The Integrity Mirror
By Chuck Booher
Once upon a time there was a pastor on staff at a church who became disheartened by the behavior of the senior pastor and the leadership team. The senior leader demeaned his employees, led by intimidation, and lacked integrity. The staff followed his example and also treated one another disrespectfully. While standing in front of the congregation, these leaders were loving and kind, but among themselves, they were mean and malicious.
The disheartened pastor finally confronted the senior pastor and told him his behavior and the staff’s behavior were not Christlike. But instead of improving things, this made matters worse. The junior pastor was told his behavior was disrespectful and divisive.
The disheartened pastor decided to meet with an elder to air his concerns. This led to a meeting with another elder, and eventually to the disheartened pastor’s dismissal.
Word spread in the congregation that the beloved pastor had been fired. Several congregants called a meeting with the dismissed pastor to find out the reasons.
Upon arriving for the meeting, the pastor was stopped in the parking lot by the senior pastor and the two elders with whom he had met. The dismissed pastor was given an ultimatum: If he wished to receive a year’s salary and family medical coverage as part of his severance, he must lie to the concerned congregants; he must tell them he was not fired, but had resigned for personal reasons.
The truth no longer seemed to be an option. The disheartened pastor needed the salary and the medical coverage. He went into the meeting and lied.
Unfortunately, this is a true story that happened recently at a Christian church here in the United States.
It is even more unfortunate that this type of behavior among church leadership teams is not an isolated incident. I have heard several pastors share their horror stories of abuse by church leadership teams. I am appalled this is how God’s people are behaving.
Cursing in staff meetings, demeaning employees, lying, and leading by intimidation are behaviors that would never be associated with Christ. Why, then, can we describe some leadership teams this way in churches today?
As leaders, we are supposed to be a picture of Christ. We are to love all people as Christ loves them. God’s Word does not allow us to act holy in front of the congregation and evil among our fellow leaders. God requires integrity, truth, and love on all fronts.
I was forced to address this issue recently when meeting with two high-level Christian leaders. They came to me because they were discouraged by how church leadership teams across the country were conducting themselves. They asked, “Is this the norm?” The nature of their profession allows them to go behind the scenes of churches, and they were horrified to witness these and other evil behaviors.
Upon reflecting on this issue and losing sleep over it, I decided I needed to look in the mirror. Am I the same man on the stage as I am among my staff? Are my staff, elder board, and volunteer teams reflecting Christ at all times? Do we treat each other with love and respect?
NOT AT FIRST
Most Christian leaders do not enter ministry with this kind of problem. Deceit and issues with integrity are problems that subtly creep in and end up being an irrepressible beast. If we are to keep ourselves from sinking to such depths, we must understand the importance of looking in the mirror.
Jesus clearly tells us we are to lead differently than the world leads.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28, New American Standard Bible).
Jesus’ followers should not lead by intimidation or threats. We are not to be abusive and demeaning. We should lead like Christ and serve those with whom we partner in the cause of Christ.
I know of a youth pastor and his wife who are battling depression after experiencing horrific abuse by a senior pastor who “exercised authority” over them. At weekly staff meetings, the senior pastor would berate this young man in front of the entire staff to impress upon him who was boss. The pastor ended one tirade by telling the youth pastor he was fired and that he was to immediately leave the campus. It seems the pastor’s anger stemmed from jealousy; he was threatened by the youth pastor’s success and popularity.
Leaders, we must ask ourselves, are we threatened by other staff members’ ministry successes? Do we fear losing “power” when other ministries flourish and receive acclaim? James says, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16, New King James Version). We need not give evil a foothold in our churches via jealousy among the leaders.
Jesus calls us to live lives that honor the Lord both publicly and privately. If we want to maintain our integrity and not start down the slippery slope of duplicity, we must constantly measure ourselves through Scripture. It should be our daily mirror.
Consider Paul’s instructions regarding selection of church leaders:
For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict (Titus 1:7-9, NASB).
Church leaders are to be self-controlled, sensible, and love what is good, not quick-tempered or power-hungry.
I encourage you to gather your leadership team today and “look in the mirror” together. Is Christ reflected behind the scenes as well as in front of the congregation?
Chuck Booher is senior pastor with Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, California.