Abraham Lincoln and Adolph Hitler both lived for 56 years. Michael W. Smith and Osama bin Laden were both born in 1957. When we think of Lincoln and Smith we think of a set of character traits quite at odds with those exhibited by Hitler and bin Laden.
Character is that stuff way down, deep inside you. This is the stuff we talk about for which we are held accountable. It is the deepest, deepest character issues we struggle with or fully develop according to God’s plan.
Luke 6:45 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
What happened on a bridge in Minneapolis in 2007? The I-35W Mississippi River bridge was an eight-lane, steel truss arch bridge that carried Interstate 35W across the Mississippi River. During the rush hour on August 1, 2007, it suddenly collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. Something at the bridge’s core was flawed.
So what? I reference these four famous people and the 2007 bridge incident because they all communicate the building blocks of anything in life. Think candidly about the character building blocks of your life as a pastor. Your future is bright, but it only is if you put the right character building blocks in place.
We operate with a basic sense of understanding of good character. However, we are born with a sin nature and if left to our own devices we will not develop character that is good and pleasing to the Lord. We will constantly lean to our base nature.
How do you develop each of these ten traits in your own character?
- Honesty - Free from deceit or fraud. This is one of the most difficult inner character traits to develop. From birth we have developed an ability to lie to ourselves within. It is difficult to decipher whether we are true to ourselves or not. Here is how you can develop greater honesty within.
- Always make sure what you think, feel, say and do match up.
- Always examine your motivation. Change the circumstances slightly to see if your actions would change.
- It is an old line but it is worth asking, “What would Jesus do?”
- Integrity - True and upright. If you are a man or woman of high integrity then people around you know that what they see is what they get. Here are some considerations for building integrity into your life.
- Be true in word and in action.
- Always look for weaknesses within you and ask God to strengthen those areas or remove them if necessary.
- Be who people believe you to be based on what you have told them you are. Be sure what you have told them is true. Note: Do not be who people want you to be. There is a difference.
- Purity - Free from inappropriate elements. We often think of this in terms of sexual purity. This is a good focus for all ages and certainly for yours. To be pure you should:
- Think on those things that are pure and holy.
- Avoid the appearance of evil while making sure the inner man matches the outer man.
- Stay in the Word in order to live a life consistent with Scripture’s guidance.
- Courageousness - The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. This trait does not mean you have to be the tough guy or girl. It does mean that you stand for those things you consider right. Brian Tracy, a noted motivational speaker and author, suggests you do three things and then I add a fourth.
- Control your fear. This is easier said than done. Take every thought and fear captive.
- Confront your fear. Look fear in the face and tell it what you will and will not accept.
- Do your fear. When you allow God to use you to do something that previously petrified you, you will win over it.
- Look at other worthy leaders that seem to demonstrate courage and emulate their actions. Then make sure your actions match what is really inside you. Send courage inside if you need to.
- Confidence - Belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities. We are confident as the Lord gives us confidence. The problem is we look at others who look confident and then we look deep within us. We lack confidence. We know we really are not as good as others think we are. We have successfully built a picture of ourselves that is not true. Note item two above.
- Acknowledge God as your Creator.
- Recognize that God is your enabler.
- Allow God to strengthen you.
- Take a small step in accomplishing what God enables you to do.
- Humility - Not proud or arrogant. In a world of egos this is tough. In the church world we would rather our peers not ask us about how our church is doing if it is flat or declining. However, if it is on the increase we are happy to take credit. Understand that you can make good leadership decisions, but in the end, all of your decisions are from God. Be thankful and be humble.
- Recognize that all of your abilities are given by God and not of yourself.
- Develop your giftings and give all glory to God because they are His.
- Do not display phony humility.
- When people say good things about you, be gracious and defer all glory to God.
- Do not believe your press clippings.
- Kindness - Of a good or benevolent nature or disposition. This is a trait we too often interpret as being “soft.” As the leader of the church you serve, nothing about this is designed for you to be soft or weak. True kindness expressed to another can be one of your greatest strengths.
- Ask God to sensitize you to the challenges that others face.
- While leading your leaders, look for opportunities to show genuine, non-manipulative kindness to them.
- Pray for a spirit that exudes kindness.
- Compassionate - Possessing a sympathy and tenderness toward others. Our model at demonstrating compassion was Jesus. He could feel what people felt. While we as pastors try to advance the Kingdom, we must never lose focus of the compassion necessary to be a leader like Jesus.
- Ask God to help you see the needs of others and do something about them.
- Seek to express compassion as Jesus did.
- While leading with strength, touch with those who hurt.
- Loyalty - Faithful to one's oath, commitments, or obligations. This is probably the foundational trait asked for by senior pastors when hiring staff. At the same time, the senior pastor who understands and demonstrates loyalty to those around him is the one who merits the expression in return.
- Ask God to create in you a commitment to people and causes that aligns with His purposes for your life.
- Be careful to always examine the mission of people and causes to which you are loyal.
- Never fall prey to blind loyalty. Right is still right all the time.
- Remember that loyalty is a two-way street. Demonstrate it to and demand it from your team.
- Responsibility - Answerable or accountable for something within one's power, control, or management. The sooner each generation gets this one the better. The sooner the young pastor gets this one the better. Take it and be it. The leader who does is able to lead at higher levels than those who do not.
- Never play the blame game.
- If you are anywhere near at fault, take responsibility.
- Demand that others demonstrate this trait while modeling it for them.
At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, “Am I who God wants me to be?” Often we ask, “Am I doing what God wants me to do?” Although “doing” is good, “being” is best. Once you “are” then you will “do.”
As you consider your future in ministry, it is the development of your personal character that will dictate how far you can go in God’s eyes. Do all you can to be honest and maintain integrity in all your dealings. Be responsible and be pure. Be courageous, loyal and confident. Be humble, kind and compassionate. When you are, you win, and more importantly, the kingdom wins.
You are on a great journey. As God enables you, I encourage you to be of impeccable character and God will be pleased.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dick Hardy is the Founder and President of The Hardy Group, an Executive Consulting firm for senior pastors of churches. Everything but preaching is his theme. Dealing with the stuff that keeps you up at night is his focus.
Dick brings a wealth of experience to the table for pastors when dealing with the tough issues of the church relative to growth, organization, leadership, administration, and change. His service as Administrative Pastor at two mega churches and as Vice President at a flagship denominational Bible college makes him a resource your church will want to retain. Dick is also available to serve as a speaker on this subject and many more.
Copyright © 2010 by Dick Hardy. Permission is granted for the free redistribution of this article. You may contact Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.thehardygroup.org.