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The 5 Temptations of a Pastor

The 5 Temptations of a Pastor

You’d think that being in church leadership would ensure you’re not tempted to fall into the same temptations as, say, leaders in the marketplace.

As nice as that line of thinking is, it’s wrong.

A few years ago, Patrick Lencioni did a great job outlining the five temptations of a CEO. All of those apply to anyone in leadership, and Patrick’s books are always packed with helpful insights.

I think all of those temptations apply to any senior leader, but ministry adds a layer of complexity or two.

You and I are human. We are subject to the same temptations as anyone else.

Recognizing that we’re vulnerable to a whole host of temptations, pitfalls and set of issues is actually a good thing. Self-awareness is a gift. It can lead you to confession, repentance and a different future.

Denial is a different story. If you think you have no sin, or that these things can’t and don’t happen to you, well…good luck with that. I think there’s something in the scripture that says those of us who say we have no sin deceive ourselves.

When it comes to temptation, denial is an accelerator. The more we think it will never happen to us, the more we position ourselves to have it happen.

I’ve struggled in different seasons with all five temptations. I’m not above any of it. But the good news is self-awareness is such a big factor in keeping yourself from making some very common mistakes.

If can you see yourself as you are, you can become a different self. Confession and repentance are powerful like that.

So here are the five temptations I see pastors struggling with:


Oh to be popular. While it’s the dream of every elementary and high school kid, it doesn’t make for a great leadership quality.

So many pastors, at heart, are people pleasers.

A key goal of leadership is to lead a diverse group on a common mission. That’s why leadership isn’t for the faint of heart.

Your job as a leader is to take people where they wouldn’t go except for your leadership.

That requires courage. Deep courage. But when you try to please all kinds of people, you usually end up sacrificing the mission.

Instead of moving forward with boldness, people pleasing pastors end up with a lot of people (or a diminishing number of people, actually) going nowhere in particular.

Is that what you want your legacy to be? Didn’t think so.

If you want to be liked, you won’t lead.


So you live in a fishbowl in ministry, and people are always asking you how you are.

It’s so tempting to say things are going great, when they’re not.

Maybe it’s hard at home or your relationship with God seems flat. Or you’re really struggling with discouragement or defeat.

The pressure to say everything’s fine when it isn’t is intense.

Your public talk should match your private walk.

And while you don’t need to tell everybody that things are tough, you need to tell somebody.

To people who don’t know you well, even acknowledging things aren’t perfect keeps the dialogue real and authentic. When they ask you how it’s going, you don’t need to throw up all over them and spill your guts, but you might say, “We have a few challenges, but I’m grateful for what we get to do here. How are you?”

That’s real. And it’s accurate. You don’t need to say anything else.

The better you know someone, the deeper you can go.

And you should be at full transparency with at least a handful of people, and of course, with God.