We’re now at number 8 in our series on the “Dangers of Denominational Work.” To remind you, this series was born out of two things:

1) In June I was appointed as the Chief of Staff at The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters with Jo Anne Lyon. In this transition from pastoral and local church leadership to denominational work, I’ve been interested to know what to “look out for” in myself.

2) In 1981 my father, while working in denominational leadership, wrote a letter to a new colleague about the “Dangers of Denominational Work.” Over time he began to adjust the document and give it to several colleagues. I’ve been dusting this document off and seeing how it applies to today. As with a good number of things my Dad wrote long ago–it is a fairly timeless list.

I’ve been adding my own introduction, responses & resolutions for myself to avoid these dangers along the way. Here’s the series up to today’s final installment:

Part 1 – Spiritual Coolness

Part 2 – Getting Out of Touch

Part 3 – Thinking Department Growth = Church Growth

Part 4 – Overestimating Your Influence 

Part 5 – Getting Absorbed With Politics

Part 6 – Wasteful Management

Part 7 – The Comfortable Life

By the way. I happen to know who the letter was originally addressed to–and I’m happy to say that having observed that man through the years with some consistency–I don’t think he fell into any of these dangers in a way that concerned me. So it is possible to do denominational work and not slide into these areas. But it takes some vigilance, as I’ve been noting.

Here’s the 8th and final Danger of Denominational Work in our list:

8. An attitude of superiority. “Your new work will provide a nice office, lots of mental stimulation, and professional enhancement. You will be surrounded by some high level advisers and first class resources. You will be able to produce things that are far better than anything you have ever done before. Not because you are that much smarter, just because of the resources and standards of excellence. You will get to attend a large church. You will go to coffee break every day with denominational officials. You can go to lunch day after day and talk about great issues of theology, culture, and leadership. As time passes you will be tempted to feel you are a part of an elite spiritual aristocracy in the denomination. If you do not guard against it, you will begin to judge district superintendents, pastors, and laymen as inept and untrained. If you allow this to get a hold of you, you will begin judging others as shallow, defective, even stupid. This may be the greatest danger of all. Such an attitude of superiority will not only ruin your ability to lead, it will destroy your own soul. Avoid this attitude at all cost.” -Keith Drury

Response:

This one cuts to the quick. Perhaps this one is the greatest danger–as it will certainly lead to each of the others if not unchecked. An attitude of superiority will no doubt lead to emphasizing your own area for growth, overestimating your influence, & wasteful management. And that pattern will no doubt involve an obsession with politics, a cozy love of the comfortable life which in turn gets you out of touch and leads to a cold spirituality and a denominational worker that is the poster child for its dangers.

Resolution:

I have to confess that I had this danger going before ever entering denominational work. Let’s just say that no one ever thought Numbers 12:3 was my life verse. I learned, however, from Steve DeNeff in his book 7 Saving Graces that the way to combat pride is not to strive after humility. In fact, if you strive after humility you will only develop a false humility which is it’s own form of pride. Instead, Pastor Steve says, we must see that the opposite virtue to the deadly sin of pride is in fact wisdom. by developing wisdom one knows their true place in the world–the God perspective on your actual position. This means that I, as a denominational worker, can learn to not overestimate my influence and thus get an attitude of superiority, but also not underestimate it, and thus lack a stewardship of all that I have to do. I resolve to do this, and be wise in the way I see my own role, and thus hope to avoid all the 8 dangers of denominational work my Dad warned about back in 1981.

So, that’s my take, what’s yours? How do you see the attitude of superiority playing out in leaders? And what other dangers of denominational work are there that my Dad (and I) didn’t cover?

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