Submission in Leadership
One of the major early themes in The Imitation of Christ is that of humility. I will be honest. I am not a big fan of humility. Humility is one of those things that constantly seems desperately out of grasp. Just when I feel like I am getting close to understanding it and getting it, it moves further away from me.
As a pastor however, I know its the one thing that I need the most. It is the one thing that fights against most pastor’s greatest temptation: Pride. It is a strange thing that pastors and leaders struggle so much with pride. We are supposed to be the ones who are most grounded in the scriptures, grace and truth. I think therein lies the problem. Pastors get lifted up as something that is impossible to live out. Really, pastors get lifted up as idols. Pastors become something to attain to and, dare I say, even worship. Somehow, we are supposed to have a greater access to truth and God than others. Sounds like a recipe for pride for me.
The truth is, all of us who are pastors know the truth. We struggle just like everyone else. We wrestle with our beliefs, our calling, our kids, our marriages, and even our faith. But we aren’t supposed to let all the people in our churches know that. So, we somehow fool ourselves that we are not really human. That we are not really like everyone else. We secretly wish that the rest of our congregation was more like us – after all, isn’t that what they basically tell us – that they aren’t like us?
I think Thomas a Kempis writes specifically to people who struggle with the things that pastors do when he writes,
How many perish through empty learning in this world, who care little for serving God. And because they love to be great more than to be humble, therefore they “have become vain in their imaginations. He only is truly great, who hath great charity. He is truly great who deemeth himself small, and counteth all height of honour as nothing. He is the truly wise man, who counteth all earthly things as dung that he may win Christ. And he is the truly learned man, who doeth the will of God, and forsaketh his own will.
The answer? The remedy to pride in pastors? I think the answer is simple, but complicated: submission. Thomas a Kempis writes later, “It is verily a great thing to live in obedience, to be under authority, and not be at our own disposal. Far safer it is to live in subjection than in a place of authority.”
Even pastors need to be under authority. Date I say, it is especially pastors who need to be submitting to others on a regular basis. As a pastor, I have found that one of the most important practices I have ever undertaken is that of mutual submission with those I am in leadership with and those I am in community with.