One of the most insidious and destructive things that can plague Christian leadership is pride. We see evidence of pride in secular leadership and most of us don’t really think this is a problem because self-confidence is exalted as a virtue in secular leadership. However when pride begins to plague Christian leadership, its effects can be devastating to the ministry. The real problem with pride in Christian leadership is that it often masks itself as other things, making the leader oblivious to its insidious emergence.
The birth of pride in a Christian leader often starts with the conferment of position and the experience of success in ministry. When a person is placed in a position of power or prominence in ministry, the temptation is to begin to associate ourselves with the position. This happens when our sense of identity is subsumed by the position. We are treated as important and respected by others by virtue of our position. Overtime we begin to think that we are in fact more important and better than others. This specifically plagues the more prominent leadership positions, whether it is a pastor, a small group leader, a worship leader, a chairman of a ministry or a Sunday school teacher. We begin to exalt ourselves in our own minds, forgetting that we still human, sinful human saved by grace. The fact that it is Christian ministry makes it worse because we then deceive ourselves that our elevation and authority is from God.
How does pride manifest in Christian leadership? Let me suggest a two basic symptoms. The first symptom is dogmatism. The leader becomes un-teachable and very set on a certain way of doing things and seeing things. The leader adopts a “don’t tell me how to do things, I have been doing it with great success in the past” kind of mindset. Such a leader monopolises decision making, forces his or her ideas on others, are close to dissenting points of view, and prides himself on always being right. We surround ourselves with people who agree with us and remove those who differ. This slowly stifles the ministry because the leader becomes unable to change and adapt to the changing needs of the ministry.
The second symptom is self-righteousness. The leader sits in criticism of everyone else and yet is blind to his own faults. “I can do things better than you” is the mantra. We begin to point out everyone else’s faults, why this person is not good enough, why that person is not doing it right or not fit for the position. We sit in judge over everyone. On the flip side, the combination of lack of teachability and self-righteousness makes the leader blind to his own moral inadequacies. Such a leader is not accountable to anyone because everyone else is ‘beneath’ him. This is dangerous because it allows sin to enter the personal life of the leader and remain unchecked. We then wonder why there is no revival in the flock when the shepherds themselves continue in sin.
The consequences of such Christian leadership is severe. Leadership that is plague with pride is leadership that is no longer humble and submitted to God. Any work of such a leader will be work done in the flesh, lacking the blessing and anointing of God. Without the anointing, the ministry soon looses its spiritual vitality and power and the flock under the leader suffers. On an organisation level, such pride breeds disunity and discouragement. Those who are side-lined by the ‘powerful’ becomes discouraged and fall out. Others who feel that their views and their contribution is not recognised may fight back, thus creating dissension and politicking within the ministry. Such dissension fractures the unity of the body and grieves the Holy Spirit.
The only solution that remains is repentance. As leaders, we must humbly come before God and seek his forgiveness for the pride that has plagued us. We must search our hearts under the spotlight of the Holy Spirit, identifying and repenting of our dogmatism and self-righteousness. We must become real once again about our sin and deal with them at the foot of the cross. For it is only when leaders get their own lives right with God and unite as one that revival will happen in our ministry. For revival begins with the leadership.