I’m often asked what I think is the greatest challenge facing the Church. People expect me to say worship styles, millennials, politics, or culture, all definite challenges. There is, in my opinion, a commonality underlying those and other challenges: a lack of humility. Many of the conflicts I see tearing churches apart stem from individuals, whether they be pastors, leaders, members, etc., believing their opinion is the only valid one. I have known too many pastors who see themselves as the sole leader, as well as too many members who view themselves as the principal owner of the church. Its not only churches that are torn apart by a lack of humility, but relationships. I witnessed many relationships obliterated because one or more in the relationship are convinced of the absolute superiority of their views, abilities, accomplishments, etc. A lack of humility is therefore causing major problems not only in our churches, but in our lives.
One of the most powerful lines I’ve read about humility comes from Ken Blanchard in his book Lead Like Jesus. He writes that “the most persistent barrier to leading like Jesus is a heart motivated by self-interest.” I think you could replace the word “leading” with living, serving, or loving. What often keeps us from being like Jesus in the Church and in life is our self-interest. Jesus had every reason to not be humble because, unlike us, He actually was/is all-knowing and perfect. Yet, Jesus was incredibly humble. He humbled himself to live among us in the flesh, to patiently teach us, to love and heal all types of people, and to sacrificially die on the cross for the sins of people far less worthy and holy than himself. Jesus was not focused on being right, but on making the world right with God. Look at how Paul puts it in Philippians 2:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:3-7
Fred Smith wisely notes that “people with humility don’t deny their power; they just recognize it passes through them, not from them.” I love that! What is important is not what abilities, thoughts, or power we have, but what abilities and powers we have been GIVEN by God to benefit others. I encourage us to stop being so concerned about being right, about being the best, and about our own self-interests. Instead, lets be grateful for what God has GIVEN us, and humbly share what we have been given with others for God’s glory.