The temptations of ministry: The three Ps


Just over a year ago, I started a blog. I was full of enthusiasm and daring—the kind of enthusiasm that only comes from an almost complete ignorance of the project you’re about to embark upon. I guessed it would be a great opportunity for ministry. What I didn’t anticipate is how God would use this new ministry to perform surgery on my heart.

I suspect my experience isn’t unique. I suspect that many men and women in ministry—whether paid or unpaid, part-time or full-time—discover uncomfortable truths about themselves. What I learned was that I’m often motivated less by love and a passion for the gospel, and more by what I’ve come to call the three Ps:

  • pride
  • perfectionism
  • people-pleasing

The three Ps raise themselves like ugly spectres every day. Every time I prepare a seminar, lead a Bible study or write an article, this unholy triumvirate looms over my shoulders and whisper in my ears. Around them hover a host of smaller fiends, twittering and gibbering in my mind—anxiety, vanity, boasting, obsession, envy and selfish ambition.

“I think that’s a rather good Bible study! I wonder if they’ll notice” (pride). “I know my kids need my attention, but I’ll just read over that article one more time” (perfectionism). “I know people will disagree with me, but if I play down the differences, perhaps I’ll keep their respect” (people-pleasing).

Not everyone is tempted by the three Ps, but I suspect that many of us do ministry not just because we love Christ, but also because we’re proud perfectionist people-pleasers. Perhaps the three Ps are revealed in workaholism, subtle boasting or envy of more successful ministries. For many of us, the three Ps are only too real.

What do the three Ps reveal? Like bad fruit from a bad tree, trace them back to their root and they reveal the idolatrous desires at the heart of me (Luke 6:43-45, Matt 15:18-19). They show that I love to steal God’s glory for myself (pride). They show that I have such a tenuous hold on God’s grace, I’m driven to prove myself (perfectionism). They show that I value people’s opinions more than God’s (people-pleasing).

Here are the truths I preach to myself daily. Against pride: all that I have, I have from God, and it is all for his glory. Against perfectionism: I am perfect in God’s eyes, clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Against people-pleasing: what people think of me doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is what God thinks of me, and he cares about faithfulness, not success.

On my own, I can’t overcome the three Ps; I will battle them until the day I die. But every day, they become weaker, as God gives me grace and strength to overcome. He is able to make me stand before him on the last day, when the three Ps are finally defeated. On that day, I will say with all my heart, “I am an unworthy servant. I have only done my duty. All glory be to God and to the Lamb, who sits on the throne!” (Luke 17:7-10, Rev 5:13).

5 thoughts on “The temptations of ministry: The three Ps

  1. Thanks Jean.

    The 3 P’s torment me daily sister. Thank you for writing a ‘how to’ article not an ‘ought to’ article. Thanks for giving godly tips to battle these foes.

    I praise God for you.

  2. Amen! I definately struggle with these too! I find it shocking how sin seeps deceptively into all aspects of our lives – even the things we are ‘doing for God’.

    Thank you for your honesty Jean.

  3. this is so true of me, too! thanks for being so honest. i was very hesitant to start a blog for ages because i feared how it would so easily feed my pride. now that i have started one, it’s a constant effort to not check my stats daily, not be disappointed when they’re low and not be really pleased with myself when they’re high.

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