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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!



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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John E Miller

commented on Feb 14, 2012

Everyone who preaches should take this instruction to heart. I feel the cutting edge of it myself. If we look at Ephesians 4:11 it is noteworthy that there are only four gifts named. Pastoring (shepherding) and teaching is one gift. Good shepherding wins hearts to listen to good teaching. A shepherd works hard in all weathers, all terrains as he protects, guards and leads his flock to fertile pastures where they can be well fed on the best food. Jesus said to Peter, "feed my lambs" and "feed my sheep". The sheep belong to Christ, He bought them with His precious blood. We can be proud of our Saviour, the Good Shepherd, but nothing else.

Dr. James Mcreynolds Mcreynolds

commented on Feb 14, 2012

James Evans McReynolds says ... Christ uses us when we are weak. Like an addict, powerless before God is our first step and we better not forget it. Jesus is inside us enabling us to share he Word of God, never the Word of Me.

Aaron Householder

commented on Feb 14, 2012

Great post! Your last two sentences are amazing.

Oun Kwon

commented on Feb 14, 2012

The single most danger for anyone in any relationship is (hunger for) 'power'. This includes those within the community of believers.

Robert Sickler

commented on Feb 15, 2012

Guess what, I think I have experienced every point you made. Took the discipline of the Lord for me to see that. Could have read your article 20 years ago and would not have seen myself in your writing. I pray that everyone who reads your article can see them self in it someplace.

Robert P. Gardner

commented on Feb 15, 2012

Peter Mead hits it right on the head in this discussion of pride as a hidden and subtle pitfall for pastoral leadership. As a pastor I strive to practice Rick Warren's advice that it's not about me but it's all about Him, and the Apostle John's statement words when he saw Christ that "I must decease, but He must increase."

Oun Kwon

commented on Feb 15, 2012

I'm curious why people have Warren Rick when they quote some 'mundane' truths? Has he become something like a reverend ;-<

John E Miller

commented on Feb 22, 2012

To include Rick Warren in this forum is a strange diversion. He lied on the Larry King show about his support for homosexual marriage. He signed the 2008 Yale Document that asserted that we Christians believed in the same God as Muslims. That is apostasy. Has he repented of these publicly known words, spoken and written?

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