The Biblical Example.
I’m certain that we can agree that the Apostle Paul was an astonishing man. His transformation from church persecutor to apostle and his ensuing ministry is a phenomenal display of the grace, mercy, and sovereignty of God. He planted churches and raised up leaders to shepherd them. And let’s not forget that he wrote the majority of the New Testament. Of any man that walked after Christ, Paul definitely had some “bragging rights” at his disposal had he chosen to us them.
However, in Acts 20, Paul’s words to the Elders of the church in Ephesus is a great example to us as to how leaders of the church should act; how they should think of them themselves. He writes:
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Paul was an extremely humble man, because he KNEW that it was God and God alone that deserves any and all of the glory for anything and everything he accomplished. He knew that he brought NOTHING to the table apart from the work of God within him. He knew that he was a wretched sinner that was saved only by the grace and mercy of a holy, just and loving God. Each one of us should strive to be more like Paul in everything we do, and in every way we think. Most especially pastors and church leaders.
The Current Climate.
This humility and sense of self-worthlessness (outside of God’s will and work) which Paul expresses and models so well in scripture is not what we see today from pastors and/or church leaders. At least not from the outside looking in. No, we see something much different, and I believe we’ve adopted such a difference in practice because of the influence our culture has on us. A culture that now runs on Selfies, Personal Platforms and the number of “Likes”, “Follows” and praising comments one receives from their peers.
Yes, the attributes of Humility and reliance upon God alone has been disregarded by many shepherds and leaders and replaced with an aura of self-importance, a posture of self-sufficiency, and an overvalued sense of personal self-worth. And unfortunately, people are buying into it; they are promoting and perpetuating it, and it’s doing great harm to the church’s ministry and to it’s witness. At the core of it all is a grave sin: Pride.
But don’t take my word for it; see for yourself. If you follow many pastors or evangelical leaders on social media and pay close attention to what they say (or their choice of words), you’ll begin to see the troubling evidence for yourself if you’re looking closely for it. You’ll notice that the biblical mantra “Look how GREAT God is and all that HE has done” has often been replaced with what seems like a never-ending episode of “Stuart” from Mad TV, wherein such person parrots over and over again “Look what I can do! Look what I can do”! There are much more ‘Me’s’ and ‘I’s’ than ‘He’s’ and ‘His’ in both speech and textual communications. There is more focus on what “we” as creation is doing versus what God the CREATOR is doing through us. And it needs to stop!
Biblical Rebuke & Beautiful Grace
Thankfully, God’s Word is not silent on rebuking anyone who is currently paddling down this river of self-promotion. Over and over again scripture points us to humble ourselves; to give God the glory and praise for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that is going on. I’ll give you some examples, the first of which is the example of Christ Himself:
- Philippians 2:3–8 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- 1 Peter 5:5b–7 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
- James 4:6–10 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Reading the entire section of scripture that comes before this is even more reproving – I would highly recommend it, starting in verse 1)
- Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
- Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience
Yes, scripture is jam-packed with verses, examples, parables and exhortations that teach us to walk humbly before others. To not count ourselves as anything except sinners in need of a savior. Shepherds, pastors and church leaders are not exempt of this in any form, but should instead set the example for others to follow. And what does God promise to do when we strip ourselves of pride, arrogance, self-worth, self-promotion, and the plethora of sins that come with such things? He promises WISDOM (Proverbs 11:2), GRACE (1st Peter 5) and that He will EXALT YOU at the proper time (James 4 & 1st Peter 5).
Simply put, IF WE WOULD JUST GET OUT OF OUR OWN WAY; if we would drop our pride and self-sufficiency as scripture exhorts us to do; If we stop Promoting ourselves, and start PROMOTING HIM, we’ll be better equipped to start seeing and experiencing God’s beautiful hand of grace in our lives. We’ll begin to see God moving in mighty ways in our lives and in our churches.
So DO IT! Resolve in your heart to become more like Paul.
Resolve to not account your life of any value nor as precious to yourself (or to anyone else for that matter). Stop saying “Look what I can do” and/or “Look what we did”. Don’t seek the approval and praise of men, because we can’t do anything without God’s sovereign hand allowing us the breath and the heartbeat to do so. For HE is the one who holds our bodies together by the power of His word (Hebrews 1:3), and He’s the one who deserves ALL of the praise, honor and glory.