Monday night, Kay & I went to our church’s leadership team meeting. The scheduled topic was “Building and maintaining enthusiasm for ministry.” It sounded like it was going to be pretty basic stuff on having and sharing a vision, which is something in which we are already pretty strong. Yawn.
You want to know how cool our pastor is? We showed up, and he said, “Tonight, I was going to talk about building and maintaining enthusiasm — but I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about it. So I scrapped it. Instead, we are going to talk about humility. What, you may ask, does humility have to do with leadership? Everything.”
We went on to read and discuss a chapter from Devotional Classics (edited by Richard Foster), an excerpt from The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living by a Jeremy Taylor, 1613-1667. (Pastor Dave said, “For every living author you read, you should read two dead authors.”) Foster writes, “His ‘rules’ may sound foreign or offensive to some modern readers who are more at ease with the language of self-esteem, but Taylor’s understanding of the importance of humility is a much needed word for us today.”
When Dave planted this church, God gave him a vision that this was to be a church known for its humility. For all our standard church trappings, this church may be better suited to touch the emerging culture, because of all the church’s offenses that the post-Christian culture perceives, the greatest is arrogance. Humility is the andidote.
Last night Kay led our home group in discussing this same chapter. I’m recovering from a root canal and am not feeling great, so I said goodnight to everyone and went to bed. But here, for your consideration, is an outline of Jeremy Taylor’s “rules of humility”:
- Do not think better of yourself because of any outward circumstance that happens to you.
- Humility does not consist in criticizing yourself, or wearing ragged clothes, or walking around submissively wherever you go. Humility consists in a realistic opinion of yourself, namely, that you are an unworthy person.
- When you hold this opinion of yourself, be content that others think the same of you.
- Nurture a love to do good things in secret, concealed from the eyes of others, and therefore not highly esteemed because of them.
- Never be ashamed of your birth, of your parents, your occupation, or your present employment, or the lowly status of any of them.
- Never say anything, directly or indirectly, that will provoke praise or elicit compliments from others.
- When you do receive praise for something you have done, take it indifferently and return it to God.
- Make a good name for yourself by being a person of virtue and humility.
- Do not take pride in any praise given to you. If praise comes, put it to work by letting it serve other ends than yourself.
- Do not ask others your faults with the intent or purpose being to have others tell you of your good qualities.
- When you are slighted by someone, or feel undervalued, do not harbor any secret anger, supposing that you actually deserved praise.
- Do not entertain any of the devil’s whispers of pride.
- Take an active part in the praising of others, entertaining their good with delight.
- Be content when you see or hear that others are doing well in their jobs and with their income, even when you are not.
- Never compare yourself with others unless it be to advance your impression of them and lower your impression of yourself.
- Do not constantly try to excuse all of your mistakes.
- Give God thanks for every weakness, fault, and imperfection you have.
- Do not expose others’ weaknesses in order to make them feel less able than you.
- Remember that what is most important to God is that we submit ourselves and all that we have to him.
- Confess your sins often to God and don’t think of them as scattered offenses in the course of a long life. Instead, unite them into one continuous representation of your life.
Here are the questions we used on Monday:
- Humility, writes Jeremy Taylor, begins with a realistic assessment of ourselves, namely, that we are unworthy. How does this contrast with the modern emphasis on having high self-esteem?
- Taylor writes, “Some people spend their time dreaming of greatness. Although there is nothing directly evil in this, it is the offspring of an inner evil.” How have your dreams of greatness been a hindrance in your spiritual life?
- Look over the whole list of Taylor’s rules. Which of them comes easiest for you? Which is the hardest?
…What do you think?