“Is he humble?”

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I was speaking with one of our pastors Sunday morning and a church in the Toronto area came up in our discussion. The first question my pastor asked hit me like a ton of bricks:

“Is the senior pastor humble?”

Not “is he a good preacher,” or “how many people attend the church,” or any other metric oriented question you could imagine.

Just, “Is he humble?”

It’s tempting to be a bit taken aback by the idea, but it makes total sense, doesn’t it?

What is the New Testament most concerned with when it comes to leaders in the church? Paul describes elders as being men who need to be able to teach and handle the Word rightly, without a doubt. But that’s not all he’s concerned with. More than anything else, he’s concerned about character:

…an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim 3:2-7)

Paul starts and ends with character. An overseer, an elder, a pastor, must be one thing: a man of integrity—which means necessarily that he’s going to be a man with some level of humility. So if this is what Paul starts and ends with, why do so many of us immediately jump to other measures first?

Why do we seem more concerned about how many people show up or how good the sermons are or how big the facility is… but not terribly concerned about character?

A few years ago, a friend gave me an unexpected, but much needed corrective. He told me that, despite my many good qualities, I tended to have the appearance of arrogance about me. It hurt to hear that, but in a good way. It made me realize how much my character makes a difference in how people perceive what I do and say. I’m certainly not perfect (as my wife and my coworkers would attest), but Lord willing, I think I’ve made some progress as a man pursuing humility.

So back to this question—”Is he humble?” We need to have this on our radars at all times, whether we’re in seminary, lay ministry or vocational pastoral ministry. Our character is on display for all to see, and no amount of skill in preaching or leadership can make up for a character defect like pride. So what would people say about you, especially those of you who are in a leadership role:

If someone asked, “Is he humble” about you, what would they say?

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