Tim Harlow: ‘Humble Yourself Right Away’

We asked pastors of some of the nation’s largest churches to reflect on the wisdom they’ve gained along their ministry journey. There’s a lot we can glean in the words that follow, regardless of the scope and circumstances of our own ministry.

Parkview Christian Church in Overland Park, Illinois

The most impactful thing that we did was add our third campus. It was a new building with great staff and a model that was already successful for us. We all know that people are connecting and attending less today than ever before. Because of that, the campus model allows us to connect people into a smaller “church” much more effectively than we would be able to at our large broadcast campus. It seems to be working. People want to be needed and known, and the smaller-campus experience promotes that sense of community.

The most important thing I’ve learned about spiritual leadership is that I have to do it. Our people need me to lead them—to push them into maturity. I’ve been doing this for 33 years, and sometimes I get tired of trying to help my kids grow up. I’ve led five capital campaigns and given countless sermons on giving, prayer, service, forgiveness, fidelity—you name it. Like the writer of Hebrews, I wish they could feed themselves more meat.

I’m not burned out on it; I’m just realizing that the harder I push and the more I lead, the more their lives are changed. If I wimp out, they will, too. Craig Groeschel says, “Don’t say that your people just don’t do some things (like a Saturday night service, get in a small group, etc.). What you should say is, ‘I haven’t taught my people to do it.’”

I wish I knew how really stupid sheep could be. When you start out, you assume that Christians are going to, at least moderately, act like Jesus. And you assume that when the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is available to people after they come to Jesus, they will actually let it transform them. But sheep are stupid. Now, don’t let that analogy get lost on you shepherds. I know this from experience because God chooses sheep to be shepherds, which is really weird when you think about it. I know about sheep because I am one. So was Paul, which is why he wrote the depressing “do/don’t do” chapter in Romans.

When I first started out, I wish I knew how little God really needs me. So, the sooner you get over yourself, the sooner God can use you. He can either beat the pride out of you, like he did me, or you can just humble yourself right away and see what God can do. “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Ex. 33:15).

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Overland Park, Illinois
Twitter: @TLHarlow
Website: ParkviewChurch.com
Founded: 1951
Affiliation: Independent Christian Churches
Locations: 3
Attendance: 8,261
Growth in 2016: +873 (12%)
Fastest-Growing: 46
Largest: 49