Lately I have heard more distorted perceptions of what ego is, and isn’t, than I ever dreamed possible. I have been accused of being an ego maniac because I refuse to give the ministries I have spent the last ten years building to someone else (actually, “someones” else, since there are several folks who seem to feel entitled to them); and because I protect my denomination’s integrity by enforcing our Canon Law and insisting that those who would have the Universal Anglican Church adapt a baptist identity actually make their attempt according to our Church Law; and because I feel ethically compelled to protect those we serve from inappropriate comments that constitute a violation of our sexual harassment policy; and other similar situations. If that makes me an ego maniac, so be it, but the truth is that it doesn’t.
I have learned that there are more than a few people in ministry who like to use the accusation of ego run amok to attempt to manipulate others. When things don’t go their way, they claim that it was only ego that kept things from going their way. I would go on at some length about the irony in such a view, but I trust that it is apparent. Suffice it to say for our purposes here that the call to ordained ministry does not automatically make anyone’s ideas good, or provide them with the skills necessary to accomplish their goals. There are still things to be learned, and mistake will still be made. It is only ego and/or delusion that causes one to assume that, without experience and without mentoring, one is ready to do any sort of ministry.
I have also learned that it matters very little how much of a laid back leadership style one employs, there will always be those who will accuse you of being an autocrat when you don’t let them have their way. With all due respect, if you know it so much better than everyone else – including your colleagues in your denomination – then why in the world don’t you start your own ministry? You might even declare yourself Pope and then accuse others of being ego driven…
By contrast, I have spent quite a bit of time studying the concepts of ego – both in the western sense and in the Buddhist sense. In truth, if you want to understand ego and humility in the Christian sense I believe you have to study the monastic traditions and their understandings of humility and obedience. Ego is most definitely not when someone gets in the way of your sense of entitlement – in fact, your sense of entitlement is a manifestation of your ego run amok.
Western society has little patience for the concepts of formation and mentoring. However, clergy need to be immersed in those concepts because they have been the foundation of Christian formation for two thousand years. Those who would bypass them do so to the detriment of their own ministries – and, unfortunately, those to whom they minister.
The years of effort, prayer, work, and money that a pastor invests in launching a ministry do, in fact, lead to a healthy sense of ownership. No one who understands the process would ever expect someone to surrender their ministry to them just because they feel they are entitled to it. If you doubt that, try it yourself. Once you get everything established, give it to me. I think you will see my point
I am very proud of what I have been blessed with in my ministry and what God has entrusted me with. I will gladly mentor you, help you, guide you, do whatever I can to get you into a place where you can do the same – but if you expect me to just surrender my ministries to you so that I can start over and you with your lack of experience can destroy them, you will just have to be disappointed.
Get over it, and go build your own.