Aubrey Malphurs, is his book, ‘Planting Growing Churches’ says this: ‘Christian leaders are godly persons (character) who know where they are going (vision) and have followers (influence)’ (p126)
People need to be trustworthy if they are to succeed in ministry. Certainly, there are lots of good actors out there, but sooner or later the heart of a man will come out in the heat of battle, and his true character will rise to the fore. We who are in ministry must be motivated, firstly, by a desire to spread the gospel. Secondly, we must remember that godly character is developed through a desire to please the Lord and not ourselves. How much of what we do and say is really driven by those two goals? We must constantly check ourselves, for our hearts are deceitfully wicked above all things and so sly that sometimes we can even fool ourselves that our motives are nobler than they really are. If we want to plant and lead churches then we should have a right estimation of ourselves. Listen to the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8:
‘You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young childrenamong you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.’ (NIV)
Look at the battles they faced at Thessalonica. They were treated badly and opposed forcefully. Now, I have no wish to paint a black picture of the ministry but it is fraught with difficulties. Real courage is required to enter the ministry. But look at Paul response in v2 – ‘we dared to tell you HIS gospel’. They kept on. Here was a man who questioned his motivation constantly as v3 implies. That great responsibility still stands today, does it not? The greatest danger for young men entering this gig today is the need to be liked. To be constantly seeking approval for every decision they make. But Paul is clear in v4 that we need to be God pleasers for it is he who will ultimately test our hearts. So, on the one hand we are looking for men who have a pair but, on the other, that there is a flavour of gentleness to their character as well in v7.
What does this mean for us? We need leaders who are godly, strong, courageous, full of conviction, aware of their limitations, constantly checking their hearts, God pleasers and gentle, loving shepherds of their people. Our responsibility is not to get despondent about how far from this we feel we are but, instead, make a resolute committment to turn back to the cross and continually throw ourselves on the grace of God. We must not forget to feed our own souls and tend to our own hearts in the business of this life. Seek good and godly accountability where possible. A godly leader isn’t a person who has ‘arrived’ and has ‘all the answers’ but is a growing, disciple of the Lord Jesus and is constantly seeking to honour Him and promote the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of opposition and ambivalence. God help us.