Danger Signs

Understanding wisdom and pride in the context of small groups

I love a good quote! If you have ever visited my office or Facebook page, you can easily recognize that truth. Let me share one of my favorites with you: "Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from getting into situations where you need it."

Living Above Reproach

In order to be wise, we must live our lives on the prevent side of things. Fortunately, wisdom is available to every follower of Christ. Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the LORD gives wisdom and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding." It is crucial for small-group leaders to walk in Christ's wisdom. Our life holds the reputation of Christ, his Church, our family, and our friends. We must never place ourselves in a situation that can harm our reputation, our witness, or our mission.

Kevin was a small-group leader at his church. Throughout his life, he had earned a great reputation and his group was connecting well. Kevin was especially passionate about his prayer life. He made it a point to have his group hold hands and pray at the end of every gathering. One evening, Kevin noticed that a young woman named Jessica made it a point to stand next to him during prayer time. She casually moved all the way across the room to hold his hand. The next week, the same thing happened. Kevin also began to get e mails from Jessica, asking him to pray for things she couldn't bring up in the group. Although Kevin was not comfortable with this, he didn't share this truth with her.

Over the next couple of weeks, Kevin's group noticed Jessica making it a point to hold Kevin's hand. Kevin's wife told him that she was very uncomfortable with Jessica's apparent motives. Kevin would simply laugh it off and assure his wife that nothing was going on. Kevin wanted to make sure that everyone in the group felt loved—both the men and the women. One evening when Kevin's wife was out of town, Jessica dropped by for a visit. She said that she needed prayer and support. One thing led to another. Ultimately, Kevin found himself without his wife or his small group.

As leaders, we will all experience awkward situations. We must keep our eyes open and be prepared to be above reproach. A good person in the wrong place appears to be a bad person.

Practice the following tips in living above reproach:

  1. Trust in God and never in yourself. Never believe that you are strong enough to stand up to temptation. Pride always comes before a fall.
  2. Do not minister or counsel with someone of the opposite sex behind closed doors or alone. Make a plan to communicate.
  3. Avoid situations that would cause people to question your character.

The Crippling Power of Pride

Of course, the thing that most often prevents us from exercising wisdom is pride. Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Pride prevents people from being transformed into the likeness of Christ. It forces people to live under a lie. Prideful people believe that they are self sufficient, not needing anybody's help for anything. They keep others at a relational distance from themselves, not letting anyone close to their hearts.

Leslie has been attending her journey group for five months now. She is faithful in her attendance and is always willing to help in anyway that she can. At first glance, her journey group leaders thought that she would make a great apprentice for them. But over time, they noticed some red flags. Although Leslie seems to talk during the beginning of their gatherings and even during the meal-time, she becomes very quiet during the discussions—especially during the application questions. She seems distant from the group and appears uncomfortable. Her leaders also noticed that she never offers personal prayer requests. She is quick to listen to other peoples' requests, but never shares her own. Leslie's small-group leaders believe that she may be suffering from pride.

Pride comes in many different forms. In some cases it is easily seen, while others tend to hide it well. If left unaddressed, pride can cripple a person, even leading to spiritual death. Why? Pride keeps us from confessing our sins and weaknesses. And our confession of sin opens the door to receive Christ's grace. If a person can't admit their sin, they will never convert to Christ's ways.

Pride is toxic to the life of a journey group, too. If someone is resistant to converting to Christ's ways, they may stunt the entire group's spiritual growth. Prideful people wear masks to cover their weaknesses. This, in turn, forces other group members to do the same. It is impossible for people to convert to Christ's ways while carrying pride in their hearts.

Here are some tips to keep pride from killing your group:

  1. Admit your weaknesses and struggles. Invite your group participants to do the same. This will help create a safe environment for your group to be real.
  2. Challenge your group to share personal requests during prayer time. It's beneficial to pray for distant family members, friends, and coworkers—but make sure that those requests are not the main focus. Sharing personal requests provides an opportunity for people to remove any pride.
  3. Be on the lookout for those who seem distant during the discussion or prayer times. Consider providing them the opportunity to share. A verbal invitation can go a long way.
  4. Listen for opportunities for your group to convert to Christ's ways. These opportunities may come through Scripture reading, application questions, or casual conversations.

Seth Widner is Family Pastor of The Journey Church in Fernandia Beach, Florida.

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