Lead with Integrity

by LD Campbell 

We’ve heard it over and over, “America is suffering an integrity crisis.”  And we all agree.  And we are comforted in blaming political leaders for the moral mess we are in. 

However, Christian leaders must bear the greatest responsibility for the moral mess in which we find the world, our country, and our churches.  The largest Christian denomination in the world has been rocked again and again by the lack of moral integrity of its leaders and now is losing members by the thousands.  Recently, the biggest protestant denomination in the United States is coming to terms with the lack of integrity among its leaders past and present.  It will be interesting to see how the members of that denomination react to the revelation that revered leaders were not so “obedient to their calling.”

There is no way to lead without integrity.  But what is integrity?  Everybody agrees we need more integrity, yet hardly any of us explain what we mean by integrity, or how we even know that it’s a good thing, or why our culture needs to have more of it.  The problem is, it means something slightly different to each of us. 

Perhaps the best definition of integrity I have seen comes from Yale’s Professor of Law Stephen Carter, in his great book called Integrity:

Integrity, as I will use the term, requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right and wrong.  The first criterion captures the idea of integrity as requiring a degree of moral reflectiveness.  The second brings in the idea of an integral person as steadfast, which includes keeping commitments.  The third remind us that a person of integrity is unashamed of doing the right. 

Carter is on to something.  What if all of us who lead the church, pastors, elders, deacons, ministry leaders, small group leaders not only believed Carter’s definition of integrity but practiced it?  This kind of integrity can only be accomplished by obedience, simply learning to do as we have been told, primarily by the Word. 

Carter also said:  “The wholeness that the Christian tradition identified as central to life with integrity was a wholeness in obedience to God, so that the well-lived life was a life that followed God’s rules.”

And he goes on:  “But obedience to what?  Traditional religion teaches that integrity is found in obedience to God…  Everything that you do, do for the sake of God.” 

Obedience pure and simple is the beginning of “soul care.”  One of the best books I’ve ever read on the ministry is The Pastor As Minor Poet by M. Craig Barnes, President of Princeton Theological Seminary.  In it he writes that “There is nothing that pastors (church leaders) do for the congregation that is more important than taking care of their own souls.” 

The church does not expect its leaders to be perfect, but they do have the right to expect us to be models of integrity; integrity that results in being obedient to the One who was obedient even unto death.  They have a right to expect that a church leader’s obedience will lead them into a life of holiness – an unused word in our time.  

I can still hear my grandmother saying to me, “When will you learn to do as you are told?” 

What I’d like to say to Elders

by LD Campbell 

I LOVE YOU!  Joyce and I talk frequently about the wonderful elders we have served with.  I never served with an elder that made our disagreements personal.  So to the elders I served with: I LOVE YOU!  You encouraged us.  You cared for us.  You loved us.  And I probably wouldn’t be in the ministry today if it had not been for you!
 
CARE FOR YOUR SOUL!  How can you care for the souls of your flock, if you first don’t care for your own soul?  By all means, be in the Word every day.  “Sit a spell” with the Father every day.
 
PRAY FOR YOUR FLOCK!  Pray for them by name!  As an eldership, develop a system to continually pray for your flock.  Contact them, tell them you are praying for them.  Ask what’s going on with them that needs your prayers.
 
BE A SERVANT!  Elders should be the greatest servants in the church.  Yours isn’t an office or a title.  It’s a servanthood that is best described in a towel and wash pan.
 
BE SEEN!  I learned this truth from both President Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II.  President Kennedy said “walk slowly through a crowd.”  The Queen said: “I have to be seen, to be believed.”  She has been doing “walk abouts” among her people for 60 years.  She doesn’t want to blend in with the crowd so she wears bright colors so she can be seen by her people.  Elders, show up 30 minutes before worship begins.  Walk slowly through your flock.  They need to see you, (but the bright colors are up to you).  In your “walk about” you will be amazed what you learn about what’s going on in the lives of your flock.  Your “walk about” gives you an opportunity to encourage your people, to love on them, to pray with them.  Don’t just say “I’ll pray for you;” you will forget.  Pray for them right then and there!  It may be awkward at first but it will speak volumes to your flock about your shepherd’s heart.  When worship is over don’t dart for the door.  “Walk slowly through the crowd.”  “Be seen.”  If you are a pastor reading this, do the same.  BE SEEN before worship, in between services, and after worship.  Your flock will love you for it!
 
LOVE AND SUPPORT YOUR PASTOR.  Be his friend.  Encourage him.  Love him and his family.  Regularly take him to lunch, not for church matters but just to be with him.  Trust me, after 55 years of being a pastor, it gets lonely.  Be honest with him when you need to be.  However, don’t ever let your disagreements with him become personal.  Your relationship will sour quickly.  It will harm his leadership and yours, and your church will suffer.  Do everything you can to keep him as long as you can.  Long ministries build strong churches.
 
Elders, your responsibility is great.  Please don’t try to do it in your own power.  Remember what Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.”