Here are three very easy things you can do if you want to dishonor God, cause a lot of heartache, and probably shorten your tenure as the pastor of a church:
1. Be proud.
Who would go into a church and be proud? All of us in some way or another. But it might not be the kind of pride you recognize. Naturally we’re going to avoid the overt, obvious pride, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the pride that’s there, even if no one sees it immediately on the surface. I’m talking about the kind of pride that leads you to think that you are—or will be soon—as good a preacher as John Piper or David Platt. Go into a church thinking that it won’t be long before you’re invited to be a Gospel Coalition Counsel Member, before John MacArthur invites you to speak at The Shepherds’ Conference, or before people are flocking in droves to hear you preach. This kind of pride leads you to think: these little people at this insignificant church are so blessed to have me and they don’t even realize it.
Christ died for those little people, and that insignificant church is God’s vanguard in the world. Go into it thinking that you’re too big for it, go into it proud, and you’ve got the dynamite in place to blow it up.
2. Make assumptions.
Assume these people don’t know what they’re doing. Assume none of them know what a wartime lifestyle is, that none of them are willing to suffer for the gospel or the church, and that they all have terrible theology. Assume you’re going to fix them. Assume that you’re as savvy and creative as Mark Dever, as funny and endearing as C. J. Mahaney, as respectable as Lig Duncan, and as likeable as Thabiti Anyabwile. Then assume that you’re going to be as wise and loving and as convincing as these men have been as they have shepherded churches toward greater faithfulness.
Combine your assumptions about the people and the church with your assumptions about your ability to preach and lead, and not only do you have the dynamite in place you have the matches in hand.
3. Don’t act like Jesus.
Ready to light the fuse? Be sure not to act like Jesus. What I mean in particular is this: don’t go into that church to serve but to be served. Wait for them to initiate conversations with you. Wait for them to ask you questions. Wait for them to invite you over to their homes, then complain when they don’t. Wait for them to ask you how they can help. Tell them how they can pray for you, but be sure not to ask them how you might pray for them. Give them the sense that you’re too important to spend time with them. Communicate very clearly that anytime they talk to you, their ignorance and impertinence annoys you. You don’t have to show them directly—you can make it known by the way you talk about them behind their backs, that will get back to them and next time they’ll know better than to approach you.
Wear the pride of knowing you’re the next Piper not on your sleeve but as your undershirt. It will show in ways you don’t expect. Assume that you will be as effective leading the church as Mark Dever. The ways you lack his gifting will soon be obvious. And carry yourself like an aristocrat, not like Jesus. He said the greatest would be the servant, but you’re already the greatest so you needn’t bother serving anyone.
The dynamite is in place. The match is in hand, lit, and you’ve set flame to fuse. The fallout from the explosion will be devastating.
I wrote this short piece for Towers a couple years ago and now post it here.