Leadership cannot be appointed by men. It must be anointed by the Father. Not only this, but we must accept the mantle of leadership. This means we must always put the needs of others before ourselves. When we submit ourselves to serving others in this way, so that we are willing to make any self-sacrifice, we can accomplish anything.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
I have learned over time that leadership is not at all a role to envy. It requires incredible discipline, steadfastness, fortitude, and much love and prayer for others. Ironically, the most rewarding part of leadership is you really learn who you are as a man (or a woman). You make decisions that define who you are. Throughout this process, I have learned there is only one thing that matters: Integrity.
This word becomes the mantra of every thought, action and conversation: integrity. It is the most powerful truth you can hold onto in your leadership. To me, integrity means I am the same child of Christ in all situations. I am the same servant of the Lord to all people. I am the same righteous man all the time. Here friends, is where things become hazy: being a man of integrity doesn’t always means everyone knows you are a man of integrity. Sometimes, it is quite the opposite. Sometimes, being a person of integrity leaves other people wondering if you have any integrity at all. This can be quite painful, and makes pursuing integrity all the more difficult. It would be easy to cave into the perceptions of men, friends. It would feel like the easy route to change your character so that other men, god-fearing men, see you as a person of integrity – but how we would miss out on the leading of the Father! We do not have integrity for the sake of other people knowing. The truth of the matter is integrity is only between you and the Father. If your heart is aligned with the Father every morning and every evening, everything else will take care of itself. Your interactions with people will naturally be honoring, because you have pursued a righteous heart with your creator.
But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
Sometimes God calls us to missions without letting the rest of the world know about it. This means we aren’t always understood. It means we are often misunderstood. Here is where I have observed and experienced great discomfort: when we don’t understand other men, we often assume the worst. As a people, Americans and Christians, we assume the worst. We do! We often come across a limited amount of information, then pull out our jump to conclusions mat. This is crippling to us as a body of believers. In my humble opinion, our tendency to assume the worst is the most blistering weapon against our ability to exist in unity. Let’s walk through an example of what this might look like:
Makeda Pennycooke, an African-American, and the Executive pastor at Freedom House church, made a comment about wanting to bring more white people into their hospitality ministry. What do we do: we assume the worst! Rather than assuming she wants to try to do everything she can to be welcoming to all people, including whites, we assume she wants to exclude all people other than whites. Maybe Makeda didn’t choose the best way to accomplish this, but I bet you her heart was in the right place. When the Makeda’s of the world stumble, as her fellow believers in Christ, we should be the first people there to pick her up and support her! The Holy Spirit doesn’t need any help with conviction. If He does need help, He will make it PAINFULLY obvious to you on how you should help; however, I can guarantee the Holy Spirit will not lead you to talk about the Makeda’s of the world; how we might have done things differently; or, how she messed up. The Holy Spirit will not lead us to talk about others behind their back. The Holy Spirit would lead us to pray on their behalf. Leaders will mess up. If you are a leader, you will mess up. When you mess up, would you want people talking about how much you botched it behind your back, or would you want them praying on your behalf? Would you be willing to show the same grace to your neighbor?
You see, integrity is all about a constant reshaping of our thinking throughout the day. When I observe something, my natural reaction is to try to fill in all the missing pieces with what I think is really happening; however, as a leader and a man of integrity, my role is to interrupt my natural reaction. My role is to submit to the Holy Spirit and seek understanding. My role is to try to understand the heart of the person and to support and love them however I can. It is such a simple yet difficult concept: seek to understand, not to be understood.
Friends, as a body of believers, we must pursue unity! God asks all of us to be leaders in His kingdom. He asks us all to be men and women of integrity. He asks us all to be consistent in everything we do. He asks us to serve each other and to treat each other as we would like to be treated. We must pursue unity! This begins not with other people understanding you, nor with other people seeing that you are a person of integrity: this begins with you seeking to understand others; with you seeing others as men and women of integrity. This begins with kicking gossip out the door. Call it what you will, but when you talk about others without them in the room, it is gossip, friends. We can easily try to justify how well-intending we are when we talk of others behind their back, but it is not the way.
Gossip is rampant in our church and we are in denial about it.
If Paul were writing a letter to the American church he would write about gossip, disunity, pride, and the tendency for us to judge others. So, we must pursue unity! I tell you the truth, pursuing any noble cause is perilous and difficult. Mockers would stop us along the way. The weak-minded would ridicule us. The foolish would criticize our ways. So we have to know that we know that pursuing unity is incredibly difficult, and we will be opposed all along the way. The enemy’s most effective tactic against us has always, always, always been disunity. We must wake up every morning to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit, to ask Him to empty us of ourselves, to empower us with strength, fortitude, and grace to love each other, and to pursue unity. We must fight for unity. We must fight. We must fight.
Ephesians 4:1-16 (truncated, emphasis added):
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all….And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.