Integrity proves authenticity.
Authenticity leads to Trust.
Trust leads to Leadership.
I was listening to talk radio this morning. The show host was spouting off about Washington politics, and said, “People are looking for authentic candidates.” Then he went on to rip a U.S. senator who switched parties early in 2009 in response to polls showing he might be on the wrong side of voter sentiments. He hammered the authentic nail several times before moving on to something else.
Authenticity is good. But what’s wrong with some pragmatism thrown in? That’s simply practical wisdom, right? Politicians like to get elected, but there’s nothing like the thrill of re-election. If a politician figures he’d be more likely to get elected by switching allegiances, then that’s OK, isn’t it? It’s part of the game. Well, sure, for politicians. But it’s death for leaders in the local church.
Leaders in the local church are supposed to have commitments based on the rock of principles, not the marsh of pragmatics. There are some things a principled leader will and will not do, regardless of whether he wins or loses. A principled church elder, for example, is obligated to speak his mind regardless of political costs. In contrast, a pragmatic elder counts the noses and measures the muscle of who's on which side, and then picks his position based upon who will win. That way, he’s always on the winning side. How pathetic.
Thank the Lord that He counts success and failure by His unique scale of measure. The parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10 is a prime example of the shepherd who leads by principle rather than pragmatics. No cost is too high for this shepherd. He’s committed no matter what comes, no matter what price. The superb fruit of this principled commitment is that the sheep love him. And he can be certain that the Lord is pleased with him.
The relationship between the shepherd and the sheep is personal. This shepherd has demonstrated integrity in his commitment to the sheep. The sheep know him to be solid, unwavering, dependable. His integrity, revealed in difficulties and in time, proves to the sheep that he is authentic. This shepherd is genuine. He is worthy of their trust. And, because they trust the shepherd, they peacefully let him lead. The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow. John 10:3-4.
That’s when leadership is so satisfying. The people of the church trust their leaders and the leaders enjoy leading. But, always, the hard part comes. It’s the sacrifice of service. It’s easy to lead when all is calm and there is no danger of painful loss. It’s easy to lead when you know in advance who will win. Unlike the pragmatic politician who tests the winds of public opinion and then pretends to take his stand, the shepherd worthy of being followed take his stand to lead God’s people in God’s way regardless of opposition and regardless of cost. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13.
Leadership in the Lord’s church frequently requires the payment of a high price. That’s because leading like Jesus demands giving rather than getting. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15
Leaders serve in sacrifice . . . by using their spiritual gifts and talents for equipping the saints for the building up of the church . . . by looking out for the interests of others first . . . by patiently caring for the church . . . by quickly obeying whatever the Father asks because that pleases Him. That’s leading like Jesus. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again . . . This charge I have received from my Father. John 10:17-18.