Ephesians 4:1-2 - I therefore a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called with all humility…
The Lord loves humility in His people. In fact, humility is the foundation not only of all faithful Christian living, but all faithful Christian leadership.
The problem is this: Not only do we by nature rebel from humility, we live in a world that does not value humility. At times, even churches do not value humility.
Yet the Lord does. The Lord loves humility in His people. When we look at the Scriptures, we see passages all over the place that echo James 4:6, which reads: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
So the question is this: How do we cultivate and then practice true humility as leaders in Christ's Church? Hopefully the following 7 strategies can help us:
1. Don’t do everything. This is obvious, but it needs to be stated. You’ll burn yourself out and stifle the gifts of others if you try to do everything. Humble leaders don't try and do everything. By not doing everything, you communicate to those in your congregation, "I'm not irreplaceable."
2. Intentionally develop other leaders. We are called in Ephesians 4 to ”equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Intentional, strategic leadership development helps to create a culture where teamwork and cooperation are core values. This increasingly helps take the spotlight off of you and onto others.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Get in touch with seminary profs and other effective church leaders. Make contact with churches you respect and learn from them. Build a network and learn from others. You and your church have an important part to play in the advancement of the Kingdom of God, but never forget you are just one part. Ask for help.
4. Pray that the Lord won’t give you "success" until you don’t want it anymore. For many church leaders, "success" equals numbers, numbers, numbers. More people coming to my church. More money being given. Larger and nicer facilities. Increasing numbers of twitter and Instagram followers. Sadly, this type of measurement for success typically leads church leaders on a path toward pride or despair depending on how much "success" they are experiencing at the moment. When we are struggling with the pride that so easily comes when we obsessively long for this kind of "success," may we plead with God in humility to change our hearts. To plead with the Lord to put to death our desire for popularity and fame. To daily beg the Lord to use us for His glory and not our own.
5. Grow in and practice self-awareness. Know how you are gifted and how you aren’t. Different people are given different gifts by God. This is a good and beautiful thing. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with those who complement your gifting. Don’t feel threatened by those who are more gifted than you. This is good for your heart. This type of humble honesty helps to keep your pride in check and protects others from putting you on a pedestal where you don't belong.
6. Share the pulpit...a bunch. Any church that is built on one preacher is vulnerable to making that individual the hero, rather than Jesus. As Jared Wilson writes, "Your church needs to know that it is the Bible properly taught that is their source of strength, not a particular man and only that man teaching it. This is the inner error in many video venue enterprises. Some will say the satellite would not be viable without the "celebrity" preacher preaching, in which case I think it could be argued that if it could not survive without a particular person's voice, it is not viable to begin with. (What happens if that pastor has a heart attack? Does every satellite shut down? Or do they just play old videos?).” Sharing the pulpit on a regular basis, especially with gifted preachers, helps to keep a pastor humble. It helps to keep Jesus the hero.
7. Extravagantly encourage those you lead. Encouragement is vital to humble leadership in the church. Sadly, many leaders struggle with encouraging others for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is pride. In our heart of hearts we think things like: "If I encourage him (or her) too much, he might begin to think, or others may begin to think, that he is better than I am at this or that. I can't let that happen." This is a sick heart posture to have as a leader, but I think it is present in the hearts of far too many of us. Let us seek, by God's grace, to cultivate humility in our hearts and our leadership by putting into practice Paul's words in 1 Thes. 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up." Encouraging others extravagantly is a powerful weapon in the fight against pride and the desire to be gloried in.