A Short Commentary on Pride in Pastoral Ministry


Lord’s Library contributor Jared Helms offers this brief commentary on pride in pastoral ministry. Check out Jared’s YouTube channel and two blogs: A Light in the Darkness and Blind Faith Examples. Lord’s Library’s Ministry Leaders Series is a collection of contributed articles written by ministry leaders on key Christian topics.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgeProverbs 16:18: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” See also Proverbs 11:2 and 29:23:

  • Proverbs 11:2: “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”
  • Proverbs 29:23: “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.”

Of all the many issues a pastor must face there is none so threatening as that of pride. The Bible is very clear about the dangers of pride, and those dangers are only multiplied by the responsibilities of church leadership. If a leader falls to pride he will not fall alone. There are several ways pride can manifest itself in the life of the local church, and even if a pastor remains humble pride might still prove his undoing.

In a world fascinated by the success of self-made, self-willed, dynamic individuals; the churches too are often fascinated. They seek the same sort of dynamic charisma that seems to have brought success everywhere else. The celebrities of the faith present a model for success that is very much like that the world has adopted. Pride marks the success stories of the world and its prideful virtues that are touted to pastors through books, seminars, and more. The temptation to give in to self-reliance and self-importance is great in ministry.

The Gospel

Pride in Pastoral Ministry

Local congregations feed this by looking for a dynamic vision caster, who can attract new members, and drive the church’s entire ministry. If we build around a man instead of around Christ it should not be surprising when that man begins to think himself a little god. We can, and do idolize the pastor, and this can only set him up for failure. Either he will succeed and become conceited, or fail and be persecuted by his disappointed worshippers.

Some well-meaning pastors can fall to pride by trying to do too much on their own. Failing to confess our limitations is inherently prideful, even if we do so for the sake of greater service. The pastor is in a prime spot to fall into this particular temptation, especially in small congregations. In addition to feeling more capable than he is, he might also start to believe himself indispensable. Far too often we are content to let him feel however he wants and go on doing it all by himself while we remain comfortably in the pews.

The prideful pastor is self-reliant and that means his ministry will be exhausting. He is a prime candidate to become a bully, weaponizing his ministry to strike at anyone who stands between him and his goals. It is truly abominable for the man who proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ the gentle and lowly to stand harsh and exalted. Pride makes men forget where the authority comes from, there is no justification for their abuses. This is equally true for any church leader, or any Christian leader no matter their title or the level of the authority.

It is commonly believed that paying a pastor too much is a pathway to pride, but so too is paying him too little. Too much education can puff up a man, and so can too little. In short, pride is an ever-present danger in the heart of the pastor. He needs to be on guard himself, constantly in prayer and in God’s Word. The pastor also needs to keep himself in regular fellowship with those who hold him accountable so they can warn him if pride grows.

Pride can strike from anywhere in a congregation to do a pastor harm. Pride demands much, expects much, and complains much. Pride leads to unnecessary conflict and even outright rebellion. Pride can justify all sorts of utterly sinful behavior in the pursuit of having its own way which can lead to all sorts of attacks on church leadership and the rest of the congregation. Pride does not care about others; it does not care about the Church. Pride creates problems in ministry!

Keeping out Pride

You have heard of the old trap where a soul becomes proud of how humble it is. Keeping pride out of the human heart is like keeping water out of a swamp; it takes a lot of work and constant watchfulness. It is often suggested that poverty is a means of keeping people, particularly pastors, humble. It is just as easy to be proud of poverty as of wealth. It is suggested that too much education can lead to pride, but it is not uncommon for people to boast about their ignorance. Constant work, and constant leisure; strengths and weaknesses, success and failure can be turned to fuel the inborn fires of pridefulness. Even self-loathing is a pathway to pride. There are no easy answers here, and the attempt to find one is also quite prideful.

The only way to keep pride grounded is in the reality of who God is and what He has done. This alone keeps our opinions of ourselves in proper proportion. The best way to help our pastors keep this healthy focus, you might ask? To encourage them to spend as much time as possible in prayer, reading, and meditation. Encourage them to build open and honest relationships inside and outside the immediate congregation. Make sure they are spending time with their families, and that their marriages are healthy.

If pride starts to slip in, grant them a sabbatical to refresh and reorient. If a leader will not turn away from pride, despite all efforts, remove them.

We need to take care that our pride does not get in the way of doing what is right. We too should do our best to stay grounded in the Scriptures and prayer. We should seek out open and honest relationships with those who can speak wisdom into our lives. We should invest in the lives of our families, for family sees what others do not. And if we find pride creeping into our lives we should take immediate action against it.

Of course, we and our pastors may find some of this advice difficult to enact with the concerns of everyday life. How can we take a sabbatical if we have bills to pay? Where can one find time to do all of these necessary things when we have to work outside and inside the home, eat, and sleep? I wish I could give the magical answer to these and other legitimate concerns, but every situation is different. Instead, I offer Matthew 6:33 as it was once offered to me as a directive with a promise to be obeyed and trusted:

  • Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Things may not always work out as we would like, but we will be ok.

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Jared Helms
Jared Helms

Jared Helms

Jared received his Bachelor of Arts from Bryan College in 2012, and his Masters of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017. He has pastored churches in Kentucky and Tennessee. Most importantly, Jared has walked with Christ most of his life. His interests extend from theology to church history, but he is particularly passionate about ecclesiology and homiletics.

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