This is part five of a series of five on the characteristics of Godly leaders. Part one, Humility, can be found here, Part two, Goodwill, can be found here, Part Three, Empathy, can be found here, and Part Four, Respect, can be found here.
For the past five weeks, we have studied the traits of a Godly leader and the qualities we must have to fulfill God’s calling. This week, we end the series with a characteristic that builds on the other four: Integrity. Integrity is the direct result of having humility, goodwill, empathy, and respect for others– but without integrity, none of the others will do any good.
Failure to Stand
In structural engineering, one of the most important aspects of architecture and building is structural integrity. Without it, a building can be destroyed if a disaster strikes.
In Ancient Rome, an entrepreneur named Atilius set about to build a new amphitheater for patrons to watch gladiator competitions. Atilius was wealthy but opted for a quick and cheap construction. At its completion in 27 AD, the Fidenae Amphiteater was set to hold 50,000 spectators– but due to its lack of structural integrity, the amphitheater collapsed under the weight, resulting in the deaths of over 20,000 people. The integrity couldn’t support the demand.
As replant pastors, we must remember that a lack of integrity won’t show up in the good times of growth and revival. As Carey Nieuwhof writes, “‘Normal’ doesn’t really test your integrity. Crises do. But when a crisis comes, it’s often too late to fix what’s wrong. The damage is happening in real-time.” This is the problem with a lack of integrity– you won’t know you lack it until you need it.
Thankfully, God is not silent when it comes to this subject. God’s word speaks directly to the topic of integrity so that we can remain “structurally intact” in times of crisis.
In Matthew 5:37, Jesus tells us, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” In Proverbs 10:9, Solomon reminds us, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. And again in Proverbs 11:3, we read, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” Both Job and David are praised by God for their integrity and their uprightness. In Titus 2:6-8, Paul reminds Titus to “Show [himself] in all respects to be a model of good works, and in [his] teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say” about them.
Imperatives for Integrity
There are five imperatives to be a leader with integrity. When we look at these, we have to be willing to examine ourselves and see where we are lacking. Without that examination, we run the very real risk that the next crisis will be the one that exposes our weakness.
- Authenticity: As Bob pointed out on the podcast, this word may need a bit of reclamation. Often when someone says they are “being authentic” today, what they typically mean is that they are comfortable with their sin. There is a lack of conviction that allows them to sink to their base level, whether that means using foul language regularly or being too rude in their speech. At our core, we are sinful people, so if being “authentic” means that you aren’t allowing God’s conviction to change you, it’s time to remind yourself that you are still being sanctified. If we look at what it means to be “authentic” in the biblical sense, it means you can be “authenticated” as to your ownership. When people walk away from their encounters with you, do they feel you represented Christ to them? Can they tell that God is the author of your life? Is there evidence to show that you belong to Him? Are you marked by the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5?
- Consistency: Maya Angelou has a great quote on consistency. She said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” It really speaks to the idea that we need to accept what people show us through their behavior. But the inverse is true, as well– we are showing our teams and our congregations who we are through our behavior, too. If you are habitually late to meetings, what you’ve displayed is that you don’t value your team’s time. If you consistently fail to respond to messages or to do what you say you will, then you’ve shown others that you aren’t dependable and they shouldn’t rely on you. When you act differently at your vocational job than you do in the pulpit, your reputation is tarnished and you seem inauthentic to others. A leader with integrity is consistent with his behavior.
- Tell the truth: This seems self-explanatory, but a leader with integrity has to tell the truth. Like our structural engineering example, if our foundation can’t be trusted, we will fall. All of us have heard stories of pastors whose private life proved their public persona to be a lie. While they preached a good Word, they lived a lie of infidelity and abuse. Lying erodes trust. If you can’t be trusted to tell the truth, then you can’t be trusted to lead well. When you lie, you encourage other people to lie to you, as well. Telling the truth keeps you accountable to others.
- Seeks feedback: A leader with integrity is looking for ways to grow and change. They never see themselves as the smartest person in the room, because they know that everyone has blind spots to things. By definition, a blind spot is something you can’t see yourself, you must ask others to help you. Proverbs 12:1 tells us, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Don’t get mad at me, God said it.) Leaders with integrity look for accountability. I have a small circle of people that I trust to challenge me and help me grow. Any one of those people have access and authority in my life to tell me when I’m headed in the wrong direction.
- Trustworthiness: If you look back at our journey through the five characteristics of Godly leaders and the five imperatives that go with each one, you will find that they all add up to this final character trait, being trustworthy. Can your church trust you? Can your spouse? Can your team? You may think immediately, yes, of course, but can I challenge you? Ask them. Ask them if they feel that you are trustworthy. Do they feel that you have the integrity you need to withstand the strong winds and weight of a crisis? Do they feel that they are safe with you as the leader? (If they are too scared to answer the question, then they have answered the question.)
Summing it Up
As we’ve studied the five characteristics of a Godly leader, we can see how each builds on the next. The fruit of godly leadership is best summed up by Ephesians 4:1-3. Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness (goodwill toward others), with patience (empathy for others), bearing with one another in love (respecting others), eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit (integrity) in the bond of peace.” (ESV, italics mine)
When we look at these traits, we may be quick to assume we are doing well in each of them. But I encourage you to remember that a crisis for your church may only be one phone call away. There is too much to lose to take these imperatives lightly. We are in a battle for eternity, and when the battle gets intense, will we be left standing?