The #1 Sin of Church Workers?

27 05 2011

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:

Remain humble.

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.




4 responses

27 05 2011

Awesome post. On the other side of the coin, not being confident in yourself can be the #1 pitfall. Always wishing you were as good, outgoing, or creative as youth pastor X will always have you down and frustrated.

Peter didn’t lose faith in Jesus as he sank beneath the waves. If he had, he would have called out for a rope or life preserver. He called out for Jesus to save Him and Jesus said he didn’t have enough faith.

You are where you are because of God’s direction. Don’t second guess His placement or wisdom in calling you. You are the absolute best fit for the job He called you to.


27 05 2011
Dan O'Day

Great reminder, Cassie. Sadly, I too have seen pride destroy ministries and churches. I’ve even let my own pride hurt a lot of people in a ministry I once led. It took a lot to admit I was wrong and apologize to those I had hurt. I think it’s also why Paul gave so many qualifications for leaders in 1 Timothy 3. Verse 6 teaches that “[A leader] must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” I think this happens a lot. I intend no disrespect here, but churches notoriously take people who have little life experience or who are recent converts and appoint them as leaders. Young men who have doctrinal zeal are often mistaken as defenders of truth when in fact they are argumentative, arrogant children. Young women who have deep compassion sometimes also are so afraid of conflict they have false love by not speaking the truth, at times caring more about how someone feels than their eternal destiny (Proverbs 27:5-6). These are natural things of youth that can be unlearned through experience, but often we have the “blind leading the blind.”

When I served in young adult ministry as a young adult myself, I was not prepared to deal with much of what I did. I was also a recent convert (see 1 Timothy 3 above). I think part of the problem is age segregation in churches. We confine older members with the most life experience to meet among themselves as some sort of Golden Group, rather than intentionally designing inter-generational ministries where youth can learn from true elders. It’s hard for me to take advice on witnessing to my coworkers from someone whose only life experience is high school, Concordia, and church work. That’s not to say that these folks have nothing to offer, they have had the opportunity to learn a lot of things most of us don’t have the financial resources nor time to learn. But church leaders need to share this knowledge and learn to draw from the experience and leadership of the local believers and allow them to teach from their experience as well.

This is not an attack on anyone personally, not you or any other DCE or pastor, it is merely an observation I’ve made. The LCMS essentially creates a sacerdotal environment, while much of the point of the Reformation was to eliminate this and empower and equip the priesthood of believers. Part of this is the LCMS’ emphasis on the noetic aspects of faith over the practical obedience aspects of it. The old lady who prays two hours a day and reads Scripture continually but who will never understand the difference between transubstantiation and the ‘Real Presence’ is viewed as inferior to the young man who can identify what declension a noun is in a Greek passage of Scripture and what theological implications this has for the notion of a Sacramental Union. Never mind the fact that this young man probably has an active addiction to pornography and only prays in worship services and at meals. The LCMS elevates knowledge over practice in many ways, much to the detriment of the Body. We like to point out that the Great Commission is fulfilled by baptizing and teaching, but rarely quote the full verse: “teaching them to obey….”

Several generations of Christians have learned to trust church workers with the work of the church, meanwhile becoming consumers of the faith rather than ambassadors. The problem works both ways, but I suspect each blames the other. When we learn to walk in humility and truly not elevate church workers over “laity” (especially pastors) then the priesthood will begin to function again and churches will become organic mission equipping centers rather than programmed spiritual supermarkets.

These are some great thoughts, Cassie. I applaud your observations and I lament with you over souls that have been and are being lost because of Christian leaders’ pride. Thank you for being a leader whose goal is to be transparent to Christ, not to stand in the spotlight. There’s not many like you these days, and I’m PROUD to call you a sister in Christ 😛

A Concordia Dropout 😉


27 05 2011

I hate doing this, but all I can say is, “Amen.”


1 06 2011



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