The pastor’s worst enemy is pride, and it is a special danger for young pastors (1 Tim. 3:6).

The Particular Causes of Pride

  • Public gifts. As your gifts are exercised in public (unlike those with more private and unseen gifts and ministries), they are more likely to be recognized, admired, and praised.
  • Official status. As many of God’s people respect and honor the “office” of pastor (sometimes regardless of who fills it), you may be inclined to think it is you they respect and honor.
  • Man-centeredness. When people are blessed under your ministry, they will often attribute it to you rather than to God.
  • Worldly ideas of leadership. You see yourself as “in charge of all these people,” rather than their servant.
  • Inexperience. The Church is quite unique in how it places untested and inexperienced young men into positions of the highest responsibility without going through the “humbling school of hard knocks.” Having never been led, they sometimes do not know how to lead.
  • Misunderstanding of call to the ministry. Paul did not see the pastoral ministry as a prize he had earned. For Paul, it was as much a grace, an unearned gift, as salvation (Eph. 3:8).

The Pastoral Consequences of Pride

If you fall into pride there will be serious consequences in your ministry.

  • You will start depending on your gifts rather than on God.
  • You will become impatient with your less gifted brethren in the ministry or eldership.
  • You will become thoughtlessly insensitive to the traditions and customs of the past.
  • You will resist personal criticism and mature counsel.
  • You will become discouraged and discontented because “I deserve better than this crowd!”
  • You will regard yourself as above the small/dirty jobs in the congregation.
  • You will stop learning because you know more than everyone else anyway.
  • You may fall into the “condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim.3:6).

The Personal Cure of Pride

Let these two phrases be the double heartbeat of our ministries.

1. I am a sinner

  • Remember what I was (think on the sins you’ve been delivered from)
  • Remember what I could be now (if God had not stopped you)
  • Remember what I still am (research your own heart )
  • Remember what I could yet be (if God removed His restraining grace)

2. I am a servant

  • A servant of God (not independent but dependent on God for commission, authority, blessing)
  • A servant of God’s people (not their lord or sovereign)
  • A servant of sinners (do not look down on the unsaved but get down on your knees for them)
  • A servant of servants (don’t compete with other pastors but serve them)
  • A servant of the Servant (who said, “I am among you as one who serves,” and, “the servant is not greater than his Master.”)

Picture: 2005 © James Hearn. Image from

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Murray,This was particularly challenging to me. Yesterday, we celebrated the life of our previous pastor (he died which precipitated my coming as pastor) by dedicating our Fellowship hall in his name. The way he was spoken of put me to shame. It was a humbling experience being there leading the special service while the previous pastor is extolled beyond imagination. It helps me to remember my place as a servant of the most high God. Thank you again for this post as it works with my experience yesterday in making me realize “it’s not all about me.”Allen Mickle

  • Mark

    I was an associate under a “beloved” pastor. It was eye opening to me how many people seemed to confuse Pastor with Christ.Sure, he was funny, nice, and had charisma like you wouldn’t believe, but I was so sad to see so many people give so much adoration to another person.I vowed to never let that happen.

  • Anonymous

    Are you a pastor friend of mine? Read this.

  • Dennis S

    First, I think you are actually suggesting that pride is the worst enemy of the preacher – not the pastor (though I understand many confuse the two).Second, I can see how someone wanting to lift up the need to be a “servant” (which also has the meaning of “slave”) would suggest that pride is the worst sin of the preacher.Consider however, that some measure of self-respect and pride may actually propel one forward, seeking harder for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, trusting that the gifts and experiences given are indeed from God, and used to illustrate the message preached from the Word.Nay, the worst enemy of the pastor is the pastor. The worst enemy of the preacher is the preacher. Unless you are going to personify pride in some particular way which places the highest burden upon the one behind the suggestions of pride.No, the worst enemy is the self, and particularly the bad habits and self-inflicted pains. And that which brings down the majority of preachers and pastors is not pride (from which a fall is quite a good lesson), but it is depression which apprehends and marshals the pastor or preacher from ministry. Unable to fulfill the expectations. Unable to heal everyone through prayer. Unable to take care of one’s own family – keeping the children from trouble, etc. It is depression which is the most difficult to overcome, the most difficult to go out from the study and visit the people, the most difficult to make the necessary decisions.Oh, pride does lead to a reversal at some point, but depression has the stranglehold which knocks out so many.

  • Philip (not real name)

    As a “recovering” pastor, I found that this article hit home with me. Although pride was not the only source of my burnout, I can identify with several things in the article. I am grateful, though, for the school of hard knocks, and this will hopefully prepare me for the future. May the Lord be merciful to those of us who have let pride hinder our service. PS: One thing I learned, too, is that it is not always the pastor who sees himself as “in charge.” Often the sheep come in with this mindset and then resist a disposition that is more perception than reality.

  • David Murray

    Sorry, when I was removing a certain comment, I accidentally removed this from Paul C:Thank you for this thoughtful review. Pride is definitely a struggle and something that God must help us all with.These were the words of CS Lewis on Pride:”There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”

  • David Murray

    Dennis: I agree that depression is also a great enemy of the Pastor. But even pastoral depression is often rooted in pride!Philip: Yes, the sheep are often to blame for the pastor’s pride.