THE BOLDEST LEADERS MAKE THE BIGGEST TARGETS
I’ve been leading everything from sports teams to prayer meetings since I was nine years old. Leadership is difficult, and it courts a terrible scrutiny. But that doesn’t mean such scrutiny is undeserved.
We have a responsibility to lead well. Yet we don’t.
In recent days, many Christian leaders have come under fire. Accusations have been leveled against some of our most public pastors. Outlandish reports have surfaced about everything from plagiarism to sexual misconduct to financial mismanagement. In the wake of all these headlines, here are 10 things we need to remember about our moral responsibility to lead well.
- All accusations are rooted in reality, despite any exaggeration. Accusations don’t come out of thin air. People accuse us of something we didn’t do based on something we did. For example, if people see you leave a small tip at a restaurant, they then assume you don’t give much money to your church. The assumption is false, but it’s rooted in a particular category of negligence. You’ve already exhibited that you’re cheap and you’re bad with money—they just extrapolated your flaws to a deeper level.
- When you mistreat others, you incubate your own destruction. The way you treat others today carries weight long into the future. Dismissive behavior, misogyny, and sarcasm will inspire malcontent, resentment, and revenge.
- There’s no statute of limitations on sin. People’s memories don’t expire. If you’ve wronged someone—even twenty years ago—there’s nothing to prevent them from sharing that hurt with others and ruining your reputation. Neither can you say, “That was a long time ago—I’ve changed.” Since their hurt is fresh, and their story still bears the authority of their pain, your sin remains fresh for their audience.
- Genuine repentance means change, not repeated apology. If you’re “sorry” you shouldn’t do the exact same thing over and over. Real repentance involves a commitment to safeguard against future infractions. People need to see that you willingly submit to authority and accept restrictions on your behavior.
- Being good is more important than being right. When your need to be right surpasses loving and caring for those around you, it’s a problem. Love should trump polity. Righteousness should outweigh theology. Friendship should overshadow excellence. Not every issue is worth fighting about, and few that are should outweigh the value of continued fellowship.
- Being healthy is more important than growing the organization. Unhealthy things that grow kill us—like cancer. Take care of the people you’ve got, ensuring the environment is sustainable and loving, before planning an expansion.
- Positional authority inevitably backfires in a culture of openness, authenticity, and free information. No one today is willing to blindly follow marching orders. When you love and honor others, you cultivate lasting fidelity.
- You need to listen, and the people around you need to feel heard. If your people get the sense you don’t value their opinions, ideas, or wellbeing, they will become bitter and subversive. If you won’t listen, they’ll gather an audience that will.
- Victims are absolved of the requirements for righteousness. If you’re in a position of authority, and you’ve hurt someone, the world will always perceive you as a monster, regardless of how your “victim” acts, what rules they break, or what sins they commit in the process of calling you out. A “victim” can cheat, slander, lie, sow discontent, and fabricate wrongdoing for as long as you refuse to repent.
- You demonize what you idolize. The more you want to be like someone else, the more you idealize them. You want to be a sports hero like Lebron James, so you imagine he’s not only amazing at basketball but also a remarkable philanthropist, spiritual thinker, and mathematician. Consequently, when you find out Lebron has never prayed and can’t add, you become disappointed and demonize everything he’s done, including basketball. We do the same thing in ministry. We idolize super pastors and then when we find out they’re human, we tear them down faster than we ever built them up.
Solomon said, “a throne is secured by love and faithfulness” (Proverbs 20.28). My last piece of advice is the best: Be good to your people. Love those around you. Honor and cherish them, not because of what they can get you but because they are worth it, because God has called you to lead like Jesus did, and because you’re supposed to lay down your life so you can elevate those around you. Spend all your energy and all your intentionality on serving them like Jesus serves us.