What is the one thing that will kill your ministry faster than anything else?
Consider that question as you read. I frequently love to read Proverbs. Reading these principles of life and godliness often serves as a corrective for me as I work and pursue ministry. Something I mentioned a few weeks back was a tendency toward performancism—that is, a tendency to turn the gifts and abilities that God has given as the measure of my worth. So when I’m doing lots and being productive, then I’m great and God’s favor is upon me. When life starts to turn to a subtle shade of Milhouse, well…
As I look around the “celebrity pastor” scene, it seems I’m not alone. One pastor’s Twitter feed has turned into a commercial for his current book. Another shares on his blog how many baptisms his church has seen since its inception whenever criticism starts to come his way. A third’s staff mocks a blogger who voices concern about their boss’ theology. I could go on, but you get the idea and probably have your own experiences.
But this isn’t really a post about celebrity pastors. Other men like Mike Cosper and Thabiti Anyabwile have written on this in the past and I’d commend their work to you. Instead, let’s get back to the question I asked about two paragraphs ago—what will kill your ministry faster than anything else?
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Proverbs. There is nothing that kills effective ministry faster than pride (even if that ministry seems to be thriving on the outside). Consider the following:
- Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18)
- Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. (Prov. 21:4)
- “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride. (Prov. 21:24)
- The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Prov. 8:13)
- When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Prov. 11:12)
- Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Prov. 18:12)
- One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. (Prov. 29:23)
Seven times in these passages, God’s Word says the same thing:
- Pride is an abomination.
- It leads to destruction.
- It brings disgrace.
- It humiliates.
- It is hated by God.
We dare not pass over these words quickly. If God truly hates pride this much, then we must consider our actions in the face of criticism and in light of success. If we follow the wisdom of Scripture we see that seeking celebrity will kill our ministries. Bad company will kill our ministries. And failing to listening to wise counsel will kill our ministries.
Do we get the picture, yet?
To be proud in ministry is to jeopardize our ministry—to risk God, in his loving kindness, humiliating us if we start foolishly believing that the number of people who show up matters, how many copies of our books are sold or that we’re above being corrected (even by nobodies who apparently attend Star Trek conventions and live in their moms’ basements). Brothers in ministry, let this never be said of you. Surround yourself with godly men who love you enough to tell you the truth, accept criticism well and fear God above all else. Wisdom and humility will save our ministries—pride will destroy them.