Pride and Spiritual Leadership by Tony Cooke

Pride and Spiritual Leadership
Tony Cooke

qualified tony cookeSpiritual leaders must be aware of and guard themselves against the intoxicating and devastating influence of pride, especially when experiencing success. Pride is insidious. It deceives the one infected, causing him to think "more" of himself, and "less" of God.

• Pride was a major factor in Lucifer’s downfall. Ezekiel 28:17 says, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty." The result of this pride? "…you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God"’ (Isaiah 14:13).

• The Apostle Paul taught that a novice was not to be appointed as a bishop, "…lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6).

• Before King Saul became prideful, arrogant, and disobedient, Samuel referred to an earlier time: "When you were small in your own sight, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed you king over Israel?" (1 Samuel 15:17, AMP).

• King Uzziah fell into pride after God had given him success. "…He did what was right in the sight of the LORD… and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper. So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong. But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction" (2 Chronicles 26:4-5, 15-16).

• Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

• James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 both say, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Others have observed the connection between power, success, and pride. In 1887, Lord Acton wrote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Before that, Abraham Lincoln had said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power." Gifted British author and Bible teacher, Donald Gee, said, "Any burst of popularity and success calls for a disciplined personality to sustain it untarnished. It can easily spell spiritual ruin. It takes a steady hand to carry a full cup."

Gordon Lindsay’s ministry allowed him to witness the rise and fall of many prominent ministers during the Pentecostal and healing revivals in America. He noted, "Some spiritual moves have been blessed of God, and then suddenly have faded away because of the presumptuous and erratic conduct of certain leaders. One such move occurred some years ago in America.

At first we rejoiced in this outpouring of the Spirit. But very soon we saw something develop that alarmed us. Some of the leaders were claiming that they were the ‘Powerhouse’ and all other churches were ‘dried up.’ They said that people should come to them to get recharged. When we saw such bold pretensions, we realized that the usefulness of such leaders could not last long."

Elsewhere, Lindsay wrote, "Certain men of God, once mightily used of the Lord were not able to stand prosperity, but became erratic and inconsistent in their conduct, and in the end passed from the scene under a cloud, and some even in disgrace. The human ego, unchecked, can only lead to one sad end—abasement and shame. This is God’s universe, and He will not share His glory with fleshly ambition. Spiritual security may be found only in humility."

Robert Foster said, "When we make ourselves more than nothing, we make God less than everything." Similarly, Andrew Murray noted, "As long as we are something, God cannot be all."

How Is Pride Revealed in Spiritual Leadership?

• Taking Credit for God’s Grace

Humble ministers not only recognize the absolute necessity of the ability of God at work in their lives, but they also recognize the valuable contributions of other people who work with them and for them. They are quick to give credit to others and to show gratitude for the service of others.

• Carnal Ambition

Jesus made it clear that His Kingdom was not going to be based on dog-eat-dog politics or the "get-ahead-at-any-cost" system of the world. In God’s Kingdom, it is His responsibility to call, appoint, and promote; it is man’s responsibility to serve.

• Self-Centeredness

Have you ever met people who were so self-focused that in conversation and in preaching, everything related back to them instead of to God or God’s people. If you were telling them about something that happened to you, they were quick to interrupt with, "That reminds of the time that I…" Someone said, "Conceit is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it."

• An Attitude of Superiority

Through inappropriate conduct, some leaders may actually be promoting and fueling the complaints that, by their very authority, they are trying to suppress. Certain leaders feel they should never be questioned: "Don’t question anything I say or do. What I say and do is right, because I am God’s man!" Such a presumptuous sense of infallibility is a sure indicator that pride has brought great blindness.

• The Absence of a Servant’s Heart

Jesus made it clear in His ministry that He had not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). If we forget that and begin to act like others are here to serve us, then we have made more of ourselves than Jesus made of Himself.

• Disregard for Others

Spiritual leaders should be courteous, polite, respectful, and appreciative of others. They should not be "respecters of persons," treating people of high standing with respect, while treating others in a condescending manner. Romans 12:16 (MSG) says, "Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody." The NLT renders the middle part of that verse, "Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people."

• Grandiosity

When grandiosity is present, truth is secondary to image-projection and image-maintenance. Everything is exaggerated. Numbers are stretched to make the leader look good. Stories are embellished. Name dropping is done regularly in an attempt to establish a glowing reputation and to boost one’s ego. Some preachers have personalized generic illustrations while preaching, presenting the story as though it was their story. Such deceptiveness is always a violation of personal integrity, and when discovered, damages a leader’s credibility.

A Word of Caution
There is certainly a bona fide way of exercising authority in legitimate spiritual leadership. There are times when leaders need to take a strong stand and deal firmly with certain situations; this does not make him a dictator or a tyrant.

A godly leader is not a doormat to be trampled upon by disgruntled "saints" or a piñata to be beaten by unruly congregants. Spiritual leadership is not found in the lack of authority, but in the proper use of authority. Even when Paul was dealing with conflict, he told believers, "I want to use the authority the Lord has given me to strengthen you, not to tear you down" (2 Corinthians 13:10, NLT).

This should be the heart-cry of every person in spiritual leadership. We lead to benefit those whom we have the privilege of serving. Our leadership should build, benefit, and bless others. Pride is a ministry killer, that is diametrically opposed to God’s nature and His plan for our lives.


This article is an excerpt from Tony’s book, "Qualified: Serving God with Integrity and Finishing Your Course with Honor. To order, click here.