Written by David Wraight, President
Over the years I have come to realize in my various leadership roles that we have a tendency in Christian ministries and churches to focus more on “competency” than “character”. We are prone to appoint the “most capable” to strategic leadership roles, even though they may have obvious character flaws. In every case where I have made leadership appointments based upon competency—capabilities, talents and gifts—rather than character I have ended up having to deal with distracting personnel problems and ongoing debilitating organizational issues that have frustrated mission and ministry and resulted in a misrepresentation of the person of Jesus and the values of his Kingdom. Now, whenever I have to appoint a leader I will always look first at their character before even considering their competency.
Do they practice a life of self-sacrifice and integrity? Are they humble and honest? Do they consistently, deliberately and willingly surround themselves with accountability partners and give others the authority to speak into their lives? Do they genuinely care about others, going out of their way to bless and serve them? Do they allow others to lead, sharing their leadership responsibilities and empowering people to serve to their full capacity? Do they want the best for others and desire for those around them to excel and “outshine” them in their unique areas of strength and giftedness? Are they someone who lives under the authority of God’s Word and values prayer as a vital component of their walk with Jesus? How do they treat people who can do nothing for them? Do they live what they preach?
The Bible provides us with a comprehensive list of qualifications for leadership. Kingdom leaders should be: self controlled, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, not violent, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, not a recent convert, of good reputation with outsiders, not overbearing, not quick-tempered, good, upright, holy, disciplined, above reproach, blameless, husband of one wife, temperate, respectable, not given to drunkenness, manage their family well, not pursue dishonest gain, hold to the truth, sincere and tested. (1 Timothy 3:2-10; Titus 1:6-9) With the exception of teaching ability, length of time they have followed Jesus and possibly capacity to manage their family, all of these qualifications for leadership are to do with character and integrity.
From a biblical perspective character is the foundation upon which leadership is built and maintained. If we elevate giftedness, capability, popularity and perceived success above character in the selection of leaders we are acting outside of the mandates of God’s Word and the principles and praxis of the Kingdom.
I can’t stress enough how important Godly leadership is to effective Kingdom ministry and community. I would urge any who aspire to serve in positions of leadership to guard their integrity—to build around them the accountability and support structures that will ensure they remain true to the biblical prerequisites of Kingdom leadership. I urge any who are responsible for selecting and appointing leaders to thoroughly investigate the integrity and character of those they are considering for leadership roles. And I urge those who would serve under the leadership of a pastor, minister or leader in a Christian ministry or organizational context to ascertain the character of the leader, that they not only advocate for the values of the Kingdom but they live by them.
Our ultimate leader is Jesus, but he appoints leaders within his Kingdom to serve and inspire us to live like him by modeling a life of humility, love, grace and self-sacrifice. There are many who claim to be leaders, but only those who lead like Jesus are the ones we should follow; because they have the capacity to direct us away from themselves and to our Lord and King. Paul was such a leader, and because of his integrity of leadership he could confidently say, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) The only valid leaders in God’s Kingdom are those who can stand alongside Paul and humbly but honestly declare their integrity as representatives of Jesus.