For the past couple of weeks, we have been using the book, The Choice, to help us understand how to pursue outcomes that go beyond looking at how many people we serve and how much money we are able to raise. Instead, a focus on kingdom outcomes helps us to focus on the eternal work we are doing as we build kingdom outcomes. Today, our focus is on another temptation that is oh so easy for nonprofit and ministry leaders – pride!
I don’t believe that any nonprofit or ministry is started out of pride, but what I have seen is that somewhere along the line, pride begins to seep in. And while we may think that just a little won’t hurt anything, we need to be aware that pride, unless stomped out, never stays small. Instead, it grows just like the weeds in your yard or garden. It must be removed at the first sign of growth.
There are three realities that pride brings into view.
The first is that our actions reveal the condition of our heart. Are you pushing for results? This could reveal an unspoken belief that God needs you. Do you believe that if you don’t do “it” then it won’t get done?
Before you say, “never,” too quickly, let’s look at ways this can come through. This message can come through in your newsletters, fundraising appeals and other communications. Pride can be masked as zeal. Unfortunately, we can also take Scripture out of context to rationalize our behavior.
Next, to avoid falling into pride’s trip, we must see every decision as an opportunity to discern God’s agenda for the organization. It is easy to forget that everything we do and build is really all God’s anyway. Some questions to ask:
How do we respond when we have an opportunity to make a name for ourselves? Do we jump at the chance?
What if we discerned through prayer that the organization were to shrink by 20% next year? How would the board respond?
What if we felt that God was calling us to leave our position? Would we secretly believe the organization would not continue without us?
The authors of The Choice say that our greatest obstacle to responding in obedience to God’s direction may be corporate pride that refuses to allow the organization to report anything but success in controlling ends and achieving growth.
Finally, a third understanding of the temptation of pride is that God is in control, any other view is driven by pride. This aligns with the concept of following God’s leading even when it doesn’t make sense to accomplish his vision for the ministry or nonprofit and not our own.
If we are truly honest, we must admit that for each of us, pride will sometimes get in the way of allowing God to fully lead our lives. We take pride in our to-do lists and our schedules that leave little room for God or anyone else. We take pride in our outputs – the numbers served, the money raised, etc. As a result, we can get in a vicious cycle of doing…and unless we are doing, we believe that it won’t get done.
But, there is a choice to make. The burden is not on us for the outcomes. We are simply to be obedient and respond to God’s leading. This should allow us to live and work from a position of freedom. This may mean that we have to get comfortable with not caring what others think as we live a life of obedience and faithfulness. It is obedience and faithfulness that need to drive us in our work.
“God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble…. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
~James 4:6, 10