It is important to recognize the harvest of self-glory in you and in your ministry. May God use this list to give you diagnostic wisdom. May he use it to expose your heart and to redirect your ministry.
Self-glory will cause you to:
1. Parade in public what should be kept in private.
The Pharisees live for us as a primary example. Because they saw their lives as glorious, they were quick to parade that glory before watching eyes. The more you think you've arrived and the less you see yourself as daily needing rescuing grace, the more you will tend to be self-referencing and self-congratulating. Because you are attentive to self-glory, you will work to get greater glory even when you aren't aware that you're doing it. You will tend to tell personal stories that make you the hero. You will find ways, in public settings, of talking about private acts of faith. Because you think you're worthy of acclaim, you will seek the acclaim of others by finding ways to present yourself as “godly.”
I know most pastors reading this column will think they would never do this. But I am convinced there is a whole lot more “righteousness parading” in pastoral ministry than we would tend to think. It is one of the reasons I find pastors' conferences, presbytery meetings, general assemblies, ministeriums, and church planting gatherings uncomfortable at times. Around the table after a session, these gatherings can degenerate into a pastoral ministry “spitting contest” where we are tempted to be less than honest about what's really going on in our hearts and ministries. After celebrating the glory of the grace of the gospel there is way too much self-congratulatory glory taking by people who seem to need more acclaim than they deserve.
2. Be way too self-referencing.
We all know it, we've all seen it, we've all been uncomfortable with it, and we've all done it. Proud people tend to talk about themselves a lot. Proud people tend to like their opinions more than the opinions of others. Proud people think their stories are more interesting and engaging than others. Proud people think they know and understand more than others. Proud people think they've earned the right to be heard. Proud people, because they are basically proud of what they know and what they've done, talk a lot about both. Proud people don't reference weakness. Proud people don't talk about failure. Proud people don't confess sin. So proud people are better at putting the spotlight on themselves than they are at shining the light of their stories and opinions on God's glorious and utterly undeserved grace.
3. Talk when you should be quiet.
When you think you've arrived, you are quite proud of and confident in your opinions. You trust your opinions, so you are not as interested in the opinions of others as you should be. You will tend to want your thoughts, perspectives, and viewpoints to win the day in any given meeting or conversation. This means you will be way more comfortable than you should be with dominating a gathering with your talk. You will fail to see that in a multitude of counsel there is wisdom. You will fail to see the essential ministry of the body of Christ in your life. You will fail to recognize your bias and spiritual blindness. So you won't come to meetings formal or informal with a personal sense of need for what others have to offer, and you will control the talk more than you should.
4. Be quiet when you should speak.
Self-glory can go the other way as well. Leaders who are too self-confident, who unwittingly attribute to themselves what could only have been accomplished by grace, often see meetings as a waste of time. Because they are proud, they are too independent, so meetings tend to be viewed as an irritating and unhelpful interruption of an already overburdened ministry schedule. Because of this they will either blow meetings off or tolerate the gathering, attempting to bring it to a close as quickly as possible. So they don't throw their ideas out for consideration and evaluation because, frankly, they don't think they need it. And when their ideas are on the table and being debated, they don't jump into the fray, because they think that what they have opined or proposed simply doesn't need to be defended. Self-glory will cause you to speak too much when you should listen and to feel no need to speak when you surely should.
5. Care too much about what people think about you.
When you have fallen into thinking that you're something, you want people to recognize the something. Again, you see this in the Pharisees: personal assessments of self-glory always lead to glory-seeking behavior. People who think they have arrived can become all too aware of how others respond to them. Because you're hyper-vigilant, watching the way the people in your ministry respond, you probably don't even realize how you do things for self-acclaim.
Sadly, we often minister the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of our own glory, not for the glory of Christ or the redemption of the people under our care. I have done this. I have thought during the preparation for a sermon that a certain point, put a certain way, would win a detractor, and I have watched for certain people's reactions as I have preached. In these moments, in the preaching and preparation of a sermon, I had forsaken my calling as the ambassador of the eternal glory of another for the purpose of my acquiring the temporary praise of men.
Next week we'll look at five more signs the pursuit of self-glory shapes your ministry.