The most difficult person that you will ever have to lead is yourself. You are a package of impressive strengths mingled with great insecurities, wounds and inconsistencies all wrapped to project the best possible public face. We have all watched the lives of countless spiritual leaders unravel as their weaknesses are exhibited. Trust is lost, and the public display is often detrimental. Surely no one starts out in ministry with this kind of ending in mind. So, how can we protect ourselves from this kind of ending?
1. My lowest point of character is my highest point of capacity.
This may seem unfair, but a close look through Scripture leads us to the same conclusion: My leadership cannot grow beyond my weakest point of character. Peter is a great illustration of this. Remember his public denial of his dearest friend and rabbi? To conceive that these events would happen seemed unfathomable—at least to Peter. “After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed.”Matthew 26:73-74 Jesus had just called out Judas as a traitor, and again foretold His death and resurrection. What happened quietly in a garden shortly after was the very lesson Peter needed. The King’s strength was not in His own will, but in His complete surrender. Peter still had a ways to go in learning this.
Peter needed to learn his strength did not come from himself. It was Peter’s most limiting character deficiency.
On His way to Gethsemane, Jesus prophesies how His comrades would fare in the upcoming events. “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” I imagine Peter felt better after this, but Jesus replied, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter needed to learn his strength did not come from himself. It was Peter’s most limiting character deficiency. Ironically, Peter still felt he needed the last word. “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!”Matthew 26:31-34 Jesus had great plans for Peter. But as long as Peter relied on his own source of strength, there was no Kingdom future for him. Our lowest point of character is always our highest point of capacity. Fortunately, we have a gracious God who helps us see our weakness and discover His strength.
2. The way that I do one thing, is the way I do everything.
People commonly compartmentalize character. A political figure misbehaves in office, and his supporters assert that his private life doesn’t affect his job performance. For the Christ-follower, this separation of private and public lives seems absurd. If I lie to my wife, I will lie to anyone. The moment I rationalize disobedience, it pervades the entirety of my character.
If our brokenness isn’t a source of personal heartache, we have no business leading God’s people.
Jesus noticed Peter’s issue of self-reliance and called it out. No one is unflawed. But what should be more alarming than our character faults is our attitude toward them. If our brokenness isn’t a source of personal heartache, we have no business leading God’s people. When Kingdom leaders walk with humility, God’s strength is found in their weaknesses.
3. Personal transformation only flows from intimate transparency.
Evangelical Christianity, in the western world, has become individualistic with emphasis on a personal relationship with God and discovering God’s will for our own lives. We have no place for accountability and support, because there is no place for self-revelation. Our character reflects no radical differences from those on the outside. So how does a Kingdom citizen break away from culture isolationism and experience spiritual community?
The Kingdom power you experience through community should be available to all. Think through how this could be central in your church planting strategy.
Make it personal. Considering much of this church plant will reflect your strengths and weaknesses, accountability is essential. Gather with other planters/pastors that are geographically close. Allow the Spirit to work through others as a part of your transformation. Model it publicly. Let your people know that you are a part of this community. Share with them the victories that God has given you. Mark a path. The Kingdom power you experience through community should be available to all. Think through how this could be central in your church planting strategy. Leading myself is the first and foundational step to becoming a Kingdom leader of great capacity.
Published January 4, 2016