Did you see the opening battle scene in Saving Private Ryan? Imagine the most frightening and dangerous terrain from any war movie. What if pride is the threat and preaching is the mission? Uh-oh, it looks dangerous:
1. Preaching involves speaking to others about their lives. Of course, it can be “we” rather than just “you” (as if you are the finished product!), but even so, there is massive temptation to pride when being the dispenser of spiritual input.
2. You might be effective as a preacher. This doesn’t help because you will then receive affirmation and even admiration from people helped by your ministry. Warning!
3. You might be rubbish as a preacher, but never fear, there are plenty of people who will be polite and affirm your ministry anyway. False affirmation and feedback is a frequent feature of church lobbies and doorways.
4. You might be trained, equipped and well-informed. That might mean numerous years of high level academic training. Or it might mean you read a book during preparation. Either way, you may be, or perceive yourself to be, beyond others in your knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, careful!
5. Up-front ministry will get kudos other ministries won’t. So you’re up front in the church. People will talk to you and about you and they will see you and they know you. A ridiculously low-level celebrity status awaits everyone who steps into a pulpit. Warning!
6. What if you see lives change “under your ministry”? That’s a scary thought, since you might think you achieved that.
7. The enemy would love to see you believing the hype. Was it Spurgeon who was approached by a congregant and told that was the best sermon she’d ever heard, only to reply, “The Devil has already told me that.”
8. Public speaking presents continual opportunity to perform, or as we might say to children, “show off.” Listen to me, see what I know, watch as I impress you with my Greek, or cultural awareness, or translation critique, or ministry experience, or name drop, or … warning!
9. You are not yet glorified, so your flesh is still pre-programmed with a prideful operating system. So you are not immune to any of this.
10. You may find it hard to have genuine close friendships since you are in a position of influence, so you will be lonely and vulnerable while everybody affirms and endorses your spirituality.
11. You may find yourself, or put yourself, in a separate spiritual category to everyone else. Sort of a clerical bubble that promises immunity from spiritual struggle, but guarantees a greater exposure to the attractive fruit of temptation.
12. There are probably a dozen more reasons that pride may be lurking behind every pew as you stand to preach.
To be honest, I think the terrain looks absolutely frightening, terrifying, a deadly terrain.
The only way to go there is in absolute reliance on God!