Four Temptations Christian Leaders Face

For more than thirty years, I have worked in the publishing field with Christian leaders, authors, and other creatives. During this time, I have witnessed the corrosive effects of fame. Very few have been able to handle the temptations that come with increased influence.

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I have seen leaders get prideful, greedy, and demanding. Sadly, it has increasingly become the norm in a world that values charisma above character. To paraphrase Jim Collins in his epic book, Good to Great, you can build an enduring organization with charisma, but it is more difficult.

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As I have reflected on my own experience with prominent leaders, I see them struggle with four temptations:

  1. The temptation of priorities. Weak leaders put themselves last. They mistakenly think this is more spiritual. As I wrote in another post, it is a dangerous temptation that has left many leaders cynical and burned out.

    But successful leaders face the opposite temptation. They put themselves first. In fact, some are outright narcissists, putting themselves at the center of their own universe. The correct position, I think, is second. Strong leaders put God first and themselves second. They know that they can’t meet the needs of others unless they attend to themselves.

  2. The temptation of entitlement. Weak leaders become convinced that they deserve something different. They lose any sense of delight or gratitude. They come to believe what others tell them: they are special and thus deserve preferential treatment.

    Successful leaders are alert to this temptation and war against it. It can sneak up when they least expect it. So they work hard to thank the people closest to them, knowing that their position is a privilege and likely temporary.

  3. The temptation of resentment. Weak leaders take offense at every slight. They are hyper-sensitive, reading into every situation more than is warranted. In the “movie” about them, there has to be drama.

    The reality is that offenses are inevitable. Jesus Himself said, “offenses must come” (Matthew 18:7). In fact, I would go so far as to say that God often sends offenses—for our good and for our sanctification. Strong leaders thus overlook offenses, knowing that this is the true mark of maturity and character (see Proverbs 19:11).

  4. The temptation of popularity. We live in a world that places a high value on fame and “personal branding.” We seem to have a list for everything, including the top 100 largest churches and the 100 fastest growing churches. It is difficult for me to imagine the early church—the church of the martyrs—compiling these kinds of lists.

    In reality, Jesus was a publicists’ nightmare. He eschewed fame. He miraculously healed people and then ordered them to keep it to themselves, telling no one about their experience (see, for example, Luke 5:12–14). Strong leaders are quick to give others the credit and avoid the limelight. They would rather be effective, even if they labor in obscurity.

The bottom line is this: Be careful what you pray for. Leadership is a burden—and a privilege. It is best held with an open hand. “The Lord giveth and Lord taketh away” (see Job 1:21).

Question: What temptations do you face as a leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Mark Martin

    I agree that there are many temptations that face Christian leaders.
    One is the temptation to not be accountable. We can get to a place where we feel we know it all and have been so successful that we don’t need any checks on us. This is a dangerous place.
    I think a key to this is humbly realizing the need for accountability and purposefully having it in place.
    Another helpful truth is that Christ came to serve, and calls leaders to do the same. If we can keep a servant’s heart, and not an attitude of entitlement as you said, it helps us not get too big for ourselves.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is a great addition, Mark. Thanks. I have witnessed this one, too. Ministry is one of the few places you can be a leader and not be accountable. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen in every church, but it is possible.

    • Geoff Webb

      I agree, Mark; lack of accountability opens the door to subtle temptations. Not only the blind pride you speak of, but all lapses of character. I think the pressure of “being on” that famous leaders feel cab create an undue urgency in their private moments—and our character is revealed in what we’re doing when we think no one is watching.

    • Doug Hibbard

      Accountability is a huge asset. Kind of like oxygen or food. Many churches, including the one I serve, are basically independent, so there’s not a structure to provide that accountability. True, the church can vote to dismiss me, but there’s no good feedback system to fix the problems before you get there.

      So, I have to strive to find people to hold me to that accountability.

    • Alex Humphrey

      I can’t agree with this enough!

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    Temptations we face as leaders —

    — putting private interest in preference to public interest
    — having political and self-serving behavior
    — being opportunistic (without feeling guilty)
    — always finding faults (without providing remedy)
    — treating coworkers as competitors and not partners

    • Steven Cribbs

      You make a good point about competition. As a leader, it is often easy to be so concerned over maintaining, or improving our position, that we see everyone else as a competitor. This will often-times make us even fearful of others’ success and sub-consciously battle against our team instead of with our team.

  • Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    Entitlement: I found myself struggling with this on several occasions. I discovered that, as I was surrounded by other leaders – especially non-Christians, I began to follow their principles more and more. I used their justifications: “I work longer hours, so I deserve to fly first class, regardless of the corporate policy”; “I am vital to more meetings, so need to have a reserved parking space at every office building…”. This brings me to my second point.

    Christian Leaders Accountability Community: I’ve discovered that being a part of a community of other Christian leaders keeps me accountable. While I have yet to find a group of business leaders like this, I still depend on my church’s small groups, pastors and friendsto help me here. I also find your blog, Michael, and Ron Edmundson’s, to have excellent communities for this accountability.

    Thank you for sharing, Michael!

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is great. I meet with a small group of other CEOs in the Nashville area. While we don’t formally hold one another accountable (we all have our own boards), we do encourage one another and share best-practices. Most of all, it’s just a good reality check for my thinking.

  • Juan

    My biggest temptation is my ego, focusig on me, after reading many books about self-development, positive psychology, philosophy, reading the Bible, Buddha, also meeting meeting many people, land the experience of living on this planet – I have learned the biggest obstacle and reason of wars, conflicts, is that by nature we are ego-centered. We put ourselves before anybody else, again this a human nature, so our struggle is to first be aware of that, and second realize that it is not about me, it is about them. As a leader that is our real calling in life, you call it leading your family, your downlines, your church, etc. – it is about them!

  • Larry Yarborough, Jr.

    Thanks for holding the mirror up to our faces this morning, Michael. Great post that accompanies one of my readings today: Psalm 139:23-24.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great Scripture passage. Thanks for sharing.

      • Daniel Becerra

        I agree with Michael here, Larry. It’s a timely scripture. Sometimes I am surprised by my own lack of awareness of my wickedness.

  • Joe Abraham

    One major temptation is to be so result-oriented which leads one to compromise on the methodology – ‘ends justify the means’. We got to deliberately pay attention to both the goal and the channel.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Boy, I have sure seen this!

  • idelette mcvicker

    What a great post. I especially love the last paragraph and your sentence: “Jesus was a publicist’s nightmare.” // Reality checked. Thank you.

  • Femi-Stevens

    Thank you for the post. Great thought with real life application. Relatable. More grace!

  • Silygoos

    I agree with some others here, these are real and dangerous temptations, but time spent in God’s word, and having strong accountability, can go a long way to keeping us from falling into these. If I can be aware odpf my weaknesses and ask others to call me out when i cross a line, I have given myself, and the people I seek to lead, a great gift: an authentic human being who is walking humblynwith God and seeking to give HIM the glory.

  • Jeremy Statton

    I would think it would be extremely difficult to be a leader and be hyper-sensitive. It seems that if you take offense easily, then you will be so preoccupied with those who are offending you, that it will become impossible to have any influence.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree, but I see this as a major stumbling block, especially for leader who experienced early success and didn’t have the opportunity to mature as most.

  • David

    I would agree with the other posters about accountability. Not that it’s about knowing it all, lacking accountability leads quickly to an arrogance of always justifying everything, or worse, always being right with no humility or love. Without either humility or love, I am nothing. Good leaders know when to admit mistakes, seek forgiveness, learn from them, and share. Being mentored and mentoring is often a good model, but I’ve learned to include a wider circle of those holding me accountable. Another danger is surrounding myself w/similar personalities. Widening the accountability circle w/differing ways of relating keeps me humble and forces me to realize there are often more ways than mine.

    • Michael Hyatt

      These are all great thoughts. Thank you.

  • Elisabeth

    I really appreciate Number 4 – it seems like that’s a GOOD act to follow!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, but it is so counter-cultural—perhaps even revolutionary.

  • Jesse D. Lane

    “In reality, Jesus was a publicists’ nightmare. He eschewed fame.”
    Yet… He is the most famous man in history.
    When something is good, the word gets out.

    Being a marketing professional at a Christian company, I am faced with this tension every
    If your message is one you believe in there is nothing wrong with getting the word out.
    The temptation of wealth (profit/revenue), fame (awareness), and popularity (brand preference) are very tricky.

    It all comes down to motivation.
    We have to ask ourselves, Why do I want to promote myself? For my glory or for His? Where’s my heart?

    • Geoff Webb

      Great questions, Jesse—not just for marketers but for all of us. I agree it’s all about intent. And unless I’m constantly checking it, my intent naturally drifts toward selfishness.

      • Jesse D. Lane

        Thanks Geoff. I’m in the same boat, no doubt.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Amen. That’s a good application.

    • Josh Hood

      Exactly right. The key is motivation. I think we as leaders should emphasize the WHY. Then the WHAT will take care of itself.

      • Jesse D. Lane

        Yes. Well put.

      • Jesse D. Lane

        Yes. Well put.

    • Steven Cribbs

      Agreed! Motivation is a key factor. Our challenge then is to take regular, intentional time to evaluate where we are at – continually seeking wise counsel from God and trusted mentors.

    • Steven Cribbs

      Agreed! Motivation is a key factor. Our challenge then is to take regular, intentional time to evaluate where we are at – continually seeking wise counsel from God and trusted mentors.

    • JD_Ladybugs999

      Beautifully said! That’s one of the most important “heart checks” we should do!

  • John Richardson

    Leadership is tough. I think your post on priorities nailed it on the head. Leaders need to take care of themselves. I have seen so many leaders fall into the traps you have laid out, but I think the most common is burnout. It’s the paradox of saying yes. You want to help, but you can’t do it all.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think it is also a lack of faith on our part. It is the same reason that Uzzah reached out to steady God’s ark, so it wouldn’t fall. He thought that God needed help, even if it meant violating God’s own law. As you know from the story in 2 Samuel 6, God struck him dead. It is a sobering reminder that God can take care of his own things. He may chose to use us, but he doesn’t need us.

      • John Richardson

        Great Illustration. I really struggle with this. The two word description for my personality type is “Problem Solver.” When I work on problems at my level it works fine, when I try to take on God’s problems, that’s a different story.

      • Gina Burgess

        Emotional burnout begins at home and within your heart and is characterized by reduced sense of personal accomplishment, negative feelings toward self and others, and exhaustion. When we are operating within God’s will, and when we are using our motivational spiritual gift, we don’t get burnout. Operating through the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s will and the works He prepared for us as Christians stimulates more of the fruit of the spirit such as joy, peace, faith etc. to complete us.

  • Doug Hibbard

    Right now, my biggest temptation is the entitlement. Because the people in the church I pastor are very giving and gracious to me since I am their pastor, I have to watch this very closely. I start enjoying it and then I start expecting it.

    The thought helps that fight against it are remembering that I am here to serve, remembering that if anyone else sat in that office that man would receive what I’m getting (basically, keeping in mind it is respect for the role of pastor and not Doug-worship), and wrestling with my own sin nature and challenges helps me pull back down.

    Practically speaking, putting Sunday dinner in the crock-pot so that I don’t go out hitting people up to take me out to dinner. Sounds simple, but it really does help me remember that I’m not entitled to anything. It’s a simple reminder that I need to be responsible for myself.

    Second to that is resentment, looking back at a prior place of service and some of the slander that still pours out about me. I have to remind myself that they might be right, they might be wrong, but that I’m not responsible for it anymore.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This sounds really healthy to me, Doug. Good for you for making the effort and keeping it all in perspective.

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  • Karl Mealor

    I tend to see this in others more than I see it in myself. Thanks for holding up a mirror this morning so I could get a beam out of my eye.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Someone once asked me if my primary tool was a mirror or a magnifying glass. In other words, do I scrutinize others’ behavior or my own first.

      • Karl Mealor

        Great quote. I’ll certainly plagiarize it in the near future. :-)

        • Michael Hyatt

          Feel free. I did the same!

      • Josh Hood

        That’s a powerful quote, Mike. Sounds like it would make a great blog post! ;)

      • JD_Ladybugs999

        Brilliant self-reflection question — pardon the pun :)

  • Joy

    The greatest temptation is to be carried away by the ego and place material things like fame and fortune above God. As the current world recession bites many, for this reason, are left devastated.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is one of the benefits of any storm, it tests our faith and reveals where it is focused.

  • Christopher Carter

    This was an exceptionally good post today, timely and accurate.

    Thanks so much…

  • PastorT

    Great post! Thanks!

  • Timothy Fish

    I suppose it depends on how we define “put themselves”. Since God calls us to service, I have a hard time seeing how we can put God anywhere if we aren’t doing so in terms of what we are doing for others.

    I think the biggest temptation of leaders I see is the tendency to make executive decisions rather than include the group in the process.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s a big temptation, too. I see many leaders who want to “go it alone.” The best leaders live out their faith and their leadership in the context of a community.

      • Karl Mealor

        I struggle with this as well. Not delegating, and then micromanaging things I do delegate. Part of this is sometimes pride in “if I don’t do it, it won’t be done right” when in actuality, if someone else does it, it often will be done better.

    • Peter P

      Finding the balance between making ‘executive decisions’ and including the group in the process has always been a hard one for me.

      If you’re focused and know exactly where you (think) things need to go, then taking other people’s suggestions is hard.

  • Anonymous

    What a convicting post and something to look out for as a leader. The one that struck a cord with me the most was weak leaders put themselves last. They are always putting everyone else before them and often don’t get the things they need to get done to stay passionate about what they are doing. They get so behind in taking care of themselves in terms of health, personal time with the Lord, time to develop a life of their own that they forget who they are and why they are in the position they are in. Something that I have found important to try to develop in the ministry I run is in the process of new staff. The first 30 days they are in the new city, I feel it is important for them to develop a personal foundation ie. friends, church, social life, personal time and habits. Following that they then need to fit work into their personal lives opposed to personal lives into work. I would say I’m recovering in this area and taking it one day at a time!

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is excellent advice, especially when moving to a new city.

  • Bill Dodge

    I am also fond of Patrick Lencioni’s FIVE TEMPTATIONS OF A CEO. His are:
    Choosing status over results
    Choosing popularity over accountability
    Choosing certainty over clarity
    Choosing harmony over conflict
    Choosing invulnerability over accountability.

    Switch them around and you have a good model. Thanks for the post. I think I am going to use it in combination with Lencioni at our next Supervisors training. God bless you.

    Bill Dodge
    Rescue Mission of Utica, NY

    • Michael Hyatt

      Lencioni’s book is great. I read it several years ago. When I finished this post, I pulled it back off the shelf and decided I would re-read it.

  • Ben

    I have a new leadership role as a small men’s group leader at church. When I looked around the table that first Saturday, my first temptation was to doubt where God had brought me. I looked around and saw men I admire and look up to. I wondered if I would be able to lead them. I was also tempted to be afraid of failing – God and the other guys. I can be thankful now that I have had a few days to step back and think about it. This is going to be a great experience for all of us.

  • Lauren Yarger

    An excellent post, as always, Michael. I would say these same temptations are true for artists as well. One I would add would be the temptation to use the world’s views, instead of God’s, as a measure for success . Many distance themselves from traditional Christianity as if to say, “Yeah, I’m cool and so far above those imprisoned by old fashioned thinking.” They justify behaviors, decisions and even theology for comfort.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree that this applies to artists. In fact, I am at a conference with artists this week. I wrote this list down in my notebook, as I was listening to a speaker and reflecting on the needs of the attendees.

  • V.V. Denman

    Even though I’m yet unpublished, I battle these same temptations on a small scale. Hopefully when I’m a bigger writer, I will also be a bigger person.

    • Peter P

      Jesus talked about those who are faithful with a little being given more.

      Maybe the temptations you are battling now are to teach you so that you have a fighting chance of overcoming when you’re (more) famous!

  • Mike Paddy

    The interestingaspect of CEO’s and any leader is that hwe is not on top…he is in the middle. He is responsible for production and outcomes with those below him in the organizational chart and he is accountable to those above him, the Board/share holders. Sometimes pleasing both can create an imbalanced platform where his perfomrance can make him choose one or th eother rather than tr to define how both work well creating a process, a circle which creates a healthy productive work environment, which increases production and outcomes which in turn gives boards and share holders a sense of confidence and trust for the CEO which enhances the CEO’s state of mind which….

  • Amanda Daubenmeyer

    Wow, so true! Thanks for sharing that. I like how you said that we need to put ourselves second. I know when I am feeling spiritually drained after pouring out myself to others. I have to back off and get refueled by God. Jesus even had to do that. Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” We can’t give out what we don’t have. We have to receive from God first before we can give to others.

    Thanks again:)

  • Steve Barkley

    One of the best ways to avoid pride and the pitfalls it brings is to constantly be aware that our success is largely the result of those around us. Whether these are co-workers, subordinates, bosses, family, mentors or people you have never met that inspired you, we all owe a great deal to others in our lives.

  • Jana Muntsinger

    As a publicist in the book world, I see many Christian leaders following into the trap of believing their own press — they really have done remarkable things for the kingdom — and they focus on what “THEY” have done, not what Christ does in them…and often in spite of them. Thanks for a great post.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It really is sad when it’s happen. I see it especially among those who have experienced sudden success and don’t have the strength of character to handle it. That’s why a little strategic failure is helpful. ;-)

      Thanks, Jana.

      • Nicole

        True! I got to talk to Jerry B. Jenkins a couple months ago, who brought this up. He has an accountability partner that goes out of his way to find these failures. Jenkins often gets sent pictures of his books on sale for $1, just to keep him humble. :) Great idea!

        • Peter P

          That’s a really neat idea!

      • Mark Martin

        When you mention “sudden success” it makes me think of Gordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World. It was such an eye opening book to me about the need to slow down enough to have your walk with God and family life in order, and not letting the inner life cave in at the expense of the public. I just checked and saw that you published it. Thank you.

        • Michael Hyatt

          You are welcome. That is a powerful book. So much so, that I had the guys in my mentoring group read it last year.

  • Mark Haines

    Ouch! I find it far too easy to put myself last. Thanks for the wake up call.

  • Andrew Acuna

    A sober reminder of the vigilance we must always hold to as leaders. Thanks for this reminder Michael.

  • Josh Hood

    I think one of the biggest temptations I see in myself and other leaders is the temptation of isolation. Trying to tackle everything ourself. Making decisions on our own. Not utilizing or depending on other people (which requires vulnerability).

    • Steven Cribbs

      Isolation…how true. People tend to go crazy over time when they are left in isolation – cut off from relationships and thinking that they are all alone. Disconnected from real people, our judgement tends to become skewed. Carrying burdens by ourselves cripples us. Trying to do everythingon our own prevents us, and those around us, from being and achieving our best.

      • Josh Hood

        Well said, Steven. There are natural checks and balances that come into play
        when we involve other people. Left to ourselves, we tend to be one
        dimensional and veer toward extremes (without realizing it).

      • Josh Hood

        Well said, Steven. There are natural checks and balances that come into play
        when we involve other people. Left to ourselves, we tend to be one
        dimensional and veer toward extremes (without realizing it).

  • Nicole

    The one I’ve seen the most in myself and others is prayerlessness. We get so busy trying to work things out ourselves that we forget we need God’s power & direction first. We also give it lip service at times. Five minutes of prayer is hardly scratching the surface when we have a major decision to make.

    This is what I am trying to improve in my life.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think part of the issue for us in the West is that prayer just doesn’t seem … well … productive. It’s not an activity per se, so we don’t get the same satisfaction that we get from being busy. However, the longer I live, the more value I place on prayer.
      I have a feeling I am going to get to heaven and think, I should have done less and prayed more.

      • Josh Hood

        James 5:16 “The effectual, fervent to-do list of a righteous man availeth much.” …no…wait, that’s not right…

        • Daniel Becerra

          I like that Josh! Great great point. I appreciate your work, bud!

  • Bianca Juarez

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing the truth.

  • Donald James Parker

    Good material! I think we need to take into consideration that as the head of a family, every man is a priest and thus a Christian leader and these rules might be applicable as well.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with that.

  • Christopher Scott

    Good thoughts, Michael.

    I often face temptations of looking down on people I lead. Because I work so hard and give so much effort, it’s easy for me to look down on others because they:
    1) Might not work as hard as me, and
    2) Might not produce as good quality of work as me.

    The truth is that my team often produces work better than mine if I have them in their strength zone. And they will work just as hard as I do if they are in their strength zone because they are passionate about it.

    It’s a difficult temptation to navigate, and I’m sure I can improve.


    Love the photo you selected – perfect! These temptations apply to every ‘successful’ person. (Somebody has probably already said that. Commenting in a hurry today.)

  • Anonymous

    oh my word…I needed this and don’t know any friends in church leadership that don’t. Great post. I recently told a close friend that I was struggling emotionally with a difficult conversation/decision because I knew there was no way I could come out of it as the “pastor in shining armor” in this guy’s eyes. Thankful for friends (and blogs) that remind me to keep doing the right things even when they’re the hard things.

  • Ashley Musick

    Great blog post Michael! I was reading in Luke the other day and was trying to imagine just how radically different Jesus was for the religious groups and norms of His day. Love the idea that He was a publicists nightmare!

  • Anonymous

    Pride can get in my way quickly. Not in thinking I am better than others, but in refusing to ask for help. It’s when I don’t ask that things go crazy.

    I am constantly asking God to remind me that I need to stay on my knees and remember who gets me where I am going. It’s God that opens the doors, not people.

    The best leaders are followers. They never stop following others.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is a great insight. The really great leaders are also really good followers.

  • Ben

    These are great observations of ever prevalent problems in today’s Church. I think particularly the pride that comes with even a hint of “fame” or adoration is the gateway that leads to the rest of these errors. Probably why God hates pride so much. Once you have it, you begin to lose perspective.

  • JD Eddins

    I think another temptation that leaders face is the failure to invest in future leaders. I have known some leaders that have been so intent on folding on to their power or feared that training some one else might one day put them out of a job that they failed to make that investment.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is one I should have mentioned. I have seen so many organizations falter because they didn’t have good succession plans in place. Mentoring, as Jesus practiced it, is the best way to maintain continuity.

  • Steven Cribbs

    I would also add – the tempation to live a double-standard, excusing ourselves from the rules that we don’t want and creating new rules for our own benefit.

    It is easy to use a leadership position – whether at home, at work, or at church – to justify a different set of standards for us to live by. Does our role bring privileges? Yes. Does our role excuse us from the standard and rules set for our communities? No. In fact, I would say that our leadership role calls us to a higher standard.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think this all comes from the mistaken notion as leaders that we are somehow “special.” This quickly leads to entitlement.

  • Nancy Davis

    This is great just from a leadership standpoint. I don’t even put myself last, I forget myself completely. I tend to disregard my own needs as not that important and think that because I put so many others ahead of me that I am such a great person. I am really happy that I saw and read this post today. My thinking about things is very backwards.

  • Cassandra Frear

    This is true even for community leaders and Sunday School teachers and church elders. Human nature is the same, and our enemy is the same, regardless of our position in life.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree.

  • Peter P

    Ah, one of the great questions that has endured down the ages.

    Kings, Pharaohs, emperors and great military leaders suffered the consequences of many of the points you mentioned.

    The personal branding thing is a big one for me. I was just reading on how John Saddington recommends that you DON’T use your own name for your blog address because it keeps the blog revolving around you and thus directly feeding your ego.

    That’s something I see a lot in ministry. People name their ministries after themselves, which is understandable from one point of view but which breeds pride and narcissism.

    Great post, Michael. LOTS to think about!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree with John. If I had to do it over again, I would have picked a concept for my blog rather than my name. The problem for me is that when I started, I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about. So the natural umbrella was me. It’s not a big issue, but it does present its own problems. Thanks.

      • Peter P

        I actually went the other way and moved to a blog under my name.

        It may be a little short sighted of me but it seemed the best solution at the time.

        I may live to regret it though :-)

      • Anonymous

        Really? I put my name on my blog because I wanted the accountability and transparency with readers. If I chose a concept as a name, I thought it too easy to write ‘theoretically’ about leadership but not about my experience with leadership.

  • Danblackonleadership

    Great post as always. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jameyjohnson

    Great post Mr. Hyatt. I believe pride and insecurity are the two lids I have faced over the years as a pastoral leader.

  • Kyle Shultz

    Michael, thanks so much for your labor for the Kingdom. You’re making a difference….

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Kyle.

  • Joseph Sanchez

    My problem is that I am jealous of those who are in leadership positions and are making an obvious difference for the kingdom of God. I covet their ability to influence lives and change their communities for Christ. But after reading this post maybe I need to be careful about what I wish for. Something tells me that if I were in the position some leaders are at right now, I’d most likely fall into one of the temptations mentioned in the post.
    But is it really all that bad to desire influence and want to be a great leader? What’s the point of reading leadership books, blogs, podcasts, and other things if a person won’t ever put what they learn into practice? When should a person decide to throw in the towel and not pursue the opportunity to lead? Sorry for all the questions. This is just something I’ve been thinking about for a while now and was just curious what people might think.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Personally, I think you focus on leading yourself and then making yourself available to serve others. I am always cautious about seeking roles or positions of leadership. If you are faithful, God will bring those opportunities—when you are ready and can handle them. Thanks.

  • Bill Whitt

    So many good points in this article about entitlement! I think some people think that there is a causal effect between their level of rudeness and the speed of their rise to fame. I worked with a small Christian band last month that had an ego much bigger than their actual level of fame merited. In contrast, some of the more famous musicians I have worked with have been some of the most humble. That is certainly refreshing.

    I also really benefited from your teaching that good leaders are not easily offended. That is something we all need to work on, probably!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Youth plus fame is not usually a good combination. Life has a way of humbling us all over time.

  • Brooke Stark

    Thank you for courageously speaking truth. Quite a warning to anyone who leads…and a comfort that the Way to avoid such pitfalls can only be found in Christ.

  • Marni Arnold

    You don’t leave any room today for any excuses. :) You never do, but today I think it is hitting a little bit more home because of two points you make here – and they are two points I am constantly keeping an ever careful close eye on.

    Those points are the temptations of resentment and popularity.

    As an introvert with very deep emotions, it is very easy for me to take offense – very easy. However, over the past year and a half, I have been finding myself shrugging offenses off a bit easier than the time before. Where I would hunker down in offense for months – sometimes years – I am now finding myself breaking through offenses in a matter of days to weeks; and I give all the credit and glory to Him (because on my own, I’d still be a sour puss for a long time if I wanted to be). I recognize this as progress – but I still have a long, long, long way to go with God on this.

    And the temptation of popularity? Well that comes from my childhood – deep in my childhood – of always being the “black sheep.” It is something I struggle with, but not so much very recently. I was reminded that my purpose [in Him] is not to be popular, but to be effective. I can only do this when I am obedient to Him – and this way of living in our society is actually very unpopular. And he has reminded me of this very recently by a removal of some people in my life who live amidst a “popular” lifestyle – always trying to “keep up with the Jones’ ” and making graven images of things they do in life (exercise, health,going out on coffee dates with friends and doing things in community come before God and family normally for these people).

    Overall, I have been learning more and more that offenses will happen – deal with it. And that being unpopular in this world, is a popular to God. Since vocalize that I believe Him, trust Him, and live for Him – I’d rather be popular with Him and live in those vocalizations; rather than try to please my desire to hold grudges and be popular with the “in-crowds” of life (even in the Church).

  • Brett

    I could write a book on this one (and no, that’s not a a query of any sort). I think all four of those (along w/ one I read below about the temptation to neglect accountability). I had this friend (ahem) who probably struggled with these things in extremely subtle ways. It’s amazing how the popularity and entitlement thing can be nearly invisible from the outside. Without right priorities (God, self-care, others, self–desires, wants, flesh) and accountability (I’m a leader and I either can’t admit it or don’t know who to talk about it to) the dependency on popularity and entitlement can really grow. Those two make up for the empty spaces left by no self-care and no close walking brothers or sisters.

  • Leah Adams

    What incredible wisdom in a short post! This is definitely one that is worth a second, third and fourth read! Thank you.

  • Jenny Herman

    Some times I face the temptation of laziness.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have seen this with some Christian leaders, too. It sometimes happens when there is no accountability. I think also happens when there is a lack of vision or when people are just so burned out they can’t go on.

  • Vicki Small

    Excellent post, Michael. I’ve seen all of those temptations, as well as the one Mark Martin mentions (not being accountable), and I’ve faced a couple, myself.

    I especially like what you said at the end, that “Leadership . . . is best held with an open hand.” Not to take away from the parts I left out, but I’ve seen people take ownership of leadership to the point that they had no followers left–and still they grasped what they had had. I am in a volunteer leadership role and recently told my supervisor that I don’t own it; anytime she or I decide that God is moving me out of leadership, I will go quietly and in anticipation of where God is leading me.

  • K.C. Pro

    Great post. I like how you portrayed the weak versus successful leader for each temptation.

    I think I’ve observed #1 the most (unfortunately), but #3 has been a character builder for me recently. Rolling with the punches and not taking offense has produced some amazing relational results.

    “Jesus was a publicist’s nightmare” — Love it!

  • Cyberquill

    In concrete terms, what does it mean to “put God first”?

    To use the example you cited earlier about the oxygen masks on an airplane in case of a loss of cabin pressure, all I can think of is put on my own mask first and then attend to others, for obviously, if I’m passed out, I’m of little use to anyone else. I must admit I’m a bit hazy as to the step that says “God first,” in which case my own mask must come second. What would I actually have to do to put God first once the masks drop from the ceiling?

    So if I’m a leader (which I’m not, but assuming I were) and needed something done, before I issued instructions to my employees, I’d have to … do what exactly? Say a prayer? Ask myself whether any of the instructions I’m about to give may violate a Biblical dictum?

    The following is entirely off-topic, i.e., subject to deletion, but the comments for the appropriate post (“13 eBooks to Put on Your Brand New Kindle”) are closed.

    Since no one gave me a Kindle for Christmas, I scraped together some spare change and finally ordered one myself.

    I placed my order online at at 2:33am on Sunday, Feb 6th.

    As per the shipment tracking report, my Kindle “left seller facility and is in transit” at 03:17:34 AM, February 6, 2011, roughly 45 minutes after I placed my order.

    On February 7, 2011, at 12:27:00 PM my Kindle was “received by carrier” at Lexingon, KY. (So wherever the seller facility may be located, it took 9 hours of transit for my Kindle to get from there to Lexington, KY.)

    On February 8, 2011, at 08:40:00 AM, my Kindle departed Lexington, KY, and arrived in Horsham, PA, twelve hours later, at 08:32:00 PM.

    It left Horsham a little less than three hours later at 11:14:00 PM and arrived in Secaucus, NJ, earlier today (Feb. 9th) at 02:20:00 PM, it’s estimated arrival at my house being sometime tomorrow, Feb. 10th.

    Here’s what I don’t understand:

    I live in New York City, the nation’s most populous city and certainly one of the largest markets for Kindles and probably everthing else with the possible exception of lawn mowers and cattle prongs.

    How come Amazon, the largest online retailer in the United States, doesn’t have any Kindles warehoused somewhere close by?

    According to Wikipedia, Amazon does have four warehouses in Pennsylvania and one in New Hampshire. So why does a Kindle ordered in New York City have to be shipped from all across the country?

  • Eva Smith™

    Definitely struggled with #1. Thanks for this post and helping me keep perspective on priorities. Your post is also a great reminder to redirect the spotlight off ourselves and give the glory to God for everything.

  • Anonymous

    Andrew Murray’s “Humility” is a yearly must read for me. I think the temptation to fly solo is always lurking. This includes the “I’ll do it myself” temptation as well as “I don’t need accountability” temptation.

  • Shane

    Absolutely one of your greatest posts ever Michael. Kudos to you for articulating so clearly what so many church leaders want to deny exists.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks! Honestly, I really struggled with it and almost didn’t post it. That just goes to show that there is no correlation between what I think and what God uses!

  • Chris Denning

    One temptation that I am constantly battling is the temptation to try and be everything to everyone. Not so much as a hero complex, because I don’t see myself as such. However, I do know that there are several things that if I don’t do, they won’t get done (such as leading worship at certain events, coordinating tech for various events outside my scope of work, etc).

    I’m beginning to understand more and more the importance of building a strong team around you, including volunteers. That way, this temptation can be met and conquered with the help of much more capable people than myself. For now, I manage the tension that is being all things to all people, and focusing on things only I can do.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I really do see this all the time. You are not alone.

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  • TNeal

    It’s hard at this stage in my life to believe any of the four would tempt me. I figure my family would help keep my head on straight if I had to deal with fame. On the other hand, having served as a pastor, I know the truth. In the past, I battled with the temptation of resentment. Don’t people know how hard I work on their behalf? Shouldn’t they be more grateful for the sacrifices I’ve made? Now I don’t know if maturity or circumstances have changed how I feel. I’d like to think the former but fear the latter.

  • Ralph Yoder

    Particularly, I struggle most with priorities and popularity. It’s even hard to admit this, but it is so easy to become me-centered. I constantly have to keep myself in check, which leads to the biggest temptation/challenge I face – balance.

    Michael – thanks for sharing, challenging and giving voice to a leader’s temptations.

  • Dana Crosby

    Thank you for this important post.

  • Ronhamilton

    Leaders are tempted by what they hear from those around them who also forget that it is God alone that does any good thing. All good gifts come from our Father above. When we do see ministry flow out of us or anyone else it is we ought to immediately think, “we got it this time: we got to the ‘empty handed’ place and God was able to give us something to give!” The temptation for me is to start thinking for some reason, we have some special gift that no one else could ever have just like me and that is why God used me. When the realty is God decided to flow through me despite my pride and arrogance. Thank God he is patient and works with us to make more and more room for him and less and less room for us!

  • Jesse Mutzebaugh

    I’m tempted to keep myself from being transparent.
    Granted there is an element of not airing out all of your laundry to your team, but at the same time I never want to appear to have it all together. This makes me

  • April Rowen

    Holy Mackerel, ‘The Temptation of Resentment’ was tough to read. It stood out in large-print edition.

    Thank you for the gentle reminder – and encouragement – to use offenses to grow maturity and character, and not grab a kleenex box at the first sight of one!

  • Daniel Becerra

    I have often struggled with the temptation of overdoing. The one that says “I gotta do this for God. And I have to follow up in this way”. And then I have those wake-up calls from God “Rest on Me”. I have often felt restless if I am not doing something of work and ironically that very restlesness leads to discouragement because I gotta be doing something ‘worthwhile’ or else I don’t feel too productive.

    I hate to admit it, but I realize now that I do struggle with doing things constantly or else not feeling productive. Anyone else out there on the same boat?

    • Daniel Becerra

      I guess another one is that temptation of not letting my people know my struggles. It reminds me of Moses who continue to cover his face with a veil even though his face stopped shinning. Instead of saying “Friends, pray for me, my face stopped shinning”, he chose to keep the veil.

      Much in the same manner, instead of saying “Friends, I don’t feel as passionate, I don’t feel God’s love consuming me, please pray for me”, I choose to continue with my “role” as a leader.

      Don’t fall into this mistake.

  • Jeff Randleman

    Wow. The temptation of entitlement really stood out to me. All too often I think I “deserve” something. I’ve really had to take some firm actions to build gratitude in my life. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Jeff Randleman

    I agree. It’s very easy to become “me-centered.” Our society doesn’t really help either. I have had to place a lot of checks and balances in my life in order to kee myself balanced.

  • Jeff Randleman

    I agree. It’s very easy to become “me-centered.” Our society doesn’t really help either. I have had to place a lot of checks and balances in my life in order to kee myself balanced.

  • Jeff Randleman

    This was supposed to be in response to Ralph Yoder. Disqus isn’t allowing me to post in a thread for some reason…

  • bwheelon

    Wow. This is a great post. As a Christian leader, I have faced all of these – sometimes failing miserably and sometimes winning the temptation at that time. This is such a good reminder to every leader however large or small they think their influence is. Thanks!

  • @usfbcm_interns “Kid Blizz”

    I’m an intern in a collegiate ministry, but I also do a great deal of Christian rap which has put me on stage several times, and after a song or whatever I’m asked to do, everyone always comes up and gives me the praise. As a leader both in the ministry and and as an example on the stage, ive gotta keep my heart right; I’m going so far as to (at my next time on stage) have the audience close their eyes so they don’t see me, they just hear God’s victory in my life and the words He inspired. As leaders we HAVE to keep our hearts right in every regard, and this article helped me so much, thank you so much

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome.

  • Hilary

    I see the “entitelment” from a different point of view. I’ve seen the “we’re a church, why can’t you give us your services for free?” attitude or “aren’t you a member, other members volunteer their time, you should do all of this as a volunteer.”

    I am not talking about a small handout, I’m talking about expecting me to basically spend the amount of time of a part time staffer for free. What I’m already doing plus a lot more (can you fix my computer while you’re at it?)

    The other problem is that they don’t ask politely, it’s EXPECTING. Even when formed into a question it’s a “why can’t you” instead of a “could you please” or “is there any way you could.” This is what I do for a living, you know, that thing I do to put food on my table and roof over my head? It’s not baking cupcakes from a box.

    I’m not going to go into more details but I have had the same type of thing happen with three churches now. They started off as excellent clients, appreciative and communicative, and turned into my worst nightmare with bad cases of entitlement.

    When giving your all isn’t good enough anymore and you have plenty of other clients who appreciate your services, there’s something wrong with that picture. Sore spot – moving on.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. This is why I generally don’t advocate giving away stuff for free. If people don’t have skin in the game, they don’t generally pay attention or get what they need to get out of the situation.

      • Hilary

        The sad part here is that they were paying clients but gradually shifted into that “give me a handout” mentality.

        But you’re right – people need to be invested. Money, time, heart even.

  • Daniel Decker

    Powerful post. Thank you.

  • Susan Wilkinson

    Excellent points. Some of the same things I’ve been pondering lately, only not in such clear terms. Thank you for the clarity.

  • Justin Lukasavige

    Personal branding. That’s it for me. I suppose that’s a nicer way of saying popularity. :)

  • Jeff Jones

    I think my life would be easier were I not a leader and it is not a position I have sought but I do believe I find myself in that position because I am more and more reminded that to be a leader is to be a servant. The key to great leadership is remembering who I truly serve. Not myself, not others, only God.

  • Noah Lomax

    As a young leader, this is a great challenge for me to do a personal inventory. I really appreciate what you said about taking care of yourself. It seems as if some people think that spirituality is somehow linked to hours in the office or lack of sleep.

    While not advocating anything aside from hard, humble work, a leader does have to take care of himself if he wants to minister effectively! Great post!

    Noah Lomax

  • Sjohnston

    I think your list covered the more prevalent ones. It is good to be reminded of our role to be servant leaders like Jesus was. It is much too easy to be carried away by these temptations. I think I need to print this post out and read it daily. Thank you for the words of encouragement to stay the course.

  • Cestarr

    Thanks for this encouragement. I am currently publishing a book through West Bow and launching a blog about love and money. I am excited to share the message I believe God had given me, yet the temptations that come with fame make me fear success. Your analogy of holding leadership with an open hand is very helpful. That is my desire. To trust God with the outcome and remember always that the Lord is the one who gives or takes away the opportunity to influence.

  • Nikole Hahn

    The temptation of ego. Too much praise gets that ugly monster out from obscurity. Ugh.

  • Drfreud2

    I do NOT disagree with your 4 points —- but —– I would use different terms for the temptations. Or at least added some comments to their descriptions – like — Priorities might include Pride and Entitlement includes various sexual temptations and so forth.

    You are you — you do not necessarily see things the way I do —- keep up your excellent work and ministry. We love you guys!

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  • Jade

    I am sharing this in a blog I keep – “Feed My Sheep”. I think this is great information for leader :) Thank you for sharing! It’s being posted on  – thanks for sharing again. I needed a reminder :)

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  • Anonymous

    Great insight. Thank you!

  • susanshearer

    I enjoyed reading your post, Michael. God gives me big theme lessons. For several months now it has been entitlement. “I am NOT entitled” has become my mantra. When ever I feel myself being ‘threatened’ I have to remind myself, “I am not entitled’. It’s been a humbling experience as God is showing me how entitled I feel in small things like someone wanting to pull over on me on the freeway. He draws my attention to the other person and their needs as from their perspective I do not ‘exist’ in their world. I love praying for all the people on the freeway as we inch along.  Can you just imagine all the people we will meet in heaven that are there as a result of the ‘butterfly effect’ of our actions that we were never aware of here on earth! It’s exciting.

  • Roger Doriot

    Did I miss something here in skimming these comments quickly??  I didn’t see mention of the temptations of sensuality.  If not outright immorality, temptations to read and look at sensual material, which is so readily available.  I would expect Satan to attack practically every effective leader in these areas, to either:  1) diminish their focus on the spiritual; 2) lead them into greater sin eventually; 3) waste valuable time; 4) bring them to disgrace (when doing some of this is found out); or 5) any combination of the above.

    Or am I the only one facing these temptations?

  • Fumcyouth

    Man you nailed this!

  • Belinda Ramos

    I struggle with all of these. I’m in my early 30’s and leadership has been so bumpy for me, mainly inwardly. I can say that in my few years of leading people, I have come to recognize these 4 areas and the small ways in which I can be so enslaved to them. I see the little things I do that feed these 4 beasts. To think that these are the things that single handed corrodes me into weak leadership…is sobering. That’s not what I want. My desire is to mature well as a leader. I am so grateful for reading this today. I pray that I become a strong leader, having those characteristics of someone who is dead to themselves, in the way that Jesus was. Thank you so much!

  • William R

    I am curious why the focus on Christian Leaders? Aren’t these challenges that anyone would face?

  • Drfreud2

    After working with some 900 ministers from some 20 denominations and six countries, I find that the primary temptation is for them to try to do the Holy Spirit’s job (like  trying to motivate the people) and they burn out trying to do the jobe they are not equipted to do.

  • Andrew Henck

    The more and more I spend time with Christian organizations and churches, I find Henri Nouwen’s, “In the Name of Jesus” to be oh so relevant and timeless. Sadly, the temptation of power through position is one that I would add to this list. When folks reach certain positions or authorities either named or not, the ability to abuse power grows.

  • Arnold Adg

    Temptations are 4G`s: 1. Girls, 2. Glory, 3. Gold, and 4. Guys.

  • Pam

    Great article. Very helpful. Short and sweet. The expressing gratefulness and the overlooking an offense points are what I see as lacking in leadership. Thanks for writing this.

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  • scottvolltrauer

    The benchmarks – like hurdles I set up in front of me – always go up!

  • Joshua

    Thanks for this post. Your last point is hard to keep in check. How can we build our platform while fighting against the temptation of popularity? In other words, how to be build a platform in a God-honoring way? Also, what are God-honoring reasons for building a platform? Maybe you already have a post on these questions! Thanks for your dedication to helping other leaders succeed Michael.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Joshua. I think it’s about getting the message out, not making ourselves famous. If we can stay focused on that, everything will be okay.

  • Tom Manzke

    Michael I think I struggle most with number 3. In ministry you work long hours, get phone calls in the middle of the night. When someone attacks, or takes you for granted I tend to take it personally, especially if I have been neglecting taking a day off, or not taken the time to recharge and refresh.

  • Sharon Norvell Leukert

    So where does this leave us? I’m enjoying your “Platform” book where you have a lot to say about branding and here I see the issue with self branding as a temptation for Christian leaders. Are you saying then that Platform isn’t for Christian leaders? I just need a little clarification, not trying to be obstinate in any way.

  • Medhat

    I enjoyed this particular post, but agree with some of the other posters in that, these are temptations that all successful leaders, Christian and otherwise, can/will face. Successful in that, unsuccessful leaders don’t have to deal with the trappings of success that can lead to these temptations (although they want to!). The Christian element is revealed in your thoughtful commentary, referencing “what would/did Jesus do/say” regarding similar situations. I suppose other religions have similar at times outlooks relating to “serving a purpose greater than yourself”, we tend to personify that in Christ.

    I especially relate to (and see in others) “The Temptation of Entitlement”. When things are going well, it’s pretty to easy to look in the mirror and see how great you are and how all good things happened because of you. Conversely, when things don’t go as well it’s equally easy to blame others for not carrying out your schemes to the letter. All the while forgetting, for a time at least, that Christ has a hand in both the ups and downs. As I’m writing this I notice a stark difference in the outlooks posed by a) purposeful pursuit of goals, business or otherwise, that have as their ultimate goal glorifying God, versus b) the singular pursuit of self-interest and gratification, the so-called “invisible hand” referenced by the economist Adam Smith.

    Great blog!

  • Qarau

    GLORAYYY!!!! Praise God for words of wisdom! Love this – “They would rather be effective, even if they labor in obscurity.”

  • Prophecy Dude

    Awesome message.

  • TorConstantino

    This post is still relevant today – I would add that leaders can give into the “temptation of insulation” – in that there’s a tendency to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. While this is necessary and helpful to a point, it frequently leads to homogenized insight that excludes diversity of opinion. In corporate America, I’ve seen many subordinates of top executives spend days massaging bad news to share with the leader – just so the leader won’t “freak out” – group think is a serious risk that accompanies leaders who are overly-insulated…

  • Michael Paddy

    Reminds me of Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Temptations of a CEO” thanks Michael for this good reminder!

  • Becky M

    It is so important to keep a good balance in all we do. I’m sure we all can attest to this, but for myself, it’s important to constantly stay in fellowship with the Lord to avoid temptations. People are so dramatic & negative & if not careful it’s easy to get sucked into just about anything. I like what Jeremy said, and it’s so true, if we get preoccupied with other things, it’s easy to lose our focus! For myself personally, I have to do a self check daily & want to remain humble, always being able to take the constructive criticism from my circle. Definitely agree with Mark & others on the accountability! Without that & the humility, the “big head” is sure to come our way, it’s only a matter of time. Great post Michael! (FTR….I am not leading a church as a woman ;)) blessings

  • Missy Caulk

    Thank you Michael, I needed to read #1 again…easy to let it slide.

  • Steve Walker

    The temptation to omni-competence: leaders who have enjoyed some success are reasonably competent in many areas, and usually care about the quality and effectiveness of the organization. The temptation is to do more instead of delegate more as you grow. Trusting others with what matters to you and realizing that God never expects you to do it all is a challenge.

  • Travis Spencer

    The temptation of “Riding the wave of yesterday’s success.” Sometimes after a few wins we hit autopilot and then slowly lose momentum for achieving future success.

  • Jeffrey Mach

    I know this is an old post, but it popped up in my fb feed after a tough, long day where I was tested as a person. Evidently the big guy knew I needed a lift. great post Michael, thanks.

  • Bob Kuebler

    I used to be a guy who lived in a semi rural area and attended suburban churches. I knew nothing about the inner city. I viewed impoverished folks who lived in a violent city as weak people. Then God immersed me in their culture. My heart broke on a weekly basis as I witnessed their personal struggles. My haughtiness fell into the chasm of my broken heart. I no longer looked at them through snooty eyes. I became one of them in empathy and love.

    Life is changing now and some of the direct personal contact is being diminished. We spend more time in schools rather than street corners and alleyways. As God’s territory in our hearts is expanded and we reach into more classrooms, I don’t ever want to go back to my old ways. Sometimes I still struggle to blow the prideful chaff from the threshing floor of my soul. When I feel that haughty spirit begin to seep in, I stop and turn to Him: “Create in me a clean heart O God.”

  • LouAnn

    Thank you Michael. As a minister, blogger, and leadership coach I can totally relate!!! Some of my most painful experiences have been at the hands of fellow ministry leaders. We must all be very careful and remember the truth that we are merely servants of the most high. A high calling indeed but a humble one too. Have a blessed Easter with your family.

  • Jonathan

    A great reminder. Thank you.

    “Never live like you don’t have a sinful nature.” #onguard

  • Ernest Dixon Murrah

    If you have a sinful nature, you are not saved.