Pastor, you believe lies. Seriously, you do. As sinners, we believe lies every time we sin (we believe that God is not good, He does not love us, and He has not met our greatest need). However, pastors are prone to believe a very specific series of lies. These lies take on various forms that are attractive and even seductive to our pride.
I’ve found that one of the best defenses against believing falsehoods about myself is knowing the lies that tempt me and watching for them before I believe them. Here are some of the lies I’ve learned to call false before I believe them (again).
Lie #1: Jesus has called me to lead a movement –
No he hasn’t. Jesus has called you to serve as an under-shepherd (think, glorified water boy) for Him as He shepherds His church. Far too many seminary students enter the ministry presuming that God is going to give them a large platform to speak from and a movement to lead. Men who enter the pastorate with this in view end up seeing the Bride of Christ as something to use for selfish gain, rather than a people to love and serve. One of the refrains of my own ministry (to protect my heart from from this lie) is to constantly remind myself that God has called pastors to a ministry of death to self. Death in me, life in the church family (2 Cor. 4:12). Pastor, if you believe this lie, the only movement you’ve been called to lead is ushering yourself out of the pulpit and into the pew.
Lie #2: No one has ever fed us like you –
You’ve heard this lie. You’ve even believed this lie. Admit it. Someone in your church with good intentions (maybe) has told you that you’ve fed them (by your preaching) in a way that no pastor (or at least their last pastor) ever has. Unless this person has come from a gospel-less church, they're telling you a lie. Every gospel-preaching, Christ-honoring, expositional sermon preaching pastor is serving the same meat and potatoes in our sermons. I’m all for careful preparation and striving for excellence, but the meals you're providing in your sermons, from your pulpit, are NOT better than those of any other faithful preacher. You may garnish the serving dish differently, but you didn't make the meal. Don’t get cocky. We all offer up the same Bread of Life.
Lie #3: The church needs me –
No, it doesn't. The church has survived for the past 2,000 years without you. It will be just fine (maybe even better) once you retire or die. I’ve found that one of the best defenses against this lie is church history. When I read the words of godly men and women from centuries gone by, I realize that I’m just one in a long line of faithful believers. One of the best cures for my tendency toward self-aggrandizing arrogance is reading sermons from the early church fathers, selections from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, or the wisdom of the Reformers. In those moments, I realize that my “fearless” exposition of a difficult text isn't all that fearless or my useful pop-culture illustration will be worthless in a decade. The church needs her hero…the one who conquered death, hell, and the grave.
Lie #4: My personal holiness isn't as important as what people see in my public ministry –
If you have no pursuit of personal holiness, then you have a public performance of religiously motivated activities, but you do not have a ministry. What you do in private matters as much as (if not more than) what you do in the pulpit. How you love your family matters more than how you love someone else’s family. Your efforts to put sin to death matter more than your attempts to help others put sin to death.
I have three habits that help me combat my tendency to believe things that are not true. First, I hear the words of Christ from His Word. If you're only reading Scripture so you can tell others what it says, you're not reading the Bible correctly. You must hear, believe, and apply the words of Christ before you can share the words of Christ.
Second, I hear the words of Christ from His people. I regularly invite brothers, indwelled by the Spirit of Christ, to call me out for the lies I’m believing.
Third, I’m open about the lies I’ve believed. There is incredible freedom and accountability in admitting how you’ve been seduced by falsehoods. We combat these lies through sincere confession, believing truth, and resting in grace.
What lies do you believe? We all have a tendency to believe things about ourselves that are not true. Sometimes they are lies that feed the monster of pride (my tendency) and other times they're lies that cause us to doubt our security in the hands of grace. Believing truth requires us to see Jesus rightly, to rest in grace completely, and this will result in seeing ourselves accurately.