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Preacher pride and leadership

By Sky McCracken

First United Methodist Church

During a sermon on Lent several years ago, I publicly confessed to the sin of pride. Someone afterwards told me, “You just said that to get conversation started. You aren’t prideful at all.” And while I buy and drive used cars, don’t color my hair, and am not very materialistic, I nonetheless have often been guilty of pride. In my case, preacher pride.
One day, something pinched the ring finger on my right hand. Hard. It was my seminary class ring, and it was cracked. It took a lot of soap and tugging to get it off my finger. The jeweler called it a “cracked ring shank.” My arthritic and swollen fingers had taken its toll on my ring.
Getting the ring replaced or fixed is not a big deal; it has a lifetime warranty. And it ought to: it cost a pretty penny when I got it and it was my birthday/graduation/Christmas present one year from my wife. I stared at it for a long time after I got it off my finger, and realized that I have been rather prideful about my education and ordination. That beautiful ring with my seminary’s crest told the world that I had a theological education from a prestigious school. Maybe I was wearing it for the wrong reasons. So for the time being, my ring is still cracked and at home on my dresser. All of my diplomas are framed… and in a closet. And while I am not ashamed of my ordination as a deacon and an elder, I have to remember that my REAL “ordination to ministry” began at my baptism. My ordinations are gifts from God and tools of the Church. I have NOT arrived. God certainly loves me no less than anyone else, but I doubt that God is impressed with my titles and credentials. So, years ago, I quit using them. I introduce myself to others by simply saying “you can call me Sky.” I’ve certainly been called worse.
When it comes to leadership, leadership HAS to be shared. Leadership HAS to be cultivated. Laity are called no less than clergy toward ministry in the Church, and indeed may do it even better than clergy! A very wise pastor once told me that being the pastor and spiritual leader of a church meant that one has to be proactive in guiding a church toward learning the scriptures, being proactive in their walk with Jesus, and being not hearers but also doers of the Word. At the same time, churches and communities already have very gifted leaders and spiritual depth among its numbers, and leaders have to be secure enough (and big enough) to get out of their way. Both require maturity, humility, and spiritual discernment to know the difference. We preachers, way too often, often think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.
Every baptized Christian is a minister, an ambassador of Jesus Christ, doing priestly work in His name. Being baptized is to be set apart from the world not just to to be disciples, but to MAKE disciples of Jesus Christ, per the Great Commission. For this season, especially for preachers, that may need to be our emphasis, and our confession. “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
Today, I confess my preacher pride – and give it up for Lent. What can we give up – and take on – for the Kingdom?
Sky McCracken is the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Jackson.



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