Preachers are particularly prone to pride. If that were not already self-evident, it ought to be now, given the recent termination of several high profile preachers for the stated cause of pride. Whether prominent preachers are growing more prideful, or whether churches are becoming more vigilant as to this particular sin is hard to discern. Either way, it is indisputable that preaching as a highly public act makes preachers susceptible to the sin of pride.
Pride is the first and fundamental core of every sin. At the heart of all sin is rebellion against the Creator, which is definitive for pride. Biblically, whenever we sin, we are saying that our desires and intentions are of a higher value and interest to us than that of God himself. This is pride and it has no place in our preaching.
There is a pressure on preachers in these days to build their personal brand. It is hard to argue that churches grow when the primary preacher is well known and appreciated. Preachers can improve the chances for their church’s growth if they are able to increase things like their follower and friend counts on social media, the amount and size of conferences that they speak at, and the number of book sales that their name can generate. None of this is necessarily bad, and it can all be very appropriate and powerful for the sake of the Kingdom. The downside is that it can feed our pride.
Sunday morning preaching can be an ego boost when preachers focus more on listener appreciation than on the hearing of the Word of God. It is easy to justify our enthusiasm for growth as a passion for God’s glory when it really is the way be which we feel good about ourselves. Preachers who need people to like them because of self esteem issues will feel this tension. Preachers who understand that their needs are met in Christ, can be free from the need to feed their pride.
There are ways that preachers and churches can mitigate these temptations. Allowing others to preach alongside us will be very helpful. Establishing strong accountability structures will be essential. Separating the role of the preacher from the role of administrative leader might also be a good idea, particularly in large ministries.
We need to take a moment to check ourselves. To what degree is our preaching about ourselves? What might we do to make ourselves more accountable? What might we do so that people see less of us and more of Christ whenever we stand up to preach?
Our preaching is not about us. Our preaching is about helping people hear from God. We do this because we are called. We do this because God has given us capacity. That we would be prideful about this betrays a fundamental problem with our conception of our task. Preaching is what God does. We are only servants of his Word. There is no place for pride in this.