A Retired Pastor's Thoughts on Preacher Arrogance


Browsing through Books-A-Million, I came across a book written by a preacher who is enamored with himself.

The cover was a full shot of the preacher. And, in the lower righthand corner were these words: "Not your typical preacher."

I was offended.

At breakfast the next morning, I asked my wife, "Why did that offend me?" She didn't hesitate. "Because it was so arrogant of him."

My thought exactly.

I wonder if that preacher's office is filled with stacks of these books. A hundred photos of his face stare back at him.

The man clearly does not want to be identified with "typical" preachers. He is "a cut above," in his thinking at least.

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Well, on second thought, maybe we preachers take small comfort that he is not typical. Most pastors are humble, hardworking and dedicated to doing the work of Christ. They are not prideful or self-exalting. They do not write books and plaster their photos across the cover.

"Not Your Typical Preacher"?

The last two preachers I met who prided themselves on being "different" turned out to be hypocrites. One was a serial adulterer and the other a gambler and alcoholic.

No doubt some men enter the ministry because of the attention they receive. They love the idea of hundreds—thousands, even!—sitting before them, eagerly taking in their every word. They preen and prance and practice their movements in order to impress and enchant.

Egotists love the idea of their sermons being telecast, their thoughts being published in magazines and books and their facial image being recognized across America.

It's not a new thing. You find them in Scripture.

Peacocks on Parade in Holy Writ

— When Jesus ministered in Galilee, they were the Pharisees. He said of them, "They love the places of honor at feasts, and the prominent seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the marketplaces, and being called 'Rabbi' by men" (Matt. 23:6-7). He added, "For he who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (23:12).

— Those Corinthians preachers strutting their stuff were calling themselves "super-apostles." Evidently, they were not content to lump themselves with the original 12. They were (ahem) "not your typical apostles." (See 2 Cor. 11 and 12 where Paul tells us about them.)

They were superior in knowledge to Paul, they said, and better in the pulpit. Doubtless, many of the most gullible in the pews were swallowing that slander. But instead of being true apostles, Paul says, these men were "false apostles and deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor. 11:13).

Interestingly—and we (ahem) typical preachers love this—Paul decides to play their little game. "Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast" (2 Cor. 11:18). And he does this in the most remarkable way, completely different from what was expected, but totally consistent with the true child of God.

Paul showed them his scars.

"In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep ..." (2 Cor. 11:23b-25).

So, Paul is saying, you might ask these self-promoting peacocks what scars they bear as a result of their faithful service.

Humility is not just a suggestion of Scripture. It is not just a good idea. Humility is an unfailing evidence of Christlikeness, a requirement for usefulness to the Lord, a rebuke to the carnal nature which insists on pre-eminence.

Scripture says we are to humble ourselves (1 Pet. 5:6). And daily, we might add. The ego does not go away easily but will recover from today's humiliation and show up tomorrow morning insisting on a place at the head table.

"I die daily," said the great apostle (1 Cor. 15:31b).

That's the only way to keep the ego in check.

Dan Crawford, retired professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, remembers when he was a new campus minister at the University of Texas. Dan was advised that in the upcoming graduation, it was "the Baptist's turn" to handle the invocation and benediction.

So, that day, this young student minister, fresh from seminary, donned his plain black robe and took his place toward the head of the processional in between the president of the institution and the speaker of the day, who was the head of a great university in the state. The long processional of professors was an impressive thing, each one robed in reds and blacks and blues, with their colorful hoods indicating his/her specialty.

Later, noting how out of place he looked in that group, a friend said, "Dan, you looked like a mudhen in a peacocks' parade."

That wonderful line became the title of a book of humorous reminiscences from Dan Crawford's career.

To stay with the metaphor, it occurs to us that pastors are to be mudhens. "He must increase, but I must decrease," said John the Baptist, thus providing a mantra for God's servants ever since (John 3:30).

I'm remembering the words of Frank Pollard, now in heaven but, for a quarter century, the highly esteemed pastor of our First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi (and preacher for the worldwide broadcast of The Baptist Hour). Asked how he wanted to be remembered after he was gone, Frank answered, "I don't want to be remembered; I'm just the messenger."

But many are not content to be the humble, non-entities. They want to be known, to be acclaimed, to be recognized, followed and adored.

These are the peacocks in the parade of mudhens.

God help us.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

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