“No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” When I heard this quote by Paul Tripp while I listened to his book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry it caused me to pause and reflect. He’s right. No one talks to me more than I talk to myself. A corollary to his quote might be this. “We become more like who we listen to. If what we tell ourselves about our identity is false, then we develop a false identity.” In this post I suggest 10 question that might reveal when pastors misplace their identity.
How do you know if you’ve wrapped your identity around your church, ministry, or preaching rather than around Christ? Consider these 10 questions.
- Would I feel aimless if I faced a period of time when I wasn’t vocationally working in a church?
- Do I see the need for grace in the lives of others more than I see the need of that same grace in my life?
- Have I subtly allowed pride to infiltrate my soul because I know a lot about the Bible, have a theological degree, or pastor a growing church?
- Do I equate ministry success with God’s endorsement of my lifestyle (a thought from Paul Tripp)?
- When I meet someone, do I find my unspoken self-talk focused on what he or she thinks of me?
- Have I based my identity more on the horizontal (ministry success) than the vertical (my personal relationship with Jesus)?
- Is my heart stirred more by compliments from others about my preaching, increasing attendance, or recognition from others more than the greatness, grandeur, and glory of Christ?
- If attendance is low on Sunday, is it hard to shake a sense the following week that I’ve failed or that I’ve let God down?
- Do I struggle with jealous feelings when I hear about the success of another pastor or church?
- Do I find myself “burning the candle at both ends” to keep the ministry going?
What do you think about pastoral identity? Do you think misplaced identity is a problem among pastors? What questions would you add to this list that might be telling of misplaced identity?
If these questions have stirred you to think more deeply about your identity, consider reading Paul Tripp’s blog post about this subject here. And, I highly recommend reading his book as well.