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   Leadership: The Importance of Integrity

The Importance of Integrity

Christian leaders stress the need for integrity in ministry.

Successful public ministry flows from a solid private life, according to some of America's most respected church leaders, who have urged pastors to take personal inventory as they prepare for the future. They warn of churches' lessening impact on society if pastors don't get to grips with basic issues.

Addressing some of the major challenges facing pastors and church leaders in the coming 10 years, Jack Hayford, founder of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., says that the period should be embraced as the "decade of return to full integrity." He says: "Everything that's been coming down in the church internationally, from the scandal regarding Catholic priests to the slack moral standards and sloppy attitudes toward marriage in the evangelical-charismatic sector is, I believe, forcing God's hand. Purifying judgment—even through the world's system of law and persecution—is already manifest. Unless purity of motive, clarity of communications, sanctity in marriage, chastity in sex and fidelity in marriage become our hallmark, many won't have to pack up and close church doors: God will use the world to do that."

David Shibley, president of Global Advance in Dallas, observes that the recent "appalling abuse of power" by clergy means that "trust will be harder to gain and easier to lose." As a result, more than ever "intimacy with Jesus and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit will be imperative."

Leadership expert John Maxwell, founder of The INJOY Group in Atlanta, fears that too many pastors are isolated from others, and also sees a lack of character as a major blind spot. "The most important person a leader ever leads is himself or herself; and till we lead ourselves, we should not be trying to lead anyone else." Some who have tremendous spiritual gifts and a high calling never reach their potential because "they truly lack discipline," he says. "They do not have the ability to make the right decision—they make the convenient decision, the personal decision, the fleshly decision or the quick fix."

Pastor and author Max Lucado cautions against a sense of "invincibility." He says: "Pride is the maternity ward of heartaches. A leader who feels bulletproof forgets to wear protection. Trace immorality, corruption and dishonesty back to too many lungfuls of mountaintop-thin air."

Ministries Today publisher Stephen Strang echoes some of the leaders' comments in a review of what he believes are the 20 most crucial issues facing the church today. High among them, he says, is the need for righteous living. "Sin in the church is not new, but it seems among some charismatics there is a new, lax attitude toward high-profile ministers who preach one thing and live another. The secular media hasn't uncovered any such scandals lately, but they exist. And often the telltale sign is a divorce that follows," he writes. "Other leaders, not wanting to seem judgmental, look the other way, saying they can't say much about divorce because it is so common. And it's not just sexual sins that are the problem. What about pride, greed and ungodly use of power? Who are the prophetic voices among us that will deal with these issues when they arise in the church?"

Adapted from the Charisma News Service article http://www.charismanews.com/online/articledisplay.pl?ArticleID=7082. Used with permission.