Tag Archive: ego

So You Think You’ve Arrived

When you’ve “arrived” in ministry, you begin to get a distorted view of self. A distorted view of self leads to an ineffective and unholy you, and then an ineffective ministry.

At a recent staff retreat, my friend and retreat speaker, Mark Bricker, using Paul Tripp’s A Dangerous Calling book as a framework, reminded us that “arriving” comes via:

  • Ministry knowledge
  • Ministry experience
  • Ministry success

Each of these is relative to the person measuring. But suffice it to say, in our own heads, we arrive faster than what reality likely is. (As a friend of mine says, “We’re legends in our own minds.”)

The greatest symptom of arriving is self-glory. My friend defined self-glory as worshipping yourself more than you worship God.

This sounds so sinful. And it is. But it’s not so sinful that we wouldn’t do it. Self-glory happens incrementally. It’s smalls steps that get us to this state of self-glorification.

And for a while, others may not even notice what’s happening within you. In fact, you may not even know it’s happening within you. And even if you or others are aware of this increasing self-glory, it may be deemed acceptable behavior. A.W. Tozer in his book, The Pursuit of God, wrote the sad, yet truthful sentiment:

“Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ has become acceptable in church.”

Without guardrails, the path to self-glory is the natural path. (Remember, we’re fallen and depraved.) There are unintended consequences of ministry knowledge, experience, and success. It manifests in hubris, a lack of self-awareness, a sense of entitlement, or the feeling you’ve become indispensable. (I’ve written before about the danger of becoming or feeling indispensable to your church.)

My friend Mark provided self-diagnosing questions for self-glory, and I’ve listed several here:

  1. You worry too much about what other think about you.
  2. You care too little about what others think about you.
  3. You find yourself envying the success of others. (I’ve written previously about church leader jealousy.)
  4. You resist facing your sins, weaknesses, and failures.
  5. You lean toward the controlling side of ministry (having trouble letting go because you have an elevated view of self).

Slowing down the self-glory train—

Just because you’ve been doing ministry awhile and gained experience and knowledge, and maybe even had some successes, doesn’t mean you’re bound to self-glory. But, as we acknowledge that our natural human paths will lead us there, we have to find ways to slow down the self-glory trajectory. Here a few ways to combat self-glory:

  • Admit you haven’t arrived. My friend reminded our staff, “We’re all in the middle of our own sanctification.”
  • Give someone permission to speak frankly, and then ask them routinely, “How’s my self-glory meter?”
  • Talk to others who have had ministry success, yet been able to steer away from self-glory.
  • Memorize and put in your mindset Scriptures related to this (Here are a few: Romans 12:3, Philippians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, James 4:10).
  • Always try to get better. If you see your need to improve, it’s hard to be content with your previous “arrivals.”
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously. There is strength in self-deprecation and to admitting you’re a work in progress. (I’ve written before on the benefits of the occasional self-deprecation in leadership.)
  • Give it away…pass your experience and knowledge onto others who are in ministry, and when there is success, give that away too.

I hope we’re all vigilant in ensuring our self-glory doesn’t rise with our experience level.


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Ego In Ministry

top gun

“Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.”

This quote was a part of dressing down of Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, in Top Gun. He saved someone’s life, albeit, while jeopardizing himself, others and a “thirty million dollar aircraft.”

As church leaders, do we also need to be reminded of this? Jesus apparently seemed to think so, when He said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Our ego doesn’t like to hear this… especially if we have a maverick mentality.

The first time I watched Top Gun (the first of fifty-plus views) I was thirteen and was at Ray Runyon’s house. Ray’s mom let him watch PG-13 movies, and mine didn’t. I remember lots of things about my first viewing of the movie, and it ultimately became my favorite. I wanted to be Maverick. But the only things Maverick and I had in common were our small stature (and our ability to act cocky while trying to spin a volleyball on one finger and spike it, despite only being five-foot-nothing).

The maverick mentality has some unfortunate consequences though, especially when paired with a sin nature. I experienced this recently. My ego wrote a check I couldn’t cash.

I woke up one morning into what I thought would be a light day… no critical meetings, no crucial conversations anticipated. My ego said, I can do this on my own. I wasn’t teaching, so I chose to skip my quiet window of opportunity before my four kids woke up, and didn’t spend time with God. My ego said, I don’t need dedicated time with God to complete my day. But two hours into my work day, I found myself in a critical meeting, having crucial confrontations, both of which had spiritual implications.

My (spiritual) body wasn’t prepared.

By God’s grace, the Bible’s application doesn’t expire after 24 hours of reading it. God allows you to come to Him any time, not just during a morning “quiet time.” His spirit allows you to call upon a reservoir of God-moments in your life, for immediate sustenance in times of need.

But that doesn’t change the fact that at my desk that day, when I had to react in a way that honored God and others, I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t connected with God.

I had considered my day and felt I could do it on my own.

Anytime we think we can do things on our own, we’re jeopardizing things. Specifically, our ministry. Your role as a church leader requires you to be dependent on God. There’s no room for a maverick mentality.

Here are some things your ego might say:

  1. I don’t need accountability for my online activity.
  2. The church’s growth is primarily due to my leadership.
  3. I know that scripture passage, I don’t really need to study the text that much to teach it.
  4. I’ve done lots of funerals, I don’t need extra time in prayer for this one.
  5. I deserve that opportunity.

You know who agrees with these egotistical statements? Your sinful nature.

For reasons I don’t understand, God has provided the church as the hope of the world. And if you’re like me, you also don’t understand why He’s given you the privilege of leading in His church. But He has.

Trying to lead His church, independently of Him is not a good idea. As Iceman would say, that’s “dangerous”. Don’t be caught writing checks you can’t cash. Don’t waste time thinking you’re maverick, when you should be seeking to become more like Christ.

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Coping with Church Leader Jealousy Syndrome

My name is Brian, and I suffer from church leader jealousy syndrome.

Despite it being the day the church I was serving was being featured in a local Metro newspaper article as being the biggest in the county, and having launched another regional campus, I felt jealous.

Sin perpetuates jealousy and competition.

How’d I become jealous after reading the newspaper? Later in the day I was reading a recently released book that was authored by a young leader (a peer in age). It talked about all his successes and friendships with other notable church leaders. Jealously emerged.

I was so jealous that I mentally posted a review of his book on Amazon.com in righteous judgment of his writing and name-dropping.

I remember it first happening at my church in Texas. Our church had done some great things for Christ, and for a while, we were the place to be. Then, three miles away, God chose to bless another church, and they became the “it” place.

The pastor of the new “it” church (who was the same age as me) took a church of 150 people up to several thousand in just a few years. I became jealous. God convicted me of this, and still does. I have to work hard to combat this sin.

One way I chose to get over my jealously of other church leaders was to take an opportunity to get to know them. It’s harder to dislike someone once you actually know them personally (their calling, gifting, their values and intentions).

I later served at a larger church that had a larger influence. That should’ve ended my jealously, right? Nope, my jealously then focused on the next largest churches or the their influential leaders.

Have you ever felt this way?

We’ll never be satisfied if we equate church size to success. That’s the problem in equating church size as an affirmation of God’s calling or even favor. I know better. Size is only one factor of many to determine a church’s effectiveness for the kingdom. I’ve witnessed that firsthand.

If by chance you suffer from my same syndrome, I suggest:

  • Be prayerful and remind yourself via Scripture who you are in Christ.
  •  Get to know those of whom you are jealous.
  •  If need be, stop reading their press. If their Twitter feeds cause you to sin in jealously, stop following them.
  •  Be comfortable where God has placed you. Rarely, if ever, is church staff ministry a ladder to climb.
  • Accept that no matter your success or your church’s success, you’ll be tempted to be covet the next biggest thing, so, get a grip on who and where God has called you to be.

p.s. When I first published this, I was an XP at mega and multi-site church. and now, I’m at a small church plant. Yet, I still believe in what I wrote, and at times, I still suffer from “church leader jealously syndrome.”

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