Pastors Don’t Do This 02: Become Pastor Pharisee (Part 1 – Thinking You Are the Greatest)

I have seen more than one pastor turn into a Pharisee. Normally, they have been pastoring for a while, and it has not gone so well visibly for them. And then the pastor transforms from being anointed to being a Pharisee. It’s an amazing transformation. How anyone with a Bible can end up like a Pharisee when we know all about how they failed is beyond me, but it happens. There are pastors today far more similar to the Pharisees in the gospel than the Biblical office of a pastor.

In Matthew 23, Jesus chews the Pharisees out for their selfish, religious behaviour. One of his criticisms was “they love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi”. They want prestige and fame and renown, and they don’t necessarily want to do anything to earn it.

I’ve been in big meetings where all the pastors are about who sits where, and so on. I have been deliberately moved to the back before in an attempt to put me in my place! People don’t realize I absolutely don’t care about being sat on the stage, being noticed and so on. But I have seen pastors yelling at each other about who gets to sit next to the great man of God! It’s pathetic and Jesus already told us about it!

The greatest person in Heaven is the biggest servant not the one with the best seat! It’s really that simple. When I speak to Bible College students, I often ask “why do you want to be in ministry” and I never get a good answer. A lot of people just want the prestige.

At a pastor’s conference I was at once, a man came and sat next to me, he said “People are calling you an apostle, how do you get people to call you an apostle”. I said “No one called me an apostle until I had planted four churches, you need to plant more churches than your one church. Is there a town where many people come to your church, or a region or district in your town that a lot of people travel from, maybe start having meetings there and raise up a pastor and start a second church”. He said to me “I do not want to do that, I do not want to plant churches, I want people to call me an apostle”. He said “apostle” in a very holy and religious tone of voice, like ah-poooost-ul, and it was clear that he loved titles!

If the driving force for going to Bible College, for being a pastor, is not to love God and serve God and love people and serve people and it is for acclaimation, you are a modern day Pharisee. We can all fall for this, so pray for me and I will pray for you!

Pastors can get into pride, can get into fear of the opinions of other pastors and can be insecure too. We need to make sure we spend enough time with Jesus so He is the Lord of our lives, He is the peer that pressures us so to speak.

So ask yourself today – do you love positions and titles. Read Matthew 23.6-8 in the Message and ask yourself honestly – is that me!

They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

You have to reach a place that you don’t care where you sit, where you do anything, what happens, and who notices. You need to be absolutely indifferent to the spotlight. It’s so important. I am seeing more and more travelling ministries who are only in meetings that platform them and that really concerns me, some do not even have a home church! That’s very concerning. I once knew a director of a Bible College who didn’t even go to church. The arrogance that drives that will make someone a modern-day Pharisee.

I was at a conference several years ago, and I had brought nearly one hundred people from my churches to go to the conference. When I arrived I was offered a seat at the front, in fact right next to one of the esteemed guest speakers. I declined because I wanted to use the time to sit with my congregation and minister life to them and build deeper and stronger relationships with them. But when I declined and explained why the people who told me I had the seat could not believe I would ever make that choice and started to tell me I was making the wrong choice. Be careful – the wrong choice is to love the seats at the front!

I know some pastors who are summed up by the phrase “preening in the radiance of public flattery”. It defines them. They have to be praised all the time or they get upset. That’s not how you build the church of Jesus Christ and expend the kingdom. Repent!

Next week, we will continue to look at the dangers and problems of being Pastor Pharisee!

Published by Tree of Life Church

We are a growing network of growing churches, with services weekly in Dagenham, Guildford, Watford, Croydon, Brentwood and Dorset. We are also planting churches in Cambridge, Suffolk, West Midlands and Hemel. Find out more at, and

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: