Vanity in Ministry Life

At least he's driving a Toyota – Photo by Tony Alter via Flicrk (Creative Commons)

When I was new in ministry I struggled with the idea that people were paying me to tell them what I thought. (About God, about how to live as a believer, and about a lot of other things.)

It took me a while to realize this simple fact: They don’t really care what I think. I’m just their pastor.

Knowing your role

Vanity is a constant temptation when you serve on church staff. Why? All of a sudden you recognize that people are learning about God based on how you are teaching them. They are worshipping God corporately in a way you are leading them. The way you structure things is how people begin to experience various attributes of God.

Based on your own observations– You are vitally important to how people know & worship God. You are the leader and they are following you. And that feels really, really good.

And that is really cool. And it feels really good. But, it’s also just a little, itsy bitsy baby step in your heart to slide from thinking, “This is how God has lead us to do things” to “This is how I lead others to God.”

If you fall into that temptation you begin to create an ivory tower for yourself. You begin, ever-so-Christian-slyly, to put yourself on a pedestal. And you really start to believe that people care what you think, that you deserve a special place of honor, that you’ve earned a parking spot in the parking lot with your name on it.

A service goes good and you go home thinking, “I AM THE MAN!” Someone takes a big step in their walk with Jesus and you Tweet, “Joe just gave his heart to Jesus over a cup of coffee. Thank you God, I make the most of EVERY opportunity.

Vanity creeps in and its ugly.

It all crashes down when you leave. That’s the irony of the whole thing. You feel like you are really important some place until you leave your role. And then the next Sunday the alarm goes off and you wake up to realize– those people who were so loyal to me, they are going to go to church and worship God and learn from His Word without you there. [Insert tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth sound.]

It doesn’t matter how good you are. They will replace you. And within a few weeks you’ll just be a memory. Two months later and people won’t hardly remember how things were when you are there. People just move on.

That’s when you discover that you weren’t nearly as important as the role you filled in their lives.

Resting in your role

Photo by Henry Burrows via Flickr (Creative Commons)

You are just filling a role in people’s lives.

That’s where I find tremendous comfort. I am just filling a role. Nothing more. It’s a good role. But it’s also just a role. And when I leave? Someone else will fill my role.

Ultimately, no one cares what I think… so I don’t have to think too hard about their questions. Instead, when people ask me what I think, I just tell them the truth. “No one cares what I think, I have no authority, let’s look at what the Bible says. It is God’s love letter to you and I. There’s truth there that will help you long after I’m gone.

Whether you are a megachurch pastor of 25,000 people or a rookie with 4 kids in your youth group, there’s rest found in knowledge of your role. Your job is to point people to the person of Christ.

You are merely the servant who points people to them to the King and Lord of all.





3 responses to “Vanity in Ministry Life”

  1. Adam Avatar

    I have found pride and vanity in my heart recently in places I never had searched. Holding on to the “I’m alright” mentality, really showed me that I wasn’t. I had a lot of hurts and pains that I wasn’t willing to admit to and give over to God. I felt like I had to be alright, when I really didn’t. This is a great call for all of us to be truly, transparently honest. I found there was some heavy baggage I had picked up again and needed to be relieved of. Thanks Adam.

  2. Katie W Avatar
    Katie W

    LIKE! (that’s all I have to say and yes I am addicted to Facebook). 🙂

  3. Ruth Avatar

    When I worked with a well known Christian years ago, I was always struck by how many ‘famous Christians’ were prima donnas. But as I watched, it was easy to see how it happens. People were always surrounding them to make sure everything went smoothly, folks would tell them how wonderful they were, how much God used them, how blessed they were, etc, etc. I don’t think it takes much of that for any of us to begin to believe it must be so.

    I think humility will always be difficult to those in leadership. Bravo to those who recognize it.

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