Ego vs. Arrogance


2715108258_1eb6a6703b_mOne of the core competencies for effectively pastoring the large church is sufficient ego strength to fill the role. Here’s how I would define ego strength.

Demonstrates strong and appropriate personal boundaries in relationships; has a healthy appreciation of self as differentiated from role; is emotionally mature; can maintain a nonanxious presence in the midst of turmoil; is not overly dependent upon outside affirmation; maintains a strong personal support system.

One could make an argument that all church pastor’s need ego strength.  However, there are dimensions of large church leadership that require ego strength above and beyond levels required in smaller sized congregations. The pastoral role in the large church is decidedly different. The pastor’s relationship with the congregations is not managed via one on one teaching and pastoral care relationships, but is projected as a persona from the pulpit and larger teaching platforms. From the very essence of her or his being, the large church pastor must communicate an identity for the church. Because large church leadership is more publicly than personally based, it is much easier for people to distort the relationship and turn on the pastor for reasons that have nothing to do with the pastor. Any dissatisfaction with the larger church experience may be projected onto the person of the senior clergy. Conversely, the pastor may also be placed on a hero pedestal that no human being could live up to. People make assumptions about how well they know the pastor and who the pastor is, when they really have no relationship with him or her. The large church pastor must have rather significant ego strength to withstand the ups and downs of the leadership role, to avoid being held hostage by public opinion, and to rise above the isolation of being visible to many and known to very few.

While on the subject I must also go on to comment that some (well, maybe more than some) large church pastors develop a tremendous sense of arrogance along with the required ego strength. They  operate with an aggravated sense of self importance and self worth. (This of course applies to none of my current clients! ) And I often find myself wondering why the two seem inextricably bound. Isn’t it possible to develop healthy ego strength without becoming arrogant?

Here’s what I’ve noticed about those who wander into arrogance.  They start believing that the public persona is real. They begin believing that they are the fully embodied essence of the leadership presence that others project onto them.  Granted, some of the adulation is deserved. Most large church pastors possess remarkable preaching and teaching skills that garner a lot of attention.  But I’ve yet to meet a real pastor who fully embodies all of the leadership qualities attached to the pulpit presence. Those who remain humble in the role are constantly working to self correct the public image so that it more genuinely represents the real person. They manage to do this without diminishing the authority of the role or lessening the ego strength required to wear the mantle of large church leadership. Those who cross over the line into arrogance spend more of their time tending to the preservation of the public persona. They begin thinking that the public persona and the real person are one in the same.

Let me hear from those of you who are in the role. How do you tend to ego strength without losing yourself in arrogance?

Photo Credit: michelle cat’s  photo stream at flickr.com

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