Dealing with ambition

Over breakfast this morning (at the Westmark in Whitehorse) I was reading the Fall 2010 Leadership Journal – or parts of it.  What really caught my attention was the cover article “Ambitions – They keep you going, but they can go bad.”

JR Kerr in Pastoral Narcissism (pages 29-31), suggests that our egos get caught up in the working out of calling  – that our insecurities cause us to slip into the sin of self-promotion and though that seems in contrast to serving Christ it is an easy transition to make.  I couldn’t help reflecting on our own organization and my own experience.  When we’ve been appointed to DHQ (3 different appointments) we get letters of congratulations – but when we’ve been appointed to corps ministry the experience is quite different…

Even in congregational ministry there is the temptation to “sell oneself” to others… I remember my early conversations with other ministers – the one upmanship that exists there too.  “We had 150 on Sunday…”  “We had 155!”.

I watch our collegue Joel Osteen and those who have come before him and wonder – a platform for serving Jesus or self promotion?

JR suggests that the answer is in serving the community – in being part of the Body of Christ – being as Jesus asked us – a Servant Leader.  You’ll remember that Jesus caught the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest among them.  He pointed out that the way to greatness is in becoming the servant to all.  Serving others.

And yet without ambition – what is accomplished.  I heard someone recently say that “if you aren’t taking risks you aren’t leading.” – and how does one take risks without ambition.  This tangle of ego and servanthood is a difficult thing to understand, and a difficult thing to contend with.  The same issue of Leadership has a second article – an interview with Dave Harvey, author of Rescuing  Ambition (Crossway, 2010). To the question “So is godly ambition about attaining a position, or about accomplishing something for God, or something else?”  Harvey replies, “What impresses me about people with godly ambition is that it’s not rooted in position; it’s rooted in the gospel….So the ambition about what I do and how I’m positioned is not as important as what Christ has done for me, and how I live in light of that.” (page 22)


1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18

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