I was asked recently by a young man desiring pastoral ministry how a pastor battles his pride and embraces humility? Without much thought, I fired these 3 things out and upon further reflection would still stand by them:
Surround yourself with other men who will speak with brutal honesty into your life. Last Saturday, less than 24 hours before I had to step into the pulpit to preach, one of our pastors came to me after reading my sermon with concerns. Nothing in regard to doctrinal errors. He just felt like I had lacked the effort in specific and clear application that normally accompany my sermons. Concerned my very busy week was the culprit, he approached me in love to push me to make some last minute adjustments. Some would say this was unnecessary and even out of line, but he felt comfortable to do what most pastors would call “off sides” going into Sunday. His recommendations, as always, proved to be very helpful and my sermon improved because of it.
He, as well as other men in our church, have been faithful to speak with brutal honesty in the same way in regard to other areas of my life. We all need men who will say things to us no one else will and confront us in ways that will push us to grow in holiness and faithfulness. Without these kinds of men to contrast the regular amounts of praise we receive from others, pride is certain to take root and grow.
Encourage your wife to be supportive, but unimpressed with you. This is one of the greatest gifts a pastor can have in ministry. To read more, see this previous post.
Live as if at any moment you could sin and destroy your ministry. One of the lies pride can convince us of is that we don’t have to play by the same rules as everybody else. Regardless, whether you think you can sin in this way or not…you can. Only a fool would bait the enemy in such a way to say, “No way would I ever cheat on my wife or steal money from the church.” The men I know who have committed these sins and destroyed their ministries (both who served as pastor of a church where I served on staff) never thought they were capable.
Though we are not to live with a spirit of fear, it will cultivate humility to live with a healthy fear of the Lord and awareness of the depth and capability of our sinful hearts. This will only encourage every pastor to walk with the Lord with the kind of brokenness that will protect our hearts and heighten our sensitivity to the ways we struggle with sin.
There are few books I highly recommend more than CJ Mahaney’s book, Humility. I try to read it every year. If you have never read it, I strongly encourage you to place it on the top of your list to buy and read.