Our culture is overly impressed with the externals. You must look good on TV to win the political race. It’s the image you need to polish. Spin it just right. But we all know—and all have seen—that a leader without character is a tragedy getting ready to happen.
As pastors, we know about the importance of character, of course. But knowing it isn’t our assignment. Your congregation requires your character. Your role is filled because character is present, or it decreases if it is absent. It’s the same with me. The church where I serve as senior pastor has a respect for me and appreciates my efforts (all my weaknesses not withstanding). But this respect hangs on the fact that I’m committed to modeling character, and I’m not going to let it slip away in the stuff of leadership.
I remember the day my dad drove home and the front windshield of our car was broken. He had blood running down his face and I thought, He’s been mugged! No, he decided to cross the picket line because he didn’t believe the union’s plan was the best plan. Furthermore he had a family to raise. So as he weighed the options, he chose to stand against the union. That took guts.
I learned from my dad that you must think for yourself. You don’t follow the crowd when they go against what you believe. If that means being unpopular, be unpopular. Who cares? It’s about character, not others’ approval and applause. What a valuable lesson for life and ministry! I learned more from a cracked windshield and a bloody face than I could have ever learned from a preacher or a professor. Character is modeled . . . not just mandated.
Our roles as pastors are invaluable roles. So, let’s never forget our roles begin with our character. I call it swimming upstream. Our flock learns this more from our lives than from our lips. The Scottish people have a great saying: “Some things are better felt than telt.”
I came across a great verse again recently. Listen to its poignant challenge:
Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her. (Jeremiah 5:1)
In other words, “Go look to find a man of character, but you won’t find him.” What if Jeremiah roamed the halls of our churches? How about your study?
Reading verses won’t make our lives automatically change, but it sure will motivate us to cultivate character. God expects it, and rewards it, when He finds character: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Character is not some ancient biblical term that gets lost in the dust of the Minor Prophets. It’s what makes you contagious. It’s what gives you the right to lead without ever having to remind anybody you’re the pastor.
It pays off guys . . . it pays off. It’s about character.