On Pastoral Humility (Newton)

Wise Counsel: John Newton's Letters to John Ryland, Jr.

Since a pastor is often in the spotlight, so to speak, it sometimes happens that he gets a big head. The old Adam in him loves to be noticed, loves the attention, and enjoys the publicity. And sometimes the pastor begins to covet more social media followers, retweets, and sermon “shares.” Along the way humility shrinks and pride grows.

All that to say a pastor needs to pray for humility and cultivate it in biblical ways. For example, he might have to constantly remind himself that his pride is a sin and that his calling is not a call to be popular. He might have to tell himself over and over that his desire for more followers is a tactic the devil can use to mess up his ministry. He needs to remember that his heart has its dark spots and corners.

On this topic, John Newton wrote a letter to his friend who was a Christian pastor. Another pastor they both knew had just suffered a stroke. Newton noted that he hoped the man would recover, since he was a blessing to the church. Then Newton wrote this:

“I hope that he and you and I shall all so live as to be missed a little when we are gone. But the Lord standeth not in need of sinful man. And he sometimes takes away his most faithful and honored ministers in the midst of their usefulness, perhaps (for this reason) among other reasons, that he may show us that he can do without them.”

It may sound harsh, but it’s true and it’s something that we pastors do well to remember.

John Newton, Wise Counsel, p. 280.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

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