Leaders, by virtue of their position, need to be on the lookout for five subtle but sinister seductions.
Seduction 1: Entitlement
A position of authority always brings with it the danger of entitlement. Entitlement says “I shouldn’t have to do X” or “I have a right to Y.” It could be as simple as “I’m entitled to a good parking spot,” or as complex as “I have a right to be respected.” Entitlement always reflects a subtle works-righteousness: “Since I’ve done this, God owes me that (or God’s people owe me that).” Rather than being awed by the gospel of grace and humbled by the opportunity to serve Christ, entitled people are focused on their own merits and desires.
Seduction 2: Comfort
A life of leadership in the church is a life of sacrifice. But for many of us who have been raised in a prosperous culture, sacrifice is not a welcome idea. Leaders are perpetually tempted by the allure of comfort. This can take many forms: the comfort of a stable church, the comfort of a generous budget, the comfort of a predictable schedule, the comfort of not having to talk to people whom I find difficult or challenging.
Seduction 3: Pleasure
Whether it’s a hostile church member, a broken marriage, or a downturn in giving, the elders of a church are perpetually immersed in challenging situations. The temptation to escape is strong. When leaders are not resting in the presence, promises, and provision of the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be prone to seek a “quick fix” in sex, food, gambling, entertainment, alcohol, and a host of other momentary pleasures. Men who have had victory over lust for years may find themselves suddenly tempted by pornography. Men who live very disciplined lives may be suddenly tempted by laziness and apathy. Men who haven’t ever struggled with drunkenness may find themselves drinking more frequently.
Seduction 4: Greed
Both 1 Timothy and Titus warn against elders who are “lovers of money.” But the character vice of greed doesn’t always manifest itself as a lust for financial gain. Among leaders, greed often shows up as a relentless drive for more—more people, more money, a growing ministry, a bigger platform, a wider influence. Christians sometimes baptize this sort of greed as a longing for “kingdom growth.” But underneath, it’s often driven by ego and a thirst for reputation. Paul warns the Ephesian elders that wolves will arise seeking “to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).
Seduction 5: Affirmation
People tend to look up to, respect, and admire their leaders. And this approval and affirmation is inherently seductive. All of us enjoy being liked! If elders are not deeply grounded in God’s approval of them, they can begin to find identity in people’s approval of them. Their ministry becomes about pleasing people rather than pleasing God. They find themselves adapting to people’s preferences and devastated by criticism or conflict.
Perhaps, after reflecting on these five seductions, you’re starting to doubt whether you have what it takes. Who wouldn’t be seduced by these things? How can you possibly persist in ministry for the long haul without giving in to these temptations? The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is the answer. All five of these seductions are rooted in self-glory, self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency. So the way to defeat them is to allow our hearts to rest deeply in the glory, righteousness, and sufficiency of the Lord Jesus.
Want more? Read Acts 20:29–35; 1 Samuel 15; 2 Samuel 11–12 and pay attention to how both Saul and David use their position of authority as an “excuse” to disobey God. Or, pick up a copy of Gospel Eldership: Equipping a New Generation of Servant Leaders, from which this post was excerpted.