The Seven Deadly Sins of Ministry Part 1: Subtle Pride

Glaringly obvious sins aren't the only ones that can destroy our lives and ministries. There are also the sins that hide out subtly yet prove to be just as deadly, which brings us to today's blog post. I recently sat down to talk with Dr. Jamie Dew, the president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, to have a conversation on my podcast about a sin that consistently derails men and women in ministry - subtle pride.

First, let's define subtle pride

SUBTLE PRIDE: Quietly believing ourselves to be the source of effective pastoring, leading, or church growth.

The epitome of human rebellion is the belief in self above God or to seek to satisfy self above Him. And there is no population more vulnerable to subtle pride than spiritual leaders because of what we do. I appreciate how one of Jamie's mentors put it, "The fastest way to know a man's true character is to give him a title." It's not that any of us wake up, decide to kick humility out, and welcome pride, shaking its hand and saying, "Today, I'm going to live for myself." Instead, it's a slow, subtle, and deadly drift. 

Scripture is clear that pride is to have no place among leaders. In Titus 1:7, Paul instructs, "For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain." And when Paul gives qualifications for a pastor, he states, "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil," (1 Timothy 3:6).

How do we recognize subtle pride? 

I love how Jamie clarified in our podcast conversation that we aren't just watching out for those obvious arrogance issues where we flaunt our accomplishments, namedrop, showboat, or peacock around. We have to pay attention to the subtle things that reveal the pride hiding in our hearts - the comments we're making, the positioning we're doing, or anything rooted in a desire to be promoted, seen, and appreciated.

One evidence of subtle pride I have personally learned to recognize is that other sin struggles will begin to bubble back up. If I have been quietly harboring pride, I may be short-tempered, struggle with a lustful thought, or find myself trying to manipulate situations. When I catch myself in those moments, I have to stop and do an autopsy. I have to take a close look at my heart and see where I have drifted away from dependence on the Spirit of God.

How do we battle subtle pride? 

For one, we must make it a consistent habit, together and as individuals, to confess our utter dependence on God. We must be absolutely resolved to give Him all of the credit for His work in our presence. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:5, "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." 

Jamie also reminded us that we must maintain a heart to serve the Lord and serve the people He places around us. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is many things, but one of the core calls is that we are to have a disposition of servanthood. In Mark 10:42-45, we find Jesus instructing His disciples: "And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'” Everywhere we look in Scripture, we find the call to humility and servanthood. 

The quickest way to succumb to subtle pride is to think that it's a once-and-done struggle. In truth, it is a daily journey in humility. We are always going to have to deal with pride. We don't get to dismiss it. It's not going to go away until the Lord fully glorifies us in the resurrection. And so, we stay dependent on Christ. We stay humble. We stay servanthearted. 

Want to learn more? You can listen to 7 Deadly Sins of Ministry Episode 1: Subtle Pride featuring Dr. Jamie Dew here. And make sure to subscribe to the Living Worthy with D.J. Horton Podcast so you get the next six episodes to come.


  1. Where might this sin specifically show itself in your life?
  2. What precedes your struggle with this? In other words, what time, season, situation, or stress point usually triggers this in your life?
  3. Who could be best suited to watch your back on this?
  4. When you have experienced victory in this area, what helped you the most?