What Does a Humble Pastor Really Look Like?


Pride is a danger for anyone in authority. Pastors are as vulnerable as anyone.

Consistent pride disqualifies a pastor from ministry. The first chapter of Titus explains how a pattern of arrogance severely limits a shepherd’s ability to manage God’s house and lead God’s people. Any position of power comes with the trap of hubris, but the toxic effects of pride are especially hazardous in the church.

No church leader starts ministry with the goal of building pride. Yet, ironically, even the most seasoned pastors struggle to recognize the warning signs of arrogance. Pride is a blinding sin, in part because of its close association with power.

Long tenures in positions of power make the blinders worse. More authority creates a greater distance between the leader and reality. Humility includes the capacity to assess your abilities and limitations accurately. Power naturally disrupts this ability. Good leadership exists in the constant tension between authority and humility.

There is a lot of truth in the following adage: Humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking of yourself less. The focus of humility is outward, not inward. Internal insecurity is just as prideful as external arrogance. Both focus on self above others. Biblical humility is about a proper view of other people. It’s why Peter describes humility in the context of a relationship with others.

Humility is the ability to see people as God sees them and empathize with their lives. In the context of a local church, what makes a humble pastor?

1. Humble pastors are naturally close to the people they shepherd. Distance from people is a significant warning sign. The further a leader is from the people, the greater the danger of pride. Proximity is needed to balance authority with humility. The humblest pastors are the ones constantly looking for ways to be closer to the people they lead.

2. Humble pastors build bridges rather than burn them. Check a pastor’s social media feed. A pattern of online antagonism is a sign of pride. If a pastor’s calendar is filled with lunch and coffee meetings, it’s a good sign humble bridge-building is occurring.

3. Humble pastors elevate curiosity over the need to be right. They are not afraid to say, “I don’t know,” and they value the process of discovery. Pride refuses to learn. Pride refuses to grow. Pride kills creativity.

4. Humble pastors serve first and lead second. A posture of sacrifice guides them. Hard work that benefits others is a sign of humility. Laziness is selfish and a form of pride.

5. Humble pastors are quick to celebrate the successes of others and slow to accept accolades. They expend energy equipping others rather than promoting themselves.

6. Humble pastors are not afraid to learn from the people they lead. They listen intently and rarely speak first.

7. Humble pastors exhibit high levels of hospitality. Don’t miss this. Pastors must enjoy having people in their homes. Being inhospitable is as much a disqualification from ministry as misguided doctrine.

One last thought—insecurity is not humility; it’s a form of pride. Those who lead from a place of insecurity draw attention to themselves for the sake of their own emotions. Humble leaders project confidence, but this assurance is for the benefit of others and not themselves. Pastors who lead with humility are rooted in confidence that comes from the Holy Spirit. This confidence enables them to serve rather than be served.

**Join me for a free webinar on hospitality tomorrow, Thursday, March 10, 2022, at 1:00 pm Eastern. You can register here: https://churchanswers.com/webinars/hospitality-the-invisible-opportunity-for-every-church-and-how-to-capture-it-right-now/

Posted on March 9, 2022

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • I found this really helpful,and agreed with most of it. Except the bit of inviting people into my home. I live in a small house in the UK which is not the Manse ( or as you’d say, the Parsonage). We currently lease the Parsonage out to a young family, which helps them as we charge below the market rate while providing income for the church.
    But my point us that our house is small and even though there’s only me and my wife in it, we value having our own private space. The church members are in agreement over this and all meetings are held either at the church or in coffee shops etc, as appropriate.

    Otherwise a good insight into ministry as always.

    Thank you.

  • Bob Myers says on

    Good stuff, as always, Sam!

    I served for most of my career as an associate pastor of worship. Dealt with a couple of arrogant senior pastors and it was no fun. But when I became a senior pastor, I began to feel the temptation towards pride and power. It’s there an it’s tough to resist.

    I have always believed that if a pastor is truly seeking God that God will ensure that he is humble. That assumption, however, raises the obvious question of so many pastors who are very prideful. Some of them even make the news. Of course, I can’t see into any pastor’s heart. But God will, in his time, discipline those he loves, as the Scriptures say. He will also protect his church and an arrogant pastor can bring about a lot of damage. I fear for pastors who have an elevated view of themselves. God’s leveling can be very painful. I speak from experience.

    Your last point about in-home hospitality hits home, literally. It is a point that my wife and I have often struggled with for a variety of reasons. She loves people but she is an introvert and was raised in a home with a “model home” mentality which is impossible to keep. I was raised in a home where people would just walk in without knocking. But when my wife and I had people over, the house had to be perfect. Consequently, we rarely did. When we had people over, it was always rewarding, but my wife rarely enjoyed it. I will say that the more we did it, however, the easier it got. But I always felt we could have done more. I know it makes a big difference. I suspect some other pastors might resonate with that struggle we had. That’s a tough one. Pastors and wives should find a way to work together in this area with grace and understanding. It can be very fruitful. Since I no longer pastor a congregation, the point is moot for us.

    Thanks again for an excellent post.

    • This is my wife.
      She is an “outgoing introvert” with OCD tendencies. It takes her a bit to warm up to people, but when she does she is very friendly … she loves to cook for people, but would wear herself out cleaning every spot in the house and trying to make everything perfect. Our house is often magazine-ready when nobody is coming, but that still wasn’t good enough for guests. Each time we had guests over, the process and the emotional energy combined would take days or even weeks for her to recover enough to do it again.
      Just recently, something flipped in her (From God). She realized true hospitality involves inviting people into your every day, physically and emotionally.
      The house is still cleaner than most, but she invites people into “everyday” cleanness instead of “above and beyond.” By her initiative and invitation, we’ve had guests in our home or met people elsewhere almost every day the past week, and twice yesterday. We’re going to slow down the rest of this week, but I am amazed at the influence this has opened up for both of us.

  • Wayne Traylor says on

    Unfortunately, there are very few truly humble pastors that I have encountered. I have a a very serious health condition that greatly hinders my ability to attend congregational services. It appears that unless I attend and add to the numbers in attendance, they are not interested in me, even though I have reached out to them and even sent letters explaining that I felt like the person on the side of the road that the religious people passed by.

  • Dan Reiland says on


    Well said! Thank you for this excellent post, insightful, practical and your heart for people comes through strong. This is no doubt a great help to all of us!

    Keep doing what you are doing, you are making a difference!


  • Outstanding! Two thoughts: 1) Humility produces the ability to see people as God sees them but it is not ‘the ability’ itself. Proper perspective of the value human beings is the byproduct of knowing one’s proper value before God. It is in attaining that personal perspective of one’s standing and value with God the eradicates insecurity and superiority.

    2) pastors are under no biblical obligation to enjoy having people in their homes. They are obligated to enjoy having people in their lives. A hospitable spirit is the intention of scripture. You cannot mandate values upon the entire family. They may have elderly parents, a disabled child, a wife with a chronic illness etc…

    It is a gross overreach to make in-home hospitality a ‘must’. If a pastor does not consider the well-being of his family over hospitality to his congregation, that is a major flaw.