Today I want to share some thoughts about the importance of commitment in church leadership. We all have stories – good and bad – about church leaders. I want to share some of mine, and tell you why I believe in holding leaders – even volunteer leaders – accountable to their commitments.
A while ago, I was having a hard conversation with a church leader. They had a habit of swearing and putting people down on social media. I was challenging them on this behavior, first as a follower of Christ and also as a church leader (see Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4 for the verses I was using). But the church leader acted like I had no grounds for concern: “Just because I am a leader doesn’t mean I am perfect. And I don’t think what I am doing is really that wrong, anyway.” After the issue came up more than once, I asked the leader to step out of church leadership (not out of the church), and I took some heat from people because of it. Why would I do this to such a likeable person?
There is a deeper issue in leadership than likeability. There is a deeper issue than getting the job done or having skill. The deeper issue is character. In the church, character is reflected in our habits of faith – love for God, time in His word, church attendance, sharing faith, a heart to serve, caring for others, and more. Likeability is good, but it is not what makes a strong leader. Skills without character and integrity will only lead to bigger problems down the road, especially for a church.
I went to coffee this week with someone who is following Jesus and willing to be a leader in our church. Those are always good conversations! I was so happy, because I had been encouraging her to become a leader for almost a year. She is not a loud, upfront person, and she was actually hesitant to step into leadership. She will be a great leader, though, because she is faithful to Christ. Jesus took a group of “un-leaders” and transformed them into a leaders that changed the world – because they were faithful to follow Him. Faithfulness is first in leadership.
At our church, we have the audacious belief that our leaders should actually live out their commitments. I don’t want to compromise on that. When I hear that a leader is struggling, I will meet with them. If I hear a leader is not willing to live up to their commitments, I will help them transition out of leadership until they are ready to step up. People don’t need to be perfect, but we do need to live out our commitments. Those hard conversations, when I buck up my courage to challenge someone, can surprisingly be really powerful. Most of the conversations go well, because they are done in love. I genuinely care for people and want to help them see the problem going on inside of them. Most people never have someone who has the courage to gently but firmly call them to live out their commitments.
When you get a group of leaders committed to following Christ, anything is possible. Devotion opens doors. God moves powerfully through faithful people and lives are totally transformed. This is life at its best; this is church at its finest.