Should Christians Have Ambition? - Emma Ineson - Episode 46

The Reverend Dr Emma Ineson is Bishop of Penrith. She was formerly Principal of Trinity College, Bristol, where she taught practical theology and spirituality, and Chaplain at the Lee Abbey community. These roles have helped her understand and appreciate the breadth and depth of the Church and, being married to a vicar, she has seen first-hand both the joys and challenges of parish ministry on the ground.

This week we’re talking with Emma about her book, Ambition: What Jesus Said About Power, Success and Counting Stuff.

You can find Emma and her work on:


Or check out her work at


Ambition by Emma Ineson

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith

Episode Audio:

Chapter 1 - Should Christians Have Ambition?

Many Christian leaders have an internal drive that pushes them to be successful in life and ministry. They naturally want to seek greatness in everything they do. So they are drawn towards books and ideas on leadership and strategic planning. But they also struggle with this drive because as Christians they don’t want to seek their own glory. They recognize their purpose as a Christian is to glorify Christ. And so many Christian leaders struggle with the ambition that drives them. Can ambition be a good thing or is it something that Christians need to die to? This is why Bishop Emma's book, Ambition, is such a blessing. She helps Christian leaders understand what ambition and success should look like and how those of us who are ambitious can go about working to grow the Kingdom of God and not our own egos.

Chapter 2 - Why Are You Seeking to Be Excellent?

Few would argue that excellence is a bad thing. We may call different things excellent, but excellence is always seen as good. And this desire for excellence is typically what drives ambitious people. We want to be the best or produce the best because we want excellence. But as our ambitions and desire for success move us forward, how can we know that the excellence we desire is truly excellent? And how can we know that we want excellence for the right reasons? As we try to live a lifestyle of discipleship, one of our tasks is to work to understand our identity. We're called to understand the way our actions are motivated by the person we believe ourselves to be. In this chapter, Emma unpacks the ways we can begin the inward journey of evaluating our motives and our heart. And, in the end, this work is one of the most important things an ambitious person can do.

Chapter 3 - How to Cultivate a Daily Formation of Your Desires

What are you doing on a daily basis to cultivate your desires and make sure they are motivated by the kingdom of God? Whether we know it or not, our desires are what really drive our daily lives. And the scary thing is, most of us are completely unaware of the desires that are driving us. We think we are making decisions and taking actions based on pure logic. But our habits speak louder than words. We may profess to wanting to see more people in our churches, but the actions we take tell a different story about what we truly want. The good news is that knowing our desires, and recognizing the habits that form them, gives us tools for changing what drives us. Because if we are not living the lives we say we want, we may have unknown desires that outweigh the known. That’s why in this chapter, Bishop Emma helps us understand how our desires drive our actions, and why counting stuff isn’t a terrible idea.

Chapter 4 - Key Spiritual Dispositions for Ambitious People

As we grow, it's tempting to compare our progress to those around us. We even have a list of beatitudes in Jesus' sermon on the mount where he lists qualities that we've adopted as a standard we should emulate. And as we compare ourselves, we can tend toward making perfection the goal. This is especially true for ambitious people. But as we seek to grow and to live a lifestyle of discipleship, there are some key dispositions we should look at that will help keep our unhealthy ambitions in check. In this final portion of our conversation with Emma, she unpacks these dispositions by looking at the beatitudes and the ways we can be inspired by others around us.

Chapter 5 - Learning to Evaluate Our Own Ambitions

Ministers and leaders are often ambitious people by nature. They have a desire or drive to do something and accomplish something big. In this chapter, Chris and Josh take a look inward at their own ambitions and reflect on how God may be wanting to shape them as they pursue a lifestyle of discipleship.




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