Sadly, most of us can all too easily recount stories of pastors who betrayed their congregations, who hurt the very people God had called them to love, who—in short—made their ministry all about them.
Some of these pastors may have had their own inflated sense of grandeur from day one. But more often than not, these are the same guys who entered the ministry legitimately wanting to serve others, not angling to build an empire. And yet somewhere along the way, they got a taste for glory. And instead of being the shepherds of God’s people, teaching them to have faith in God, they become stumbling blocks, impediments keeping people from considering God at all.
As a Christian leader, I don’t hear stories like that and congratulate myself. I hear them and tremble. Because the same pride that has shipwrecked countless other ministries lives in my heart. And in yours.
We need to be constantly vigilant for signs that our ministry has become all about us. Here are a few:
1. Infrequent prayer
Most pastors enter the ministry desperate for God. It’s the fuel that got them going in the first place. And if their first few months (or years!) are tough—filled with bickering congregation members, budget quarrels, and failure after failure—the desperation just increases. But as uncomfortable as those trials are, they often produce a wonderful fruit: desperate prayer.
Prayer as a discipline is good. But prayer as a cry of desperation is better. When we see our need for what it truly is, no one has to command us to pray. We cry out because we are desperate. We cry out because we believe instinctively what Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing.” And when that plea for God fades, it’s a dangerous sign that we are feeling self-sufficient.