A Call To Humility for Church Leaders

A Call To Humility for Church Leaders

Recently, Pope Francis released a letter to Chilean Bishops. While I think there are serious issues left in the Catholic Church that must be reconciled and restored, I thought there were some powerful statements in this letter and lessons I can learn.

Read the full letter here. Here is the excerpt that jumped off the page at me.

As for my own responsibility, I acknowledge, and I want you to faithfully convey it that way, that I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially because of the lack of truthful and balanced information. Right now I ask forgiveness from all those I offended and I hope to be able to do so personally, in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have with representatives of the people who were interviewed.


Abide in me: these words of the Lord resound again and again in these day. They speak of personal relationships, of communion, of fraternity which attracts and summons. United to Christ as the branches are to the vine, I invite you graft into your prayers in the coming days a magnanimity that prepares us for the aforementioned meeting and will then allow what we will have reflected on to be translated into concrete actions.

Here are a couple of lessons that come to mind for me as I read the Pope’s letter.

A Call To Humility for Church Leaders

Ground Myself In Humility

This to me was a powerful apology because of the humility required. Too often I am ready to defend my point of view. I don’t want to apologize. I’m prideful and think my view is right. To humble myself and ask for forgiveness of everyone I have offended is somehow beneath me. In reality, this is most definitely a case in which extreme humility should be exercised. The scandals that the Catholic Church is dealing with regarding sexual misconduct require humility and restoration.

But even on a smaller scale in my own life, humility gets lost in the background to the “big” spiritual disciplines. The temptation as I develop in areas of prayer, Bible reading, going to church, etc, is simply to build up an attitude of how good and right I am because I am doing all the right things. Humility takes a back seat and I position myself to damage people even if I don’t mean to do so.

While I’m inspired to humility by the Pope’s letter, it is actually God who calls me to it. Over and over in Scripture, I’m called to humility.

“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.”

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”

“As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

You might not struggle with humility in this same way, but I’m reminded of the need to humble myself under the mighty hand of God. Humility says I am not so big that I am above reproach. Humility says that I know I am prone to sin and failure and because of that, in humility, I will submit myself to boundaries.

Our Need For Boundaries

My church takes a strong stance on the topic of boundaries. You probably have some version of these, but here is an example.

A male staffer is never to be in a car/restaurant/situation alone with a female who isn’t his wife.

Why? Because there’s too much room for accusation and misjudgment. There’s too much room for an emotional bond to develop between two people who aren’t married. We have policies and boundaries in place for adults with children in KidZone. How many adults are allowed with kids in a room at any one time? Hint: it’s always at least two adults.

Why? Because we are all broken and are not above a moral failure. So we have boundaries and safeguards in place at every turn to set ourselves up for success in this area. I think of the recent claims that have come out against Bill Hybels for example. I don’t know the truth. I’m not sure if we will ever really know the exact truth about what all happened. But I do know this: if he had stronger boundaries and accountability in place, the likelihood of Hybels being in this situation would be much lower. The same is true for the Catholic Church and the accusations that have poured out of their tribe. My prayer for them as the Pope looks for concrete answers and actions steps is that boundaries and accountability will be the number one priority for them.

Even in a strong environment full of boundaries, I don’t know that we are fully insulated from accusations and moral failures. But I know for certain, in environments where those boundaries aren’t in place, you are set up to find yourself in the midst of a tragic situation. I’m reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV).

If you are a male student pastor meeting with a female student alone for “ministry” in your office, you are set up for destruction.

If you are an adult volunteer walking a child alone to a bathroom, you are set up for accusation and destruction.

If you are a pastor of a huge church with a global reach and you allow yourself onto yachts alone with female staffers who aren’t your wife, you are set up for destruction.

If you are a priest who allows yourself time alone with children in your office, you are set up for destruction.

You see where I’m going with this. It can happen to any of us. We are all at risk. And that’s why boundaries are crucially important in our world. Especially in an age where something can land on social media, and before you’re even aware of it, you have already been found guilty in the court of public opinion. Call it old-fashioned if you want, but we need boundaries and accountability. We instinctively know we need boundaries to protect ourselves. That’s why there are speed limits posted on our roads. Every pastor, ministry leader, and volunteer should submit to heavy boundaries and policies that help protect us from having to make an apology about how lives were ruined because we were careless in our defense of the innocent.

If you are in a place where you have no boundaries in place, I pray God will reveal to you where you are at risk and will convict you to move to action. Humble yourself. Put boundaries in place in your life and ministry.

Stan Rodda is a 4th generation pastor who has been in ministry for 15 years. He has a passion for teaching and equipping within the church. Currently, he is serving as a campus pastor at New Life Christian Church, where the mission is to create environments where people can discover God.

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