A leader’s humility

By Bob Bickford

For they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:43)

Let me speak honestly: As a pastor I, like receiving feedback — especially that which affirms my leadership, preaching, and shepherding. Every pastor wants to know that his work and efforts are making a difference. Pastors want to know that their preaching impacts people in a way that leads to life change.

It’s nice to hear “Good sermon, pastor.” Even better when someone shares something specific from your sermon that caused them to stop and think, take a step of obedience, or commit to a spiritual practice in order to grow closer to God. Every pastor I know likes this.

Sometimes we like it too much.

During sermon preparation, I can spend more time crafting my sentences to elicit loud “Amens” — or silent nods, if the congregation is quiet. I can craft illustrations that pull at heartstrings and tug at emotions, desiring to be thought of as a great communicator, more than as one who faithfully explains and illustrates God’s Word.

I may be tempted to make myself the hero or the object of illustration to earn respect or sympathy. I may engage in the well-placed “humble brag,” drawing attention to myself, rather than Jesus.

If I’m serving as a pastor to get praise from people, if I am affirmation needy, if I use the office to feel needed and important, I’m not feeding the flock, but feeding off of the flock.

As a pastor I’m called to preach all of God’s Word, some of which can be difficult for people to hear. Calling out sin, exhorting the complacent, rebuking hardened hearts doesn’t usually elicit overwhelming amounts of positive affirmation as people shake your hand on the way out the door to lunch.

There are times when Jesus’ command to shepherd the flock means a difficult conversation is required, a firm stance must be taken. It’s been my experience as a replanter, especially early in my call, that these actions, while faithful to Scripture, are not ones that garner the applause of the masses.

I want to be liked, to be affirmed, to be received well. So do you.

But it’s not about me or my feelings or ego.

Pastors, we’re called to be humble servants, entrusted with the most important message ever spoken. It’s not about us, or what people think about us.

It’s about Jesus.

Published April 30, 2018

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick