Before entrusting someone to a key staff leadership slot in the local church, be sure to look for indicators of the person’s emotional health. No, it doesn't include probing into the hidden psychological ramifications of the candidate’s relationship with his father. It’s looking at specific behaviors, beliefs and attitudes that bring the greatest opportunity for ministry success that pleases the Lord.
Below are a few discussion points that can help determine how the person’s emotional health will affect the church’s ministry:
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? (Can the candidate honestly and openly reveal himself? Discern whether there’s sinful pride in discussing strengths, or hiding for self-protection, or sinful self-deprecation—a reverse pride—in discussing weaknesses. Boasting about gifts and talents is like boasting about the color of your hair. 1 Corinthians 4:7.)
- Describe a circumstance where you exhibited self-control in your speech in relationship with others. (Although some people in the church spout off whatever criticism happens to be on their minds, Proverbs 18:2. A ministry leader does not enjoy the luxury of freedom of speech. Why? Because he has immense power to either preserve unity or cause dissension in the church through what he says about the ministry. He must exercise self-control in his speech and reserve more difficult discussions for those leaders who can make a healthy difference in the church.)
- Do you rejoice in the success and progress of others? Do you affirm someone else’s contributions to a project’s success? (A leader who fails to rejoice in the success of others is not worthy of followers. A leader who takes credit for the work of others is not worthy of followers. Those failures lead to simmering resentments that build over time and lead to a multitude of sins. Paul’s selfless leadership and generous commendations should be standard practice for leaders in the Lord’s church: 1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Colossians 1:3-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4.)
- Can you forgive a person who has wronged you? How do you know whether you’ve forgiven a person? (It’s easy and proper to say, Of course, I forgive. Much harder to live forgiveness in daily difficulties. I like the answer from a senior pastor about how he knew he forgave an offense: Don’t wish ill will. Do something good for the person.)
The best results on the assessment grid’s Emotional Health scale comes from those who consistently—not perfectly—demonstrate personal discipline and Spirit-led self-control. They have excellent self-knowledge so that they accurately see themselves and their effect on others. They discern what’s motivating their own feelings and actions. They receive criticism and seek to grow in godliness. They freely affirm the strengths and successes of others. They can speak of their own strengths and weaknesses in leadership and in the Christian life.
The worst results: undisciplined, low self-control, weak self-awareness, highly defensive, secretly or overtly hostile to the success of others, inflated view of personal strengths and small understanding of personal weaknesses.
Most people, of course, are somewhere in between the best and the worst. But significant, and sometimes hidden, emotional health problems can torpedo a leader’s ministry and damage the church.
Do yourself a favor. Lead with wisdom and discernment. Get a handle on the candidate’s emotional health before handing over the keys to ministry leadership. Acts 20:28.