Should Church Leaders Be Ambitious?

Ah… ambition a word that has no negative connotation in most circumstances, but in the church or  ministry one that can take on ugly connotations. Maybe you are lucky, in that you have never heard “get ambition out of it, this is ministry, there should be no ambition.” I have heard these words and while I do get the heart of it, I do not buy throwing all ambition out the door.


Now I will tell you there is a type  of ambition that you as a leader in ministry should avoid, this is personal or “position ambition.” This type of ambition says, “I am going to do this and make all the right career moves and set myself up to be an influential megachurch pastor at age 37”

There is such a good thing as good ambition in ministry. This is an ambition that is balanced with a humility before God.

An ambition that is:

Good For the Church

This is pretty logical. If you are in a local church context you should have an ambition to do well for that church. To strive for excellence, to equip the saints, to grow the church and so on. We should have an ambition for the church, a desire to see her do well and do her job as well.

If you are feeling the temptation to have a personal ambition in your work, try instead to direct it on the church. Ask yourself “how can I redirect ambition so it instead places the church higher than my own personal aspirations?”

Good For the Community

You should have ambition for your community as a church leader as well. All of us can look at our town or city and see a problem that needs addressed. Do you have the ambition to tackle this personally? Or the ambition to cast vision for the church to address this problem? As leaders we should have much ambition to see our community improved.

Helping the community succeed needs to be done out of completely selfless motives, because when it is done with selfish motives it is empty and callous, and people will eventually see though your  efforts to advance yourself.

Reaching People Who Are Not Being Reached

This is the main place leaders should have ambition. Do you have a strong desire to reach people for Jesus that are not being reached? You should. As church leaders this should be our strongest ambition.

You see when our ambition is about other people, and impacting other people for Jesus that is when it is Godly ambition. When our ambition is about our aspirations and where we personally are going to be in 5, 10, or 20 years that is when it is not good ambition for a Godly leader.


Our ambition must be motivated by humility. Humility to see God move before our own abilities and pride. Humility to see other people in our church grow and be recognized for that growth. Humility to want to see people in our community lifted out of poverty and addiction even when we get no credit for that. Humility to see people reached for Jesus not just reached so our church grows bigger and we receive more notoriety.

See in the world personal ambition is a great leadership principle. But with Jesus first in your life make sure you are a humble leader, where your ambition is motivated solely by God and other people.

So should church leaders be ambitious? Of Course! Just not personally ambitious.

What are you ambitious for in your ministry? Share with us in the comments!

Written by Joe Hoagland

Joe is a pastor at Rise Church in Marion, Oh. He is married to his awesome wife Jenna and they have one daughter Aryella.

He loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word.

You can often times find Joe hiking, camping, writing, reading, or enjoying technology.


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