Why some preachers have oversized egos. What to do about it.

A pastor friend who serves a large church pulled together a half-dozen preachers who serve some of the largest Protestant churches in his city. He had a burden for unity within the Christian community and felt a good place to start would be with these shepherds to whom everyone else looked up.

He opened by saying, “I’m going to ask you to leave your egos at the door.” He paused a moment, then added, “And there are some mighty huge egos in this room!”

They laughed, no one was offended, and they did business together.

Now, before anyone reacts to that, we need to say that not all ego is bad.

If by “ego,” we mean a strong sense of who you are, that’s good. If by “ego,” we mean confidence in yourself and the calling of God upon your life, no problem there.

That is clearly what Jerry Clower was referring to when he told a group of preachers, “If you don’t have you an ego, go get you one, because you’re going to be needing one!”

No one who tiptoes timidly into the pulpit and cautiously offers a gentle helping of watered-down gospel with the hope that someone might be blessed but no one will be offended is going to get a hearing from the Lord’s people or receive Heaven’s power.

Frankly, the Lord doesn’t want that.

And no one is suggesting it here.

What we are saying here is you and I who are preachers will have far more trouble out of our oversized egos than we ever will with our timidity and feelings of inferiority.

How preachers get inflated egos…

1) They are the “point man” for the congregation. The church looks to them for leadership.

2) They deliver “God’s message.” Humanly speaking, just standing before the crowd, having everyone look your way, giving you their undivided attention for a full half-hour a couple of times a week, year after year, can be pretty heady.  Add to that mix that in most cases, the people attribute a divine aspect to your sermon–“you are bringing the Lord’s Word to us”–and you had better sandbag your feet to the ground.

3) In many cases, the pastor’s word is law around the church, and no one dare contradict it.

4) He gets the bigfest salary among all the church employees.

5)The congregation looks upon him as the boss of all the other employees.

6) He tends to get far more gifts than any other employee of the church.

7) Often, his image is telecast live throughout the region and outsiders know who he is, even granting him celebrity status.

8) Often, his voice is broadcast on radio far and wide, and his opinions/thoughts/convictions become well known.  He is given trust and respect and followed.

9) If his church does well, the minister becomes known by  the denomination and he receives honors.

10) If he becomes well known, he receives invitations to travel to other cities–or even other countries–and speak, where he is treated like a rock star.

Truth be told, it takes a strong person to withstand the heady rush of gifts and accolades, honors and acclaim, and remain humble.

The dangers of an inflated ego in ministers…

1) You begin feeling you are something special.

2) You start thinking the church is all about you.

3) You start expecting special treatment from everyone.

4) You begin believing the rules do not apply to you, because you are in a class by yourself.

5) You no longer want to do the mundane tasks other ministers do; you are (ahem) beyond that.

6) You stay away from the local pastors’ conference because most of those ministers serve smaller churches and a big shot like you has so little in common with them.

7) You begin spending money to (ahem, again!) “maintain appearances” because “people expect us to live in certain ways.” Also, because “we’ve worked hard and we deserve this.”

8) You look down on people whom you consider less than you, the “little people.”

9) And God quits using you. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).

10) Your wife and children do one of two things, both of them bad: they either join you in this ungodly, materialistic lifestyle and you end up raising self-centered brats, or they resent the blatant hypocrisy they see in you and begin resisting church altogether, meaning you are raising pagans.

The solution for an inflated ego…

1) The best approach is to humble yourself.  Scripture tells us to do this (see I Peter 5:6).  I’ve heard people pray, “O Lord, humble me.”  Not a good thing to pray, my friend. When the Almighty humbles you, He does it with a mighty hand, and sometimes the patient does not survive the experience. Look at what He did to the mighty Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. Better to humble yourself.

2) The second best approach is for the people nearest the pastor to speak the truth to him and not play his little game, to not indulge his delusions of grandeur.  It will take several people working as a team to pull this off. If the wife tries to get through to the egotistical husband alone, he will resist her and then resent her.  Likewise, if a best friend tries it. But when three or four trusted friends work with the wife and perhaps another adult family member and parachute into his schedule one day with a major interruption, they might wake him up.

3) The third best approach is for the official board at the church–elders, deacons, personnel, whoever–to go as a group, or have three of their leaders go, and get tough with him. The reason this is the third best is because it’s more disruptive and could end up causing as much trouble as it seeks to cure.

What does “get tough” mean?

–The egotistical pastor who is now reorganizing his ministry and his daily routine in keeping with the demands of his new inflated identity must be called back to reality.

–He must be told not by one spokesperson for the group, but individually by each person calling on him, what an insufferable snob he is becoming and that this cannot continue.

–They must have some specific examples of his behavior.

–They must have a specific recommendation or two.  In the case of the third approach–the official board–they may need to inform him that his continued employment at the church is in jeopardy.  That should get his attention.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

“For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).



2 thoughts on “Why some preachers have oversized egos. What to do about it.

  1. Good article. I would add a couple of points:
    1) Most of the preachers I have seen on television are absolute turkeys: stupid names, full-of-themselves, preening, uneducated, money-grubbing, tellers of stories you know cannot be true: in almost all cases, they are frankly laughable and a profound embarrassment to real Christianity
    2) Almost none of the ‘leaders’ with the big egos would survive for 6 months in the professional world: in academia, the health professions, etc. They can be ever so big among the credulous yes-people surrounding them, but would be quickly cut down to size in the real world. Let’s get back to what C S Lewis called ‘mere Christianity’.

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