Best Board Books #18: Humility

By John Pearson

Picture this familiar scene. You’re at your board’s annual retreat. Beautiful setting. Good coffee. Energetic facilitator. Praying for a bold vision.

“How about this for our new vision statement?” An engaged board member (with good handwriting) proposes a new BHAG and writes it on the flipchart:

“Big HOLY Audacious Goal!

By 2025, to be the leading global ministry in discipleship and recruit 100,000 pastors as ambassadors.”


Book #18: Humility, by Andrew Murray
(Order from Amazon)

Over the years, I’ve collected hundreds of mission statements, vision statements, and BHAGs. I’ve helped boards and senior teams craft these important written aspirations. Some are stunning in their brevity and clarity. Others are…well…amusing.

Frequently though, the first draft tone needs a strong dose of humility. Does God really call our organization to be the “leading global movers/shakers” of anything? I think not.

Hence, I encourage your board to read this 59-page gut-check from Andrew Murray. I was reminded of its importance again in a recent board meeting—when a board member presented his “10 Minutes for Governance” snippet on "Lesson 9: Serve With Humility and Experience God’s Presence” from Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom.

He began, “Why isn’t Lesson 9 the first lesson in this book?” Ouch!

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a South African Dutch Reformed pastor and Christian leader who authored 240 books and devotional writings. Murray writes:

• “Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue.”

• “The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility.”

“Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.”


• “Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.”

• “The truth is this: Pride may die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”

• “No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang.”

Maybe…take a page from Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church. Their aspirational statement nails it: “We’re into what God is up to.” I like it!

So…share Andrew Murray’s book with your board members. But this caution: every page convicts.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Andrew Murray writes, “…humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real; that humility has taken up its abode in us, and become our very nature; that we actually, like Christ, have made ourselves of no reputation.” What does this mean to you? What’s the balance between pride and humility when we tell our organization’s story in publications, brochures, donor letters, and ministry presentations?

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 9, by guest blogger Reid Lehman, “Serve with Humility and Experience God’s Presence.”


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.