find some people’s [sincere] comments difficult … On a human level, are there any responses we can give to help both my perspective and theirs? Sometimes I’ll just respond to a complement with “thank you” or “it was a team effort”. Sometimes I comment on the importance of the sound technicians. Since excellence requires hard work in any field, a lot of success has little to do with our giftedness and more to do with “you practice you get better” just like everybody else in their field. Or I may have superior tools. But I’m not sure about always pointing those things out …

  3. Just read this blog this morning after preaching yesterday. I have to say that I am in total agreement with the the blog entry. This is a battle I struggle with all the time. While I like to hear “good job”, I dare not seek it out. On the other hand, I have been known to fuss over one little criticism, deserved or not. Thanks

  4. As a young convert years ago I felt called to preach—went to Bible School in Canada for 1 1/2 years then dropped out & went into secular jobs. Having said all that though I have a heart & hunger for Solid, Fundamental,Instructive Christ & God Honoring Preachging. These warnings are necessary & not at all over the top .There are way too many puffed up websites that even with heavy quoting of Scripture trnd to betray bad motives of NOT SPEAKING TRUTH IN LOVE not mention inferring they have the book on right doctrine & a handle on those they pointedly say who don’t…which does nothing to edify me. I love Preaching which relects Humility, Reliance on God & Genuine Love. Thanks. A.

  5. just a couple quick follow ups to my prev. comment ( for clarity) 1. I apologize for spelling errors( I have serious eye Issues M>G> for short) but I trust translation came through. @>2.More Importntly, I wish express better appreciation of both this blog & the several others esp. on role of a Preacher. These are very timel & insightful & of definite informative & encouragiuung Value to both young & seasoned ministers who are trying to be be Faithful to the Lord & the Flock.In accomplishing t his backdrop, you bloggers have done and are doing a very appreciated service to the Greater Church at Large..& I ,for one just want to say thanks.

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