This Guest Post is from my friend and colleague Mark Seager. I love it when he guest posts because his insights and perspectives are really a fresh breath of air every time I read them.
Pogo’s iconic declaration that “We have met the enemy…and he is us” ought to be in any ministry playbook. Teaming up with Satan and the world system to neutralize Kingdom progress through each of us is…our self…our flesh.
Being in church world for a long time, I can relegate “the flesh” to one of the churchy platitudes I use to ignore a clear and present reality. So I need a more visceral term for it that jolts me with the horror and reality of my foe. Hubris is such a word. Even the sound of it bristles with arrogance. Hubris is pride, and God hates it (Proverbs 16:5).
Most of us in ministry don’t plan to exude hubris, but it manages to weasel its way into our thinking and infect everything we touch. Since hubris enters so subtly, we need to detect and destroy it before it controls us. But how? Just as our cars have “check engine” warning lights, there are some “check engine” lights in our lives alerting us its malevolent influence. Some that I’ve seen flash up in my life are:
- Prayerlessness – when I slog away at ministry without including God in the plans, its time to rearrange my priorities (1 Samuel 12:23-25).
- Isolation – I get so wrapped up in my own world that I don’t let anyone in close enough to give me objective feedback, criticism, and encouragement.
- Ownership confusion (referring to it as ”my” ministry) – as we’ve all heard, “it ain’t about us, it’s about God.” If it’s about us, then we’re going in the opposite direction God intends.
- Thin skin (I don’t take criticism well) – I get stressed because I’m working apart from Christ, so any criticism of “my” work is taken personally.
- Anxiousness – I worry and fret, obsessing with the tangibles of “my” ministry (e.g. numbers, quality of facility, etc.)
These are some of the warning lights that I’ve had go off at various times in ministry. They are all good indicators that the beast within – my hubris – is getting the upper hand. It must be defeated. How? By seeking and relying on God’s grace for everything. Admitting that apart from Christ, I can do nothing. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double‑minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. ~ James 4:6-10 (NIV)