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FIRST-PERSON: Integrity in ministry

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–In 1 Timothy 3:2 the Bible says leaders in the church must be “blameless” (NKJV), “above reproach” (NIV). In recent days a number of stories have appeared in the media concerning well-known ministers forced to resign because of inappropriate or unwise actions.

The cause of Christ has been harmed and the respect for ministers significantly damaged. There are a number of issues addressed in Scripture that speak to the essential nature of integrity in ministry (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4), but let me encourage ministers and others in church leadership to especially guard their lives in six particular areas:

1) Guard your integrity by always being completely honest. Do not pad your resume or reputation with false or inflated accomplishments. The Bible says God hates a proud look and lying tongue (Proverbs 6:17). Be a truth-teller in every area of your life, both in the big things and the little things.

2) Guard your integrity in your dealings with the opposite sex. If you are married, covenant with the Lord and your mate never to be alone with anyone of the opposite sex. Men, be known as a “one woman kind of man” (1 Timothy 3:2; Ephesians 5:33). Ladies, be known as a “one man kind of woman.” If you are single, be careful in your conduct with the opposite sex. Treat them with the respect due a sister or brother in Christ. Avoid those private places where your hormones can override your will and you make a bad decision that can change your life forever.

3) Guard your integrity when it comes to money. As a minister, require annually a full outside audit of your church finances. On the personal level, have nothing to do with the direct financial responsibilities of the church. Do not have check writing authority. Do not handle or receive money, but direct individuals to the proper persons who handle the finances of the church. Never use a church credit card for personal reasons. Use your own credit card for personal reasons. When you do use a church credit card, always document its use with a receipt and a description of how it was used. Maintain accountability with someone in your church office or on your finance committee. Go the extra mile to be blameless.

Furthermore, realize people who love you will want to be a blessing to you. Develop an attitude of gratitude, but never one of entitlement. Ministers do not deserve nor should they expect special treatment. The Lord Jesus will properly reward them when they stand before Him (1 Peter 5:1-4). If that reward is not sufficient, I would suggest you get out of the ministry and do so quickly.

4) Guard your integrity when it comes to your family life. First Timothy 3:4 says leaders must rule their own house well and have children who are in submission with all reverence. Titus 1:6 adds that they must be faithful, “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” One’s family life is often an accurate reflection of their spiritual life. Godly men and women will raise up godly children who love Christ and obey the Bible. Few areas of investment will yield greater reward.

5) Guard your integrity with solid theological competency. Often moral and ethical sins grow out of a defective biblical and theological life. Failing to cultivate a healthy understanding of theological truth like the sovereignty and holiness of God, the sinfulness and depravity of man, the process of sanctification and the necessity of biblical wisdom, and the centrality of Christ and the crucified life, you begin to think and then live in a manner that is foreign to the clear teachings of Scripture. Nothing will be more valuable in avoiding this danger than a steady diet of biblical exposition, whereby you are continually exposed to the totality of God’s revealed truth. What you believe will determine how you live. Belief and behavior always go together.

6) Guard your integrity with the model of ministry you pursue. God calls you to be shepherds of His sheep. You are not called to be CEOs or drill sergeants. You are not called to be ranchers or dictators. You are certainly not called to be spiritual superstars or celebrities.

A word of caution is in order at this point. The greater your natural gifts and abilities, the more susceptible you are to entrapment by these seducing sirens of the world. Men, and women, with charismatic personalities and a commanding presence can operate too easily in the power of the flesh and not the Spirit. They can be deceived into believing their own press and the accolades showered on them by adoring followers. If they are not careful, they can begin to believe they have the right to operate by a different standard. This is the way of foolishness. This is the way that leads to the damage, and potential destruction, of a ministry.

There is no place in the church for spiritual superstars, who, like proud Diotrephes, love to have the preeminence (3 John 9). No, preeminence is rightfully reserved for only One and His name is Jesus (Colossians 1:18). Do not lose sight of the fact that you are sinners saved by grace. Do not lose sight of Who really matters, it is Jesus. Do not lose sight of how you serve, it is with integrity as you imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) in every sphere of your lives.
Daniel L. Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

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  • Danny Akin