9 Signs of a Prideful Heart (Article + Podcast)

God resists the proud (James 4:6), which is bad news for a church if it is full of pride. Spiritually dry and deadlocked churches are usually filled with pride. They’re spiritually stuck because God is literally resisting their efforts. What they’re doing might seem good on the surface, but their motivations are displeasing to God.

Spiritually dry and deadlocked churches are usually filled with pride. They’re spiritually stuck because God is literally resisting their efforts.

Scripture is very clear about proper motivations; God doesn’t just care what we do. He cares how and why we do it. For example, God doesn’t just want us to give, and He wants us to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). Jesus warned against displaying our righteousness just to be seen and admired by others; there’s no reward for that kind of conceited righteousness (Matthew 6:1). Paul even warned that preaching the Gospel must be done for the right reasons (1 Thessalonians 2:4). In a staggering display of immaturity, the disciples asked Jesus to decide who was the greatest in the kingdom; Jesus took it as an opportunity to teach them that without childlike humility, they would never see the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-35).

Scripture is very clear about proper motivations; God doesn’t just care what we do. He cares how and why we do it.

In a generation obsessed with talent competitions and spotlights, it’s no surprise that the thirst for attention has crept into the Church. It’s evidenced in pulpits and pews. It’s on full display if you know the signs. There are certain “tells” or “giveaways,” so to speak. There really is no way to overemphasize the importance of guarding our churches against being infected with prideful leaders. Even more importantly, we should carefully monitor our own motivations and quickly adjust when and where needed. Below are nine sure signs of a prideful heart. I use this list to check my own motives and those seeking positions or platforms in my local church. Many of these principles are universal and can be translated into any paradigm or organization.  

  1. They want to SING but they don’t want to SERVE.

  2. They want to PREACH but they don’t want to PRAISE.

  3. They want to LEAD but they don’t like LEADERSHIP.

  4. They want to TAKE but they don’t want to GIVE.

  5. They want RESPECT but they don’t show RESPECT.

  6. They want the SPOTLIGHT but they resent SACRIFICE.

  7. They like PUBLIC EMOTIONS but they dislike PRIVATE DEVOTIONS.

  8. They are SELFISH rather than SELFLESS.

  9. They produce FOLLOWERS rather than DISCIPLES of Jesus.

Now reread this list, but this time replace “they” with “I” and be brutally honest with yourself.

AVP Ep. 44 | 9 Signs of a Prideful Heart

The Narcissism of Knowing

In the age of Twitter-isms where people ineffectively whittle truths down to grotesque snippets of useless information, it’s significantly rare for a tweet to grab my attention, much less cause me to linger for hours in thought. So, it took me off guard when I scrolled across a tweet from Kevin DeYoung (who remains one of my favorite authors despite our vast theological differences) that stopped me mid-sip of Coke Zero.

Loads Only God Can Carry

DeYoung’s tweet said: In our internet age, it is easy to be overwhelmed with burdens that only God is meant to carry (@RevKevDeYoung). Admittedly, I’m a bit weird and prone to introspective fits of circular thought, but if you chew on DeYoung’s tweet for just a minute, undoubtedly, you’ll feel anxiety lift off your shoulders too. Because it’s profoundly satisfying to admit some burdens are too heavy for we finite humans to carry. Some loads are so enormous only God can carry them.

The Global Mental Crisis

We live in the golden age of the internet with global this and global that. Our economy is global. Our food is global. Our goods are global. With the click of a button, we have access to worldwide information. And while much of this is excellent, with it comes worries that previous societies did not entertain. For example, take the love-hate relationship most people have with social media. It gives us more unfettered access to daily information about other human beings. That steady stream of data can be nice, but it can also be stressful and worrisome. People often say our world has grown smaller, but the reality is that the world is just as big as it’s ever been. However, our sphere of awareness has increased exponentially. This ever-growing sphere of awareness means our sphere of worry has grown and continues to grow at the same pace. New knowledge generates new anxieties from which we once had a measure of blissful ignorance.

Worried About What?

Psychologists have recently begun to notice a concerning pattern in their patients that ties into our topic at hand. Frequently individuals who are otherwise healthy seeking help for their anxiety are suffering from worry, but they aren’t sure what precisely has them worried. In other words, they’re anxious, and they don’t know why they are anxious. This troubling trend has led some health care professionals to prescribe a temporary distancing from the news, the internet, smartphones, and social media. Interestingly, in most cases, this led to a dramatic decrease in reported anxiety. A quick Google search will tell you that most psychologists attribute this almost wholly to social media. Mainly because of the unhealthy comparisons social media causes individuals to make either consciously or subconsciously. For many people, when they distance themselves from social media, their happiness increases drastically. But what if there is more to the story? You probably don’t need a statistic to tell you stress and anxiety levels are at all-time highs. And it certainly isn’t just because we’re all comparing ourselves to someone else’s Instagram.

Global Problems at the Local Level

I’m not anti-technology, nor do I look at the past with rose-colored glasses. Technology is just a tool that can be used for good or evil, and every past generation had its particular set of struggles and dangers. However, you don’t have to go too far back in history to find a time when people, in general, were far less neurotic and narcissistic (self-absorbed). For the most part, they were consumed with the problems of their families and their local communities. Those problems were real and very concerning, to be sure, but vast universal problems were only vague shadows on their radar screens. In my opinion, the rapid proliferation of modern information leaves the average individual feeling helpless and hopelessly aware of problems beyond their ability to solve. And, when they try to solve global problems, a significant disconnect from local reality occurs. For example, it isn’t uncommon to see local churches diligently striving to solve major water shortages on the other side of the world. That sort of social gospel works like a placebo that triggers a temporary dopamine spike. Everyone wants to feel like they’re making a global impact. Meanwhile, in their local community, their neighbors are still struggling in countless physical and spiritual ways.

The Disconnect

You see, global awareness can produce shortsightedness in our local area. Many people have settled for “feeling” like they’ve made a difference instead of making a difference. Flying into a third-world country for a photoshoot is way different than the hard work of loving our actual neighbors. That disconnect alone is enough to cause all kinds of anxieties. The concept of being a world changer is alluring. It almost makes Jesus’ call to love our neighbors sound a little shortsighted. But Jesus gave us achievable goals that, if followed, do change the world.

I Don’t Want to Know

For a good portion of my life, I genuinely longed for the ability to know the future. At the very least, I really wanted to know the details of my future. The tension of not knowing how certain things would turn out left me feeling frustrated with God. In those days, much of my prayer life revolved around asking God to reveal things to me. I arrogantly assumed that knowing would give me confidence. God never answered those prayers. And I’m glad He didn’t. If past Ryan had known some of the things future Ryan would endure, he would’ve run away kicking and screaming. I look back on those times and shake my head in amazement. Now I understand that only God can handle knowing the future with all its twists and turns. It was incredibly narcissistic of me to long for something I couldn’t have managed. I’m at peace with not knowing because I know God knows, and that’s enough for me.

Laying Unbearable Burdens Down in Prayer

Oddly enough, that brings us full circle back to the little tweet that started this whole thought process: In our internet age, it is easy to be overwhelmed with burdens that only God is meant to carry (@RevKevDeYoung). How often do we narcissistically worry about things we cannot fix? We have so much knowledge and so little power. My worry won’t fix a thing. Just knowing about a whole lot of issues and problems won’t change a thing. But I can pray. I can lay all these burdens down at God’s feet and trust that He knows what He’s doing. He was the solution long before there was a problem, and He was the answer long before the question was asked.

Special Guest Stan Gleason & Book Review of Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker

If you’re reading this article, you probably identify as a Christian. But are you a disciple? And if you are a disciple, are you a disciple-maker? Those are the questions posed in Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker by Stan O. Gleason. On the surface, it’s hard to pin down a category for Follow to Lead. It’s a leadership book, but not really. It’s a church growth book, but not really. Follow to Lead is a lifestyle book that challenges the reader to commit to a radical biblical lifestyle mandated by Jesus. Rather than selfishly hunkering down in our salvation bunkers, Gleason admonishes the Church to obey the Great Commission and go make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Gleason is emphatic that this co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

The co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

Interestingly, Gleason focuses on the ancient method of discipleship employed by Jesus during his relatively short earthly ministry. Unarguably, the replication of Jesus’ ministry through His disciples even after His death, burial, and resurrection was remarkable. Notably, though we often forget, the rabbi (teacher) relationship with the disciple (trainee) was not unique to Jesus’ ministry. This method was an integral part of Jewish culture, and it was highly relational. When Jesus invited fishermen to follow Him, they knew what He was asking of them. They were entering into a rabbi-disciple relationship. Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them. Gleason lovingly but convincingly cautions the Church to lay aside excuses and make disciples of our neighbors who will then make disciples of their own.  

Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them.

A thread runs throughout the chapters of Follow to Lead, reminding us repeatedly that there’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected. We’re partitioned off from one another by phone screens, computer screens, and tablet screens. Our communities are carefully fenced in, and we rarely know our next-door neighbors. However, Gleason implores us to break down these self-imposed barriers and disciple our neighbors by building trust, maintaining relationships, and being ready to teach. If we all genuinely followed this model, our churches would be overflowing within a few short years.

There’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected.

Follow to Lead is filled with practical examples for implementing a paradigm-shifting mindset in a local congregation. Transforming the culture of a local church begins from the top down. It’s hard work. But what a powerful transformation would take place in our local churches if we all simply did what Jesus commanded us to do. Gleason lays the groundwork for helping church leaders nudge a congregation away from being department-minded into being relationship-minded. This unifying concept brings everyone together in the mission of discipling the lost into a deep, Bible-based walk with God. With that in mind, our language matters. So, Gleason encourages us to lay aside terms like “soul-winner” and “evangelism” and pick up more appropriate (in it for the long haul) terminology like “disciples-makers.” As Gleason says:

After you “win,” then what? When you win, it’s over, but when you make disciples, the process is ongoing. Regardless of the implications, you can see the difference terminology makes when communicating the mission of the Church. Jesus did not tell us to win anything, but rather to go make everything.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Follow to Lead challenged my thinking and poked holes in some of my internal excuses. But it didn’t just leave me feeling shame. It inspired me to reach out to my community with fresh passion and renewed vision. Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region. Undoubtedly, practical application in your life and church will probably look slightly different from mine or even Gleason’s. Regardless, our mission and mindset will coincide because Gleason calls us to follow the most remarkable example of all… Jesus.

Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region.

AVP Episode Featuring Stan Gleason

Consistency – 16 Keys To Outstanding Leadership (Article + Podcast)

When it comes to leadership of any kind, consistency is a vital component of success. Often, highly creative personalities struggle with consistency, severely limiting what would otherwise be a dynamic leadership style. But, of course, that’s a generalization, and leaders of all types struggle to be consistent. People are drawn to consistency, but it takes time to demonstrate real and effective consistency in leadership. For example, studies of churches, businesses, and corporations indicate that it takes roughly five years for the organization to hit its full growth potential when a new leader arrives. Why? Because quality consistency in leadership, by definition, cannot be modeled overnight. Below are sixteen key areas where consistency makes the difference between bad, good, and outstanding leadership.

1. Consistency of Time

  1. Understanding the value of your time and everyone else’s time matters. If you disrespect other peoples’ time, they will eventually disrespect you. Be on time, be timely, be efficient, and as often as possible, be brief. If you don’t habitually waste people’s time, they’ll forgive you when you need to take their time. All great leaders understand the value of managing time.

If you disrespect other peoples’ time, eventually they will disrespect you.

2. Consistency of Dependability

  1. If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, outstanding leadership is not possible. Inevitably, you will inadvertently let someone down. Don’t be too proud to apologize.

If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, outstanding leadership is not possible.

3. Consistency of Emotions & Temperament

  1. Okay, so we all have mood swings. Most great leaders feel things intensely, and that’s a good thing. It channels energy and propels creativity. But drastic emotional fluctuations left unchecked hurt people. People shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re going to randomly lose your temper, cry without provocation, or become morose. People will excuse a temperamental leader for a while (especially if they’re mega-talented, a super-genius, or ultra charismatic), but eventually, they’ll abandon ship, searching for less drama.

4. Consistency of Study

  1. Leaders never stop learning, and learners never stop studying. Once you think you know all you need to know, you are arrogant and irrelevant.

Leaders never stop learning, and learners never stop studying. Once you think you know all you need to know, you are arrogant and irrelevant.

5. Consistency of Routine

  1. I’m not suggesting that leaders should do the same thing, at the same time, every day. But some level of routine must be realized, or a lifestyle of consistency is not possible.

6. Consistency of Organization

  1. It can vary in style, intensity, and beauty; but you must be organized and know how to organize others.

7. Consistency of Spiritual Discipline

  1. For ministerial leadership, this goes without saying. But regardless, strong spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and devotion strengthen every area of a leader’s life.

8. Consistency of Kindness

  1. Be kind all the time (including to those who can do nothing for you). Some leaders erroneously believe that their other strengths make this unnecessary. Not so. Kindness is not weakness. Harshness is not strength. It takes more effort to be consistently kind than visa verse. An unkind leader will negate all other skills. And yes, you can be kind and authoritative at the same time.

Be kind all the time (including to those who can do nothing for you).

Kindness is not weakness. Harshness is not strength. It takes more effort to be consistently kind than visa verse.

9. Consistency of Authenticity

  1. To phrase it another way, always be genuine and real. Be transparent; that doesn’t mean that you have to wear your heart on your sleeve or air all the dirty laundry. But remember, authenticity is the opposite of fakery. Be open, be honest, be humble, be authentic.

10. Consistency of Integrity

  1. Integrity is one of those words with a broad spectrum of meaning that can be hard to pin down. By default, we usually define integrity as honesty, and that is correct but incomplete. In the tech world, they use the term “integrity checking,” meaning they are analyzing the data to ensure that it lacks corruption and maintains internal integrity. Engineers use the term “structural integrity” about structurally sound buildings. Governments use the term “territorial integrity” when describing a nation or region that is undivided and sovereign. With that in mind, a leader with integrity is continually checking the areas of his life that others can’t see for corrupted data, maintaining structural soundness, and guarding against divisions. The integrity of your organization will be a reflection of your virtue.

The integrity of your organization will be a reflection of your virtue.

11. Consistency of Core Values

  1. Once you have identified, defined, and clearly articulated your core values, you must consistently implement those values. A core value is not a core value if it fluctuates. Your personal and corporate core values must be united and inform every action and decision from the top down. It would be best if you firmly believed in your core values, or you will change them when things get tough. Without core values, you become a slave to flaky emotions and the fickleness of fads. Everything you do flows from your core values.

Without core values, you become a slave to flaky emotions and the fickleness of fads. Everything you do flows from your core values.

12. Consistency of Maturation & Growth

  1. Look at where you are compared to where you were five years ago. Go ahead. Hopefully, you have grown and matured personally. Don’t buy the lie that you’ve peaked or plateaued. You must model personal growth and maturation. Set goals, stretch your limits, dream big, get better, and never settle for personal stagnation. If you do, they will too. Also, you cannot mature if you are not self-aware. Self-awareness is literally one of the most defining aspects of a great leader. If you think you’re great when you’re not, you’ll never work to get better. If you think your weakness is your strength, you’ll never mature. Find ways to evaluate yourself, seek counsel, seek brutally honest mentors, take the blinders off, listen to constructive criticism, expose yourself to leaders who inspire you to stretch. You will find the motivation to grow.

Set goals, stretch your limits, dream big, get better, and never settle for personal stagnation.

Find ways to evaluate yourself, seek counsel, seek brutally honest mentors, take the blinders off, listen to constructive criticism, expose yourself to leaders who inspire you to stretch.

13. Consistency of Fairness

  1. Treat yourself and others fairly. It’s really that simple. Leaders who hold one standard for this person and another for that person lose everyone’s respect over time.

Leaders who hold one standard for this person and another for that person lose everyone’s respect over time.

14. Consistency of Creativity

  1. Creativity is hard. Admittedly, it comes more naturally for some. However, even for those who are wired to be creative, it takes hard work. I know it sounds antithetical to this article’s central theme, but predictability is the enemy of growth when it comes to creativity. Have dreams, use imagination, and be original.

15. Consistency of Healthy Change & Adjustment

  1. Again, I know it sounds strange to write an article about consistency and tell people to be willing to make changes and adjustments. Paradox? No. You can be consistent in every area mentioned above and yet remain flexible when and where necessary. Great leaders know when to throw out bad ideas and implement better ones. Great leaders know when to make small tweaks and significant adjustments when needed. Inflexible leaders crack underneath the pressure of constantly changing demands and environments. Not all change is healthy, but total unwillingness to adjust is always deadly.

Inflexible leaders crack underneath the pressure of constantly changing demands and environments. Not all change is healthy, but total unwillingness to adjust is always deadly.

16. Consistency of Humility

  1. Outstanding leaders remain great by remaining humble. Arrogance and pride not only repel people but it produces sloppiness and intense feelings of entitlement. Entitled leaders are not only toxically obnoxious, but their followers emulate their example. Eventually, the entire organization from the top down expects everyone else to do everything else. Chaos and unproductiveness always plague entitled leadership. Many leaders begin with humility and gradually become arrogant. Carefully guard against the drift towards pride that power and success often set into motion. Furthermore, a leader doesn’t have to be wildly successful to be prideful; even sub-par leaders often struggle with arrogance.

Arrogance and pride not only repel people but it produces sloppiness and intense feelings of entitlement.

Chaos and unproductiveness always plague entitled leadership.

Guard against the drift towards pride that power and success often sets into motion.

For the record, I did not write this article from the perspective of a great leader lecturing less great leaders. At any given time, I’m working to be more consistent in at least five of these areas. Often, I’m more consistent at being inconsistent. In keeping with key 9, you should know that I am weakest in 5, 6, 9, and 15. 

Ryan French

AVP Episode Featuring the Article, Consistency (16 Keys to Outstanding Leadership)