Volume 13, Issue 6: Poimen
Pastor Traps: Glory Pt. 2
Lying in pallor before us on the gurney, stiff with death's chill, are the lifeless remains of a
once blooming, vigorous pastorate. One glance at the corpse's swollen head reveals the cause of
deathhe succumbed to the same ailment that got Diotrephes. He loved the preeminence.
Sexual and fiscal improprieties terminate ministries with the drama of a stroke. But though it
often kills more slowly, love of praise is equally deadlyand more so because it is so average. We should not underestimate the addicting power of applause. Long before crack cocaine, John Chrysostom wrote, "I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help being pained and distraught at losing it. . . Men who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed offhand, but even when they fail to be constantly
Understanding the threat, the sensible man of God readies his defenses, and looks to Christ.
Christ was tempted in all things, including vainglory, and He conquered every time (Heb. 4:15). Accordingly, ministers who feel the weight of their charge will incline their ears every time their Lord tells them to "Beware." He does so in Matthew 6:1, when He warns us to "beware of practicing our righteousness before men, to be noticed by them." Here Jesus has identified a virtual minefield for the pastor, whose time is largely taken up with public exercises. He is preaching and teaching, he is leading and praying and counseling. In short, the minister cannot faithfully perform the duties of his office without sometimes "practicing his righteousness before men." But the sin does not lie here, it lies in the purpose clause that is attached. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men, [with the purpose that you might] be noticed by them." Ministers are to practice much of their righteousness upon men, but none of it in front of themto garner their praise. Paul
comprehended this, when he wrote to the Thessalonians:
so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greedGod is witness nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. (1 Thes. 2:4_6) 2
So one of the greatest firewalls we can put up against pastoral pride is to esteem the praise of men rightly, that is, not at all. We are to be God-pleasers, and not man-pleasers. We are to remember the only praise that matters is "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
But things are rarely so simple. In cultivating a prophetic boldness, many inflate their authority. They are Elijah, and all but they have bowed the knee to Baal. They are the Lord's anointed, so . . . ahem . . . keep your paws off the leisure suit, fella. Of course, this imagery conjures up thoughts of our charismatic brethren. But what about the "exegete" that spends thirty hours in his ivory tower mincing variants in "Codex Alexandrinus," while the counseling cases scratch pitifully on the door? What about the mega-church pastor who maintains seven rings of attendants one must sidestep in order to have an audience with his eminence? Interruptions keep pastoral feet firmly on the ground. Embrace them.3
Churches who ask pastors to serve as a lone elder set them in a precarious place, as do those which have token elders, effeminate men who come to meetings sporting the latest fashion in women's undergarments. In either case, the pastor has no accountability, no restraint, no leash. God has not intended the Church to be so governed. Each time elders are mentioned in Scripture, it is always in the plural.4 God intends a plurality of godly men to govern His people. So the "pastor-as-CEO" model of church government is out. Rather, a pastor should gather qualified men around him who are willing to put the kabosh on his silly ideas. And when they do,
he must submit gladly. But they are more than rulersthey are co-shepherds. As such, he must delegate important aspects of the ministry to them. As he does, and the saints avail themselves of the care of a plurality of godly men, the minister will no longer see himself as indispensable.
Finally, those who would avoid pastoral vainglory must understand the manner in which they are to
lead. Peter tells us we are not to bark orders at the flock, lording it over them like the Gentiles, but rather we are to lead by example (1 Pet. 5:3). This command obviously includes exemplifying all things godly, and this must include repentance. It is befuddling that some pastors are so appalled that some saint would have the temerity to accuse them of sin. But as those still struggling with the flesh, we will inevitably sin against members of the flock. When we are confronted, they should find us humble, approachable, and quick to repent. In this manner, we will not only prove to be examples to the flock, but we will keep ourselves from "the pride that goeth before destruction."