Danger for a church in the midst of success – Hubris

In his article When Hubris Comes to Church, Thom Rainer describes the danger to churches of thinking they are the reason for their success, which can lead to pride and arrogance.

He correctly labels this hubris:

Simply defined, hubris means pride or arrogance. It has its origins in Greek tragedy, where an excess of ambition or pride ultimately caused the transgressor’s ruin.

Using a different word, you can just call that pride – giving yourself credit for what God has done and being pleased and smug with what a great job you have done.

Amongst the many dangers of hubris is the inability to make changes or end programs:

Hubris often manifests itself in the idolatry of ministries, programs, or preferred styles of worship. Those ministries that were once a means to the end of glorifying God become ends in themselves.

Ouch.  I think we can all say we’ve seen that mindset in action.

We all know that pride is a sin.

If that isn’t enough to get you to reflect carefully on your attitude as a part of church leadership, Mr. Rainer suggests that hubris will create other problems which in turn lead to attendance and financial decline.

In the lifecycle of churches, he is pointing to hubris as the turning point that leads to decline, irrelevance, and death of the organization.

He briefly suggests five questions that leaders should be asking to see if hubris is taking root in their church. My two favorites are:

“Have we implicitly given glory to ourselves rather than to God?”

“Would we be willing to let go of anything in our church, even if it has become a sacred cow for many members?”

Mr. Rainer and I are parts of different traditions within the Protestant branch of the Christian community of faith.  I’m making a wild guess that the Protestant community has not cornered the market on pride and hubris.  His discussion and warnings might be of use in parishes, temples, mosques, and other places of faith. 

Mr. Rainer is writing a book on the lifecycle of churches. I look forward to seeing it.

In the meantime, check out his full post.

hat tip – National Association of Church Business Administrators

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