I know, you haven’t heard from me in a while. I’ve been busy.
This whole spring-rolling-into-summer-rolling-into-summer-camps-and-VBS-and-mission-trips-and-confirmation-stuff thing is pretty much the most chaotic time of year for those of us in youth ministry.
But trust me, things haven’t slowed down in my mind at all, even though I’ve neglected my blog here in the last month.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about ministry and what sort of legacy I want to encourage my youth to have in their own lives. I happen to have a couple of kids who aspire to be in ministry someday, so I’ve been pondering what the most important bit of wisdom I could possibly impart on them could be, in view of this long-term goal.
After a lot of careful thought, I think it comes down to this single shred of wisdom:
It seems so simple. Anticlimactic, almost.
Yet I think that the sins of pride and arrogance are the ones that cripple church workers the most.
The very nature of a pride issue cuts one off from being teachable or moldable. From ever admitting wrongness or failure. From sharing the credit with others. From truly connecting with other people. From ever apologizing. From rolling up the shirtsleeves and doing the gritty, hard work that’s required—because, after all, it’s beneath you or it’s not your thing.
Pride makes it impossible to try someone else’s idea. It isolates from being open to God’s promptings. It makes it difficult to work with others. It prevents others from coming to you—because who wants to confide in or seek counsel from someone who sneers down their nose at you?
Most shamefully, arrogance can lead us off of the real path of God’s work and instead focus our eyes inward, on our own kingdoms, accomplishments, and successes—whether actual or merely perceived.
By the very nature of the problem, it’s impossible to try to convince someone that they do have a pride issue. Anyone who offers an honest opinion, a helpful remark, or even a harsh criticism is brushed off by those who think they know better than anyone else.
Pride says that people are just bodies to control. Pride whispers falsity. Pride dominates and boasts and refuses to actually care about anyone but itself.
I definitely know that there are incredible, humble, servant-hearted people out there. I thank God for those people—they are the salt of the earth. I have many of them in my ministry, and I absolutely couldn’t function without their constant encouragement, love, and care for others.
But lately, I’ve realized more and more that pride is a stronghold for many in the ministry. Pastors, youth workers, students across the board seem to struggle with being possessed with an arrogance problem.
In fact, in my opinion, pride is the number one sin that has a grip on those in the ministry.
Is it possible to start out with the purest of intentions, and become something that does a disservice to our loving Savior?
Which is why we must constantly be on guard with our actions, and aware of what we’re allowing into our hearts. We must regularly and honestly evaluate ourselves, and ask those we trust to evaluate us. Sin can—and does—swallow us whole, without us being aware that it’s happening. And only our ever-patient, ever-loving, ever-forgiving Savior can help us guard our hearts and minds from this deceit.
Jesus had the harshest criticisms for the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law. When I was younger, I didn’t understand that. Now that I work in a church, I completely understand. As people charged with the task of sharing Christ with others—with leading and teaching and exhorting—we should be the biggest proponents of humility.
Instead, it’s the trap that Satan has carefully laid for those in the ministry—and he has snared many in its deadly clutches.
When I was in college, I was a resident assistant for two years. During our month-long training in the summer before school started, we were asked to help prepare the school for the arrival of students by cleaning the dorms. On a skin-searingly hot summer day, we spent ten hours scrubbing mold from refrigerators, plunging toilets, mopping floors, painting hot metal railings, moving back-breaking piles of mulch, and repainting parking lines in the student lot.
As I stood with a gallon of bleach in one hand and a brush in the other, panting in the heat, I kept looking over at our directors. Although they were the loudest cheerleaders for doing this service project, they had been sitting all day in the shade, sipping their ice waters. They didn’t do a thing the entire day—in other words, their talk didn’t even come close to matching their walk.
And when we had finished up what later became known as “Slave Labor Day”, they were the ones to receive the accolades from the university for working so hard.
Their arrogant pride ultimately turned an entire staff of student leaders against them, in pure disgust. And no amount of team building or pep talks could ever restore the respect that was lost in one day.
If that can happen, I shudder to think how many people we’re turning off from Christianity because of our pride issues.
People’s eternal lives are being impacted.
All of those people in the world that shout “hypocrites” to us? I get it.
Pride. It’s a dangerous pitfall—and that’s why I tell my student leaders over and over and over again that they must remain humble.
I recently saw a quote online that said, “We’re called to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.” I’ve found myself repeating that constantly.
He didn’t call me to lord over a church.
He didn’t call me to put myself up on a platform.
He didn’t call me to consider myself better than the rest of my synod, other churches, my staff, or the students and families I work with.
God didn’t call me to be a keeper of the aquarium, but to be a fisher of men.