Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
By Gena McCown
The other day, my friend Aimee Nelson and I were having quite a long conversation. We were talking about the importance of how leaders behave in the public arena. I don’t just mean people with large platforms and social media accounts with countless followers. I, also mean the every day leaders, like you and me. The ones who are in the trenches, in the small neighborhood churches & community organizations. The ones who are serving the least of these, the overlooked. The leaders who volunteer for our organizations who represent us in our cities.
A few years ago, I was in a grocery store. I heard a man berating another person, it was quite loud and genuinely rose concern in me enough to investigate. As I turned the corner I saw a man in his 40’s/50’s berated his elderly mother who was in a wheel chair. I was able to assess that she didn’t appear in any danger, and intervention other than making him aware that someone was paying attention to him was not necessary. I also noticed the t-shirt he was wearing. It was for a local ministry that serving in our community, and I happened to know the leader.
When I got home, I called my friend and explained that I saw one of their volunteers at the grocery and described his behavior toward his mother. My friend was mortified and based on my description was able to identify exactly who the person was. I assured there would be a conversation.
When you walk out of your door wearing your organization’s tshirt, place a Bible verse bumper sticker on your car, or hand out invitations to your next church event… you are acting as an ambassador for the Kingdom. People will associate what you do, how you behave, the words you use with Christianity. Which is why the Word takes the time to address leaders & our conduct.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
The larger your platform becomes, the more weight those words carry. We live in an age where, thanks to technology, pretty much anything from our past could come back to haunt us. We can be thrust in the public spotlight and within minutes the whole world would know about us. This happens to every day people, who are losing their jobs over public rants and actions that get captured on video… sent into the social media realm, and the news goes viral. Shared. Retweeted. Reposted. Forwarded. Hashtagged.
Unless you have been on a social media blackout, with your head buried in the sand, you won’t have missed the sweeping news that seems to be happening quite frequently over the last few years of high profile leaders who are having their sins exposed, splayed on the table for the world to judge. In some instances we are seeing the bandaid being ripped from a festering wound. Many of us knew there were issues, but maybe not how bad they really were until we had to face the stench of it. Others, they catch us off guard.
How are we to respond?
First, I choose to live in a mindset that despite how much I love God, how often I serve in my church, my calling to share the Gospel with others, to encourage other leaders, and to walk upright…. NO ONE IS EXEMPT FROM TEMPTATION. As Priscilla Shirer addresses in her study Armor of God, the enemy has a very specific plan or strategy for each one of us based on our known weaknesses. He knows which buttons to push. If I keep this in mind, I never allow myself to think so much of myself and my own ability that I could not be vulnerable to stumbling myself.
Second, I choose to not use the falling of a high profile leader to be an excuse for casting judgment, slander, or increasing my own platform. God does not expose sin for the rest of us to gloat or condemn. He exposes the sin so that we know who to pray for & how to pray for them. These fallen leaders need our prayers, people standing in the gap as they are forced to face their sin and the consequences. There are not only leaders affected, but their entire ministries. Not to mention their employees and volunteers, their church members, and especially their spouses and children. It is not for us to cast these people into a pit in which they can’t ever escape, but rather a call for those of us who are still standing to pray for those who have fallen in.
Third, I choose to recognize that the Lord didn’t expose the sin so that these leaders would be disqualified and buried under the trash heap. Instead, sin was exposed so that these leaders can repent and return to the fold being remade in Him. Whatever the consequences and whatever the lesson learned, if they truly and genuinely repent and seek reconciliation and reparation (if required) then restoration is possible. Certainly they may never regain their original standing and position, but that doesn’t mean that God won’t use them as an example to others about how those who stray… who become lost… can be found.
Being a leader means that there will be attention and focus on us, no matter whether there are 100 eyes on you from your local congregation or 100,000 eyes on you from your television program, conference keynotes, or book sales…
How will you walk?