Everything in the local church rises and falls on the quality of its leadership. Quality is not ultimately about ability to lead. It’s about the character and the commitments of the individual leader.
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1 urged believers to follow his leadership, but only as he followed Christ. Church leaders must strive to be like Jesus. He was marked by Integrity, Authenticity, Trust, Leadership, Service.
The dictionary says integrity means steadfast adherence to a code; soundness; completeness. Authenticity means genuine, worthy of trust, reliance or belief.
Integrity and authenticity are not the same. Integrity describes a quality, as in “He’s a man of integrity.” Authenticity describes an evaluation based upon pre-determined characteristics, as in “He’s an authentic Christian.” How would you know that he’s authentic? Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” The authentic Christian is marked by characteristics that prove authenticity. He has an identity revealed by evidence. Fruit is not so much about measurable accomplishments in the Christian life. It is far more about measurable character in the Christian life. How’s that? Because the Bible tells us that the Lord cares a lot more about my true character than He does about my so-called accomplishments. My character is to be built on the solid foundation rock of Christ. Like living stones, the apostle Peter said, we in the church are being built up as a spiritual house to be acceptable to God.
When I was a small boy, I pretended to drive my dad’s cars. When I opened the driver’s door, I looked down and saw an emblem of a fancy carriage embossed on the door-sill. The words Body by Fisher were emblazoned on the emblem. I knew that Body by Fisher meant that the car was special.
The car had an authentic Body by Fisher. How did I know? Because it had the mark that proved its integrity. It held to certain standards of soundness and solidity. I had no idea what those marks of integrity were and I didn’t care. As a small boy, all I knew was that the emblem meant that the car was special. The emblem proved that the car had a certain quality that made it worthy to bear the emblem Body by Fisher. It was authentic. Integrity proves authenticity.
It works the same way in church leadership. Integrity in a leader’s life demonstrates that he’s authentic. When people know a leader is authentic, they trust him. Nobody joyfully follows—or truly trusts—a coward, a bully, a liar or a hypocrite. They may follow out of fear or force or for something else. But if you could unzip the follower's heart and dig for the truth, the leader would be disqualified. In the economy set by Jesus Christ, such leaders should have no followers . . . so they would not be leaders at all. Authenticity leads to trust.
A person who aspires to lead in the church should first examine the purity of his integrity and authenticity and discern whether he is known by those fruits. One who is gifted, but lacks integrity and authenticity, may gain a position of leadership based upon his talent. But his followers never will follow him like the disciples followed Jesus. Leadership in the Lord’s church is to be based upon trust. Trust leads to leadership.
The leader in the church is to serve others. He’s not a king in his own kingdom or a general in his own army. He’s a simple shepherd in the service of the Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s all the leader should aspire to be. Leaders serve.