Step 1 to Church Failure: Easy to Fall Into

Hubris: noun; excessive pride or self-confidence.

Proverbs 16:18 says that, “pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” Perhaps this biblical admonition should make step one obvious.

According to Jim Collins, when he analyzed the failing businesses in his study, they all started with Hubris bred by success. I believe that, like scripture says, Church demise starts with excessive pride too.

According to the book, “How the Mighty Fall”, the author, Mr. Collins, points to various types of hubris. I hadn’t thought that there’s different ways to be prideful, but as he points out, pride acts out in several ways. Often, if we think that hubris looks a certain way, we may overlook the fact that we (or your church leadership) are exhibiting this sin.

Success Entitlement that Leads to Arrogance. A Pastor who is wildly successful often starts becoming confident in his decisions. It then gets to a point that “Success” is deserved. Pastors start to act like they can change everything and anything — and never be concerned that they will fail. Changing service times, rearranging Sunday School classes or altering service structures. I’m sure there are lots more. Change is fine, but success isn’t guaranteed. When concerns or failure is discussed, a hubris leader will ignore the negative and expect success.

Neglect of the “Main Thing”. We’ve all seen the circus act where a person starts spinning a plate on a stick, then they start others, and even more. Eventually the person has to go back to the first plate and take care of it, or it’ll fall. Once there’s so many plates in the air, it becomes harder and harder to keep the “first plate” spinning. Pastoral leadership has to determine what their “main thing” is for their church (that helped create success in the first place) and make sure it’s getting the attention it deserves. Many Pastors don’t even know what their “key service” is — and they seek so many random things (expecting them to succeed) that everything eventually crashes.

“What” replaces “Why”. A congregation or leaders become so involved in the “what” of programming, that the programs take the place of the “why” of the program. Understanding and insight must always rule. But the arrogance of some Pastoral leadership forgets why the Church is having success and simply start more and more programs — and of course, expect success. Preaching that the congregation must be at services is different from teaching on the support of believers and encouraging on another.

Decline in Learning Orientation. Almost every successful leader that I know has an insatiable desire to learn more. They study and ask questions to everyone they run into. Even at the height of success, they continue to seek ways to get better from others and sample opinions of people in their audience. This is why deacon boards are in place — much like boards of directors — they offer insight. Once hubris taints the leader, they start to feel like they have all the answers, so often you hear the leader “telling” instead of “asking”.

Discounting the Role of God. Jim Collins calls it luck, but as a believer, I invalidate luck. God is in control of every situation, and when good things happen, it’s because of God. Period. I believe that the Proverbs 16:18 warning indicates a fall because, we as leaders, start to feel that it’s our rules, policies, programs, intelligence that leads to success — and God doesn’t enter the picture at all. I’m not discounting all those important things, but they aren’t “key” to success. God is.

If you’re like me, once I read these in the Collin’s book, I prayed that I certainly hope that pride isn’t in my life. “Lord, please wash it from any of my thoughts and actions”.

But for those Churches that don’t pull back from this Step, they are destined for the next. We’ll review that next week — I post these Sunday evening.

What are your thoughts about pride? Hubris? What are some examples you’ve seen in Churches?

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