Monday, August 12, 2013

Pastoral Traps: Tribal Arrogance

Last Thursday and Friday I had the privilege to attend the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit. This is an annual conference for leaders that aims to train and equip them for their church, place of business, or other organizations. It is led and hosted by a church, that if I were being honest, is not really the tribe I follow. What I mean by "tribe" is that group of people who I am like-minded with in areas of theology, church methodology, and other categories of ministry. Willow Creek is not really in my tribe. 

Interestingly enough, when I first entered into ministry, I attended the Leadership Summit. I was inspired and blown away by all that I was learning. I had no undergraduate or graduate training in ministry. In many ways, the Leadership Summit was my seminary training for ministry. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and was grateful for the training.

Tribal Arrogance

However, that changed after several years. I started to find myself drawn toward a different tribe. My lack of theological training made me hungry and eager to learn more about the Bible, my faith, and theology. I began to find myself drawn toward the reformed tribe. I gobbled up book after book, website after website, from this tribe. I still classify myself as a part of the reformed tribe.

The deeper and more entrenched I became in the tribe, the less time and desire I had learn from other tribes. All the books I read were from my tribe. All the conferences I attended were from my tribe. It isn't bad to read books and go to conferences that you align with, but in my mind, I started belittling and dismissing other tribes. I developed tribal arrogance. This comes with consequences.

Learning from Others

One of the great blunders of having tribal arrogance is missing out on the wisdom and skills of others. When you only read within your tribe, you are missing out on things God can teach you from other people. If you only attend your tribe's conferences, then you lose the insight that can be gained from attending others. 

This stood out to me last Thursday and Friday. I sat in the auditorium listening to men and women pouring out genius wisdom and insight on leadership. I needed this badly. I began thanking God for bringing me to the conference. I was thankful for the guy who invited me to go, for no cost. What a gift God was giving me. Leadership insights were flowing in. So were the convictions about my tribal arrogance. I realized quickly on Thursday that for nearly seven years I had been missing out on the gifts of others because I was too entrenched in my tribe.

Finding Balance

I share this post, of my own personal experience, because I imagine I am not alone. I imagine this is a natural tendency for many of us. We tend to run with those most like us. We tend to listen to those most like us. This will never change, maybe it shouldn't, but we must always remain open to learn from others. We need to find balance. I have shut out other voices and influencers from my life for seven years, because I had belittled the need I had for the things they could offer. 

It is arrogant to believe our tribe is the only place for us to gain wisdom. I would encourage my friends, in the reformed tribe, to be more open to those in other tribes. Be humble enough to learn from those who are different. There are many helpful leadership insights and strategies we could profit from those people. To my non-reformed friends, take time to learn from the reformed brothers and sisters. Learn from their rich insights into Scripture, theology, and applying Christian thought to cultural issues. You may have certain opinions of the reformed tribe, but do not be like me and discount what you may be able to learn from them. 

I am repenting of this attitude and approach I have displayed. I do not want to display tribal arrogance. I am grateful for my tribe. I am grateful for how much I have grown in my love for God because of my tribe. But I need to have the ears to hear from the voice of others. This week has reminded me of this truth. So I am turning from this arrogance and foolish behavior, and making the commitment to sit more frequently at the feet of other leaders, from other tribes. I think you would benefit from this too. 

Has this post been helpful? Share it with others below. I'd love to hear from you. Have you ever been guilty of this trap? Share your insights and stories in the comments section below. 


  1. Oh, yeah. I have.

    Though my tribe was different than yours I fell into the same trap. I felt liberated when God convicted me of my own tribal arrogance. My attendance at multiple Summits was part of that process. I don't have to agree with everything to learn something. And often that "something" is a truck load.

    Thanks for writing.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Marty. It was great to hang with you and Jonathan for a few days. We need to get together for lunch sometime at Fort LifeWay. :-)