One of the greatest problems for preachers is pride. It is an insidious and relentless foe that will look to creep in at every stage of a life spent in ministry. What might we be proud about?
1. Knowledge. The preacher is a public speaker who is seen as an expert. Whether you have a PhD in theology or have simply studied a couple of resources, your listeners will tend to perceive you as an expert. And while knowledge is not a bad thing, what does knowledge do? It puffs up.
2. Ability. Whether it is spiritual gifting, or natural charisma, or learned skill, preaching involves some ability in public speaking – something many people dread deeply. Thus, there will be countless opportunities for pride as we speak to others.
3. Position. It may be elevation on a 12-inch podium before less than a dozen listeners, or it may be a prized pulpit for years on end, but pride in position is always knocking at the door of our hearts. Society may not revere the Reverend anymore, but many in our churches will certainly reinforce the honour of being a guest speaker, or a pastor, or a leader, etc.
4. Influence. Whether there is position or not, preaching implies influence. Preachers can influence lives and how they are lived. Preachers can influence emotions and create all sorts of churning in the hearts of our listeners. There are guilty folks convicted, there are vulnerable folks attracted, there is plenty of potential influence, both for good or for bad. Pride seems to be a lingering smell where influence is involved.
As well as what might be a source of pride, there are also some occasions that may provoke it:
A. When preparing. Do I need to invest the time in textual study? Do I need to invest the time in preparation of the sermon? Do I need to invest the time in prayer? Maybe old notes, or old knowledge, will see me through? Preparation should be a season of humble study and personal application, but it can easily drift into prideful self-trust instead.
B. When criticized. How do you feel when someone pokes a hole in your message? What if they aren’t particularly educated? What if they are a younger believer than you? What if their criticism is wrong? What if they are right?
C. When praised. This can be worse than criticism. The best message they’ve ever heard? Knowledge may puff up, but what then can praise do? Just as we need to have a plan for criticism, we also need a plan for handling praise. Both can stir profound pride problems within the preacher.
D. When ignored. What if your listeners sit through your message and then don’t even begin to apply it? What if their lives continue as normal? What if your careful study and exegesis is considered merely your opinion? What if the follow up conversation is still just about the weather or a TV show when you have poured your life out for their benefit?
What else may stir pride in the preacher? When else might we be vulnerable to this great enemy?
2 thoughts on “Pride and the Preacher”
See Peter? Your blog is excellent marriage counsel!
Also … Imagine ourselves retiring. Not so suddenly after working as long as possible. This contemplation hits women 20 years earlier! It’s a scary mental exercise! One which Tolkien raises with the testing of the Ring. Can we truly welcome decreasing? I can’t say I’m doing terrifically well with it—looking over the gate even. Losing gifts, focus and influence.
Your points are so important to consider from the beginning, along the way, and at crossroads. Thank you!
Praying for you and your family now.
Thanks Lori – great thoughts!