Lessons for a Young Pastor: Cultivate Humility

Every pastor needs a pastor, especially young pastors.  Timothy had Paul, and for young pastors today we have a wealth of experienced pastors (both past and present) to teach us through books, blogs and talks.

As a young pastor I want to and need to listen and learn from these men.

Here are some lessons I’ve learnt from a number of experienced pastors from the book ‘Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry’.

Here’s some notes from the next letter to pastor called Timothy (a composite character).

Lesson 20: Cultivate Humility

CJ Mahaney writes: “As best I can tell, pride was the first sin – among angels and among men.  And it would appear that pride is the essence of all sin, as well as the sin God finds most offensive.”

Why does God so hate pride?

“Charles Bridges summed it up well, “Pride lifts up the heart against God.  It contends for the supremacy with him.”  Pride is an attitude of self-sufficiency and independence toward God and of self-righteousness and superiority toward others.”

“The proper application of Scripture will always emphasise the weakening of pride and the cultivation of humility.  The proud man may respect God’s Word, he may believe it, he may teach it, but to tremble before it is the exclusive preserve of the humble.”

What practical steps can a pastor take to cultivate humility and tremble before God’s Word?

Here is CJ’s annual list of practices:

Study the attributes of God:

“Such contemplation will inevitably weaken your pride.  The greater your awareness of the difference between your self and God, the more you will experience and express humility.”

Never Stray from the Cross:

“Live as one who continually surveys – and from close range – the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.”

Study the doctrines of grace:

“These rich doctrines leave no room for self-congratulation.  Mark Webb writes, “God intentionally designed salvation so that no man can boast of it.  He didn’t merely arrange it so that boasting would be discouraged or kept to a minimum.  He planned it so that boasting would be absolutely excluded.  Election does precisely that.”

Study the doctrine of sin:

“Grasping the depth and depravity of one’s sin forbids any inflated view of self.”

Apply the doctrine of sin:

“The humble pastor is the man who does something about it, especially through confession and the pursuit of correction.”

Some pastor specific practices: 

Study diligently, but recognise your theological limitations: “Let us be appropriately affected by Calvin’s estimate that even the best theologians are probably right only 80 percent of the time… When instructing or counselling, an awareness of your limitations will have a softening and humbling effect on your attitude, your tone of voice and your conversation.”

Just before you preach, read Spurgeon: “Spurgeon shows you how it’s supposed to be done which reminds you that you can’t do it that way.”

Use unflattering illustrations of yourself in your sermons and counselling.

Recognise your relative unimportance.

Prepare to be replaced.

Play golf as often as possible: “and make sure you play with guys who won’t hesitate to draw attention to the awful shots you will inevitably make from time to time.”

Here is CJ’s daily list of practices: 

Begin the day acknowledging your dependence upon God, your need for God, and your confidence in God.

Set the tone for the day by expressing gratefulness to Him.

Practice the spiritual disciplines:

“The spiritual disciplines are a daily declaration and demonstration of my need for God and my dependence on Him.”

Seize your commute to and from the church office to memorise and meditate on Scripture.

All day long, at the moment you become aware of burdensome cares, cast them upon the Lord, who cares for you:

“All day, every day, I need to keep directing my thoughts to God, keep standing close to the cross, keep offering thanks for innumerable evidences of grace and keep casting my cares on the One who cares for me with such perfect love and faithfulness.”

At the end of the work day acknowledge that God is the only One who ever perfectly completes His daily to-do list.

At the end of the day, transfer all glory to God:

“For every evidence of fruitfulness or progress I’ve witnessed or experienced that day, I try to specifically acknowledge to God the undeniable fact that He alone is responsible.”

Before going to sleep at night, I acknowledge that sleep is a gift from the Creator to the creature:

“Sleep is a daily reminder that I am far from self-sufficient.”

[Taken from Chapter 7: Cultivate Humility by CJ Mahaney]