Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Rick-Warren-photoDo you think it’s easier handling success or failure?  Thomas Carlyle once said, “For every 100 people who can handle adversity there is only one who can handle prosperity.”

I think most people can’t handle being at the top. It changes them. In fact, success destroys some people. There are several legitimate benefits of being in leadership:

  • Position—you can become more.
  • Power—you can do more.
  • Privilege—you can have more.

The extra effort and work you put in allows you more position, more power and more privilege. With each one of these comes a very great temptation that can be your downfall as a leader if you misuse it.  First Corinthians 10:12 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (NIV).

We’re going to look at the temptations of leadership, an appropriate thing if you read the newspaper, and the antidote. The three greatest nations of the world often face turmoil because of the abuses of leadership. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

1.  You will be tempted to misuse your position. Have you ever seen anyone get a promotion at work and they suddenly become a little dictator? It changes them. They’re a nice guy until they get the promotion. Then all of a sudden they start treating everybody demeaningly, derogatorily, making excessive demands on people. Unrealistic demands demoralize people.

Pastors are elders and overseers, and the shepherding of the church is in our hands. But this is not an excuse to abuse the influence granted to us and to exploit people. In fact, the Bible is clear that the church’s shepherd-leaders will be judged far more harshly because of their potential to influence people to move toward Christ or away from Him.

2.  You will be tempted to abuse your power. You can be a driver or a motivator. Drivers have no appreciation for the people they oversee, while motivators are constantly finding ways to empower the people around them. Your role as a pastor isn’t to hold people down and have them to serve your needs, but to elevate them and equip them to serve Jesus and change the world. In other words, the power God gave you as leaders isn’t for you; it’s for others.

3. You will be tempted to profit from your privileges. When The Purpose Driven Life went global, two things came into our lives that we never expected: a new global influence and a new financial affluence. Kay and I had to make a decision about what we would do with those resources. We decided to start reverse tithing. We started giving away 90 percent of the income we were receiving and living off the other 10 percent, and I stopped taking a salary. I’m Saddleback’s busiest volunteer!

When you decide to profit from the privileges of your leadership, you give people a reason to question your motives. That doesn’t mean pastors can’t be compensated in a generous way. It simply means that we have to check the motives of our heart as leaders to avoid any question about why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

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