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Called To Integrity


Articles in the LOOKOUT section of this website span a number of decades and are re-published on behalf of Adrian van Leen for research purposes. Original dates are being added to articles so as to place them in their correct historical setting(s). Adrian has endeavoured to be as fair and accurate as possible at the time of the original writing, but please note that the original article information may no longer reflect the subsequent or current actions, values, beliefs, positions, opinions, teachings or policies held by individuals, groups and/or organisations referred to in the original published article at the time of writing. As people change and move on, the same often applies to related Internet links; some links referred to in articles may have been changed or may no longer be available online.

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CALLED TO INTEGRITY

(Part 1)

For many decades now, the Christian Church has suffered extensively from a lack of integrity in leadership. Controlling, manipulative leadership and other forms of spiritual abuse, have also mushroomed through Contemporary Religious Movements, cultic and extreme Christian fringe groups, especially since the 1970s.

The following comments are from a two-part article on Integrity in the December 2011- January 2012 TACLs:

There are many people today who seek to become leaders. Some aspire to leadership in the fields of business, commerce and industry; others in politics; some in the helping professions; some in community service; and there are those who aspire to leadership in the Christian community.

It is always pertinent to ask why one wants to become a leader (regardless of which area or field of endeavour is considered). What are the REAL underlying reasons for seeking to aspire to leadership?

Leadership is vitally important - including in the fields of Christian service. It has been said: ‘Everything rises or falls with leadership, and this includes what we call “the work of the Lord”.’

Those who aspire to become Christian leaders - whether youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, women’s or men’s group leaders, vestry members, deacons, elders, pastors, teachers, preachers - need to ask constantly ‘WHY?’. Hopefully, they will believe they are called by God, but are they really sure it is his calling and not some other motive hidden just beneath the surface?

If you are called into leadership by God (in whatever area or capacity, and in whatever way you may believe he has called you), then you are called to integrity.

LACKING INTEGRITY

Over the past decade, particularly, the Christian Church has suffered extensively from a lack of integrity in leadership. This problem has been compounded by the glaring lack of integrity in the mushrooming Contemporary Religious Movements of the past two decades. Many in the community lack the discernment to tell the difference between genuine religious faiths, and the many thinly disguised aberrant groups that claim to be genuine. And when religious leaders in major religions, and in established Christian churches, behave in ways similar to that of many cult leaders, it is understandable that there is serious confusion and distrust of religious leaders.

Christian leader and writer, Warren Wiersbe, in his 1988 book, The Integrity Crisis, has expressed it this way: ‘We are facing an integrity crisis. Not only is the conduct of the church in question, but so is the very character of the church. The world is asking, “Can the church be trusted?” and how we answer is as important as what we answer.

For nineteen [twenty, now] centuries, the church has been telling the world to admit its sins, repent, and believe the gospel. Today,... the world is telling the church to face up to her sins, repent, and start being the true church of that gospel. We Christians boast that we are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but perhaps the gospel of Christ is ashamed of us. For some reason, our ministry doesn’t match our message. Something is wrong with the church’s integrity.’ (p.17)

‘My conclusion is that the wrong kind of preachers have created the wrong kind of Christians by declaring the wrong kind of message, compelled by the wrong motives.’ (p.61)

In explaining the meaning of ‘integrity’ Wiersbe stated:
 

‘What is integrity? The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word comes from the Latin integritas, which means “wholeness,” “entireness,” “completeness.” The root word is integer, which means “untouched,” “intact,” “entire.” Integrity is to personal or corporate character what health is to the body or 20/20 vision is to the eyes. A person with integrity is not divided (that’s duplicity) or merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy). He or she is “whole”; life is “put together,” and things are working together harmoniously. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books.’

That wholeness and openness is often missing when people deliberately, or semiconsciously, enter into Christian leadership for wrong motives, such as:

PRESTIGE and popularity:-

Some people struggle with ego problems. They feel they are not sufficiently respected or favourably regarded. They feel, perhaps subconsciously, that if they become Christian leaders, others will hold them in high regard, that they may even become popular. They want to become significant persons, celebrities, even heroes, admired and looked up to by the faithful.

Their egos feed on the approval and adulation of followers, who often elevate them to the rare heady atmosphere up on the leadership pedestal.

This leads to guruism, and playing to the crowd. When such leaders (preachers or pastors) are involved in public worship everything becomes a public stage performance. The congregation becomes the audience, and worship becomes a spectator activity, instead of genuine participant worship. Everything becomes entertainment, an effort to make people enjoy, be relaxed, be happy, feel good - and both the Christian message and the preacher’s task is far more than that.

Yet there are always those who willingly respond to such presentations. As A.W. Tozer said in The Root of the Righteous (1955, p.52f): ‘It appears that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right.’ The fun and good feelings of comfortable and entertaining ‘Christianity’, have become far more acceptable and popular, than the difficulties, demands and challenges of true Christianity and costly commitment.

Leaders seeking prestige and popularity usually become a problem to themselves and to their congregations.

POWER:-

There are those whose desire to be in leadership is based on their greater desire to be in charge, to manage or direct, to control others. Theirs is also an ego problem - one of wanting power.

Many Protestants have traditionally voiced their concerns and objections about, what they perceived to be, the power and authority of the Roman Catholic Pope, yet many of the same people, who today would still voice their opposition to the Pope, have accepted leaders who exercise far greater control. Numerous churches are today run by lots of little local ‘mini-Popes’ who are far more controlling, manipulative and authoritative than the Pope has ever been.

Pastors obsessed by power follow a leadership role quite different from that of Jesus Christ. Rather than being servants, they want to be sovereigns who rule and reign over their congregations. They equate big with best, and success with the number of people they can persuade to follow them. They are more interested in the total number of sheep in their spiritual flocks, rather than the state of the sheep or flocks. Unlike the Good Shepherd who has concern for the one lost sheep these ‘shepherds’ care only for the power of statistics.

The power-hungry appetite that feeds the ego is voracious and insatiable.

Power-hungry pastors become manipulative and often seek to exercise more and more control over individuals. They become arrogant, abusive, not open to being questioned. Unfortunately many become involved in the ultimate exercise of power, control and manipulation - sexual involvement with one or more members.

Youth ministry leader and writer, Mike Yaconelli, made some poignant comments on power in his column in The Wittenberg Door magazine (June-July 1980): ‘The church has been mesmerized by power. We stand in awe of the beauty queen, the pro-football player, the wealthy businessman, and we willingly pay millions of dollars to anyone who will take our money and prove to us that we are the majority; that we are respectable; that we are the winners. We gladly allow these personages of power to travel in their private jets with their loyal platoon of executive assistants and press secretaries. We gladly give our substance to vicariously share with them as they wine and dine with presidents, scurry from one TV studio to the next, and whisk in and out of airports in long, black limousines. These power personalities have become our evangelical gigolos. We gladly prostitute our money, time, and all that we have, so that we can flaunt them in front of those who do not believe that we are, in fact, winners. And it isn’t their fault. It’s ours.’

POSSESSIONS:-

The idea of people becoming pastors for profit would have been a ridiculous some years ago. Most pastors lived on, or below, the poverty line. Theirs was generally a constant struggle to make ends meet - and for many today, that situation is not too different to the generalities of the past. However, things have changed. There are now many pastors and Christians in leadership who are extremely wealthy.

Quite a number of pastors belong to a group who have conveniently twisted scripture and distorted doctrine to their own financial satisfaction. They promote, what teacher and writer, Gordon Fee, has referred to as the ‘DISEASE OF THE HEALTH AND WEALTH GOSPEL’. By ripping verses out of their scriptural context, and the (not so) subtle use of suitable (to the situation) spiritual jargon and rhetoric, they rationalise their greed and blatant manipulation of God’s people, to increase the donations and offerings, and add to their personal accumulated mammon.

They jealously guard their ‘religious rights’ to avoid public scrutiny of their finances. They cheat the faithful, and hide the evidence of their duplicity under the claim that they are the Lord’s ‘Anointed’ and therefore only answerable to God and beyond the questioning and criticism of God’s people (which is another Biblical distortion they are eager to foist on those who are Biblically naive or illiterate).

Chuck Colson, who knew from personal experience the ways of the powerful and wealthy, commented in his book, Kingdoms in Conflict (1987, p.244f): ‘The effect of preaching a false theology can be disastrous. Most attribute the fall of Jim and Tammy Bakker to greed, sexual indiscretion, or the corruption of power. These were, of course, serious contributing factors. But the root cause of their downfall was that for years the Bakkers had preached a false gospel of material advancement...Tragically, the Bakkers deluded themselves into believing their own false message.’

Many such pastors and preachers (including some who are prominent on the international convention circuit) are false teachers, hucksters who steal the fleeces from God’s flock. They should be, and one day definitely will be, exposed and made accountable.

As Wiersbe expressed it: ‘When the church preaches the wrong message, it tears things apart, and the ministry loses its integrity. We can’t divorce our message from what God is, what God did at Calvary, what God is doing in the world today, and what God will do in the future. But that’s just what the success hucksters have done. Once you manufacture your own gospel, it isn’t long before you start practicing it, and then you begin to lose your integrity...Jesus didn’t die to make us healthy, wealthy, and happy; He died to make us holy.’ (p.54f)

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CALLED TO INTEGRITY

(PART 2)

People often despair at the lack of integrity in leadership. Revelations of greed, corruption immorality and scandal amongst national and world leaders in politics and business have become daily fare in the media. Unfortunately the lack of integrity is more than evident amongst community, charity and church leaders, as well.

We still have people in such responsible positions absconding with funds; committing adultery and/or taking off with their secretaries, clients/counselees or parishioners; peddling a distorted ‘gospel of greed’ while they fleece the flock to feed their habits of luxury and their inflated egos; using, abusing, controlling and manipulating others in their arrogant power games; supporting other leaders guilty of such lack of integrity because it suits their own comfort, benefit or purposes (perhaps because they are guilty of similar attitudes or misconduct and so they are quick to defend others in order to ensure their own survival). And often all of this is ‘justified’ in the name of God, psychotherapy, counselling or some other excuse.

It is no wonder that many ordinary people become cynical, disillusioned and disheartened. And no wonder many young and immature Christians become confused when they see the lifestyle of some preachers and hear them give sermons that sound like popular thinking advertisements - offering the faithful the path to health, wealth and happiness (you can buy lucky charms, and a variety of products and programmes that offer exactly the same deal from New Agers, occultists, and entrepreneurs who know how to utilise people’s gullibility and superstition to make a quick buck!!). This was never the message of Jesus Christ. As Warren Wiersbe stated in The Integrity Crisis (1988, p.54):

‘Jesus didn’t die to make us healthy, wealthy and happy; He died to make us holy. To turn Calvary into a sanctified credit card that gives us the privilege of an hedonistic shopping spree is to cheapen the most costly thing God ever did.’

In spite of all the problems in leadership, we DO need strong leadership - but leadership with integrity. Christians called to leadership are to lead the ‘sheep’ - not let them wander aimlessly, nor to chase them from behind with a big stick, nor to engage in trying to headbutt the rams in order to gain control and run off with the ewes, nor to steal the flock’s fleeces.

Today, as never before, we need Christian leaders who are:

READY:-

Ready and prepared, as 1 Peter 3:15-16 declares:

‘In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.’

We need leaders who are adequately informed, people with doctrinal integrity. We need leaders, pastors, preachers who have depth in their understanding of Christ and the Christian Faith, and who have depth in their relationship with Jesus Christ as the Lord, Saviour and Master Teacher. We don’t want leaders who present a superficial, ‘cliched’ Christianity, and whose understanding is about as deep as the radio commentator who wanted to impress listeners with openness, understanding and acceptance. The radio announcer pompously pontificated and declared: ‘I don’t care if a person is an Islam or a Moslem or a Mohammedan, all religions are the same and I can accept them all equally.’!!

While all preachers make some mistakes, you have the right to question the theology of some who keep on ‘making the same mistakes’. And some preachers are lazy and uninformed. Their sermons are full of factual errors, especially about the beliefs of others. There are also many preachers (even in this day and age) who are so out of touch they cannot truly relate to the ‘people in the pews’. Some preachers even proudly announce that they don’t read newspapers and never watch television. It may sound piously disciplined, but it’s actually a danger and a travesty. Those who seek to speak publicly for God MUST know God and the mind of God (a close walk with God in relationship, and a constant study of the Scriptures), but they must also know what the people of God, living in the world, face, experience and go through. While there is bad news and rubbish in newspapers and shown on television, there is also an important source significant information that is relevant and important to those who listen to the preachers. Preachers who refuse to read widely (including the newspapers), listen carefully, and observe what’s going on in the world, will be out of touch with the people God wants them to reach out to, and speak to, in informed and authoritative ways.

Christian leaders of today need to be ready and well informed (especially as most members in churches may be even better informed and ‘in touch’ they are).

RESPECTABLE:-

How many of today’s Christian leaders could be described as Jesus described Nathanael: ‘When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Behold a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile [nothing false]”.’? (John 1:47) (Of how many would Jesus say such a thing today?)

We need leaders today, especially Christian leaders, who don’t just appear to be respectable, but truly are people who are open, with nothing to hide. We need leaders who are genuine people, tactful and respectful to others, reputable persons whose lives are seen to be open and who can stand close and open scrutiny and examination. Such people are not only open and honourable, but also humble.

In their relationships with others they ensure that there are safeguards preventing not only problems, but even the appearance of problems - for example, where possible they would avoid prolonged or regular meetings or contact alone with someone of the opposite sex. To safeguard the other person, as well as themselves, they would ensure that other staff, counsellors, or spouse is either present or nearby.

They would also regard others with genuine respect, and not as people to be controlled or manipulated - as means to some personal end. Instead, they would regard and see others as Jesus Christ does - as people to love and care for, with their own personal rights and dignity, persons to serve, rather than use.

Such leaders clearly show in their lifestyle and relationships that Jesus Christ has made a significant difference in their lives - as Paul proclaimed in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17.

RESPONSIBLE:-

Today we need leaders who can genuinely be described as trustworthy, reliable, dependable, faithful, accountable.. Leaders, such as pastors and preachers, should be responsible by being openly accountable to God; to their families; to their congregations; to their Boards/committees; to their denominations. Too many leaders are a law unto themselves, refuse to be answerable to anyone but themselves (and supposedly God). They try to justify this attitude by claiming to be ‘the Lord’s Anointed’ - and use this to avoid scrutiny, questioning or criticism (‘How dare you question or criticise the Lord’s anointed?!)

This claim is, of course, utter nonsense and a distortion of what the Bible teaches. Of all the ‘Lord’s anointed,’ none was more identified this way than King David. And David sinned, and was publicly called to account - so publicly that, for centuries now, people right around the world, in different time periods and very different cultures, have known all about David’s sins - but, thank God, we also know about his repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness. We are all accountable - and leaders, regardless of how anointed they think they are - are even more accountable.

Jesus said:

‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’ (Luke 12:48)

Leaders, such as pastors and preachers, are stewards, managers, who are to be clearly recognised as being responsible people in all areas, especially in the areas of their calling and tasks, money, morality and relationships.

We need Christian leaders who are leaders of integrity in both their personal character and in their proclamation and message.

Thank the Lord, we do have such Christian leaders today.

There are those, as there have always been, who have taken their calling to leadership from God seriously. They are genuine people of humility, skill and gifting, who are clearly recognised by others as being ready, respectable and responsible. They have taken seriously the advice and comments of James, who declared:

‘Not many of you should aspire to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly...Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom...the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.’ (James 3:1, 13, 17-18)

(We have revisited the past with this two-part article because we believe the message is as relevant today as it was when first presented. It is an adaptation of a message given by our Director, Adrian van Leen, when he was guest speaker at the Commencement Service of the, then, Western Australian Baptist Theological College - now Vose Seminary, Monday 20 February 1995. It was later published in TACL March and May 1995.)