The Hidden Pride of the Small Church Pastor – Part 2By Jamie Hart
December 8, 2020
I have been Ryan. I have felt deeply discouraged in ministry. I have contemplated quitting. In fact, I nearly did. God, in His grace, brought me through that forest of discouragement to a better place. ut it was a painful realization of deep, subtle pride.
Looking back at Ryan’s story, there are several lies his pride has led him to believe.
“I’m more gifted than numbers indicate.”
I’ll never forget when Bob Smith (his name has been changed) joined my little church. In the ’80s, Pastor Bob was one of the most successful pastors in the country. Someone actually wrote a book about the church growth he experienced. Many people in my church had been a part of his church in its heyday. Bob, now retired, had come to a service, loved what he saw, and decided he wanted to be a part of the church. When Bob was filling the pulpit for me one Sunday, he said, “Jamie’s preaching is second to no one in our city.” I was in my early 30’s and Bob’s assessment only confirmed what I believed deep in my heart. I was something special. I was uniquely gifted. Finally, someone had noticed!
Bob’s approval only lasted so long. My church did not grow like Bob’s church. We were healthy but remained below 150 in attendance for the two years Bob attended. My heart broke when Bob told me that he had decided to move on. Though it was never said outright, I knew Bob was disappointed. I was crushed. I thought I was special. I thought my gifted preaching was going to pack out the church. But now Bob, it seemed, had changed his mind about me.
We want to be seen as gifted. We long to be something special. And yet, God has told us numeric success in ministry has nothing to do with us at all! Let this familiar verse sink deeper into your understanding; “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). He who plants is nothing. He who waters is nothing. Nothing, pastor. The need to be gifted is rooted in a desire to take what belongs to God and God alone. It’s a desire for glory. Is there a greater pride than one who seeks to steal God’s glory? The truth is the very thing that qualifies us to be used for God’s glory is our weaknesses, not our strengths! “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:16-29).
Pastor, you don’t need to be gifted. You need to be reliant. It’s your weakness, not your strength, that draws you to the God you need the most!
“I’m doing this better than the other guys.”
There should be joy in exegetical preaching. There should excitement as we anticipate God using His word in the lives of His people. But there should never be pride. When we begin to pridefully compare what we do with what others are doing, we are stepping into dangerous territory.
Again, let’s allow Scripture to guide us: “But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12b).
This lie may be rooted in a misunderstanding of Scripture. Isaiah 55 says that God’s word would not return void, but would accomplish its divine purpose. But that purpose is also revealed in the text: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Is. 55:13). The promise is that individual lives would be changed. God will take the barren bush and make it a fruitful tree. This will result in the worship of God (Is. 55:12). There is no promise about the number of lives that will be changed. How many people need to be impacted by your preaching for you to know God is using you? Is one enough? I guarantee that if you are preaching God’s word, lives will be changed. And that’s enough.
“I need numeric success to feel significant.”
This is the underlying lie driving all the other lies. Even though you “know” this is not true, the belief of the lie may have already strongly intertwined into your heart. Let me remind you again of where true significance is really found. You are a child of God. You have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be his. Further, He has called you to shepherd and to love his people. His calling, both for your salvation and for your ministry, gives you all the significance you need. You need nothing more to happen to find complete satisfaction in Christ! Rest in that. Rejoice in that. Refuse the prideful lies, and enjoy your ministry.
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