Rico Tice’s little book, Faithful Leaders, is a word in season. Sadly, 2021 has been another year where there have been too many failures among Christian leaders. And by failures, I don’t mean underperformance, or failure to meet KPIs, or even leaving the ministry due to stress or burnout. I mean moral failure. Whether it’s the cover up of sexual immorality, or failure to disclose extra income, or flirting with a member of the congregation, or bullying behaviour toward other staff, or selfish pride that demands to get its own way, or unwillingness to be questioned or scrutinised, or any other moral failure.
I keep hearing references to the Mars Hill podcast (I haven’t listened to it) and people saying that we need to be more accountable. I get that. The sad reality is that we may be more likely to address our sin when others can see it. The fact that God sees it all the time doesn’t seem to motivate us as much as having to face up to our board, or bishop, or congregation. Why is this? Does it mean that we’re more worried about public shame than dishonouring God? Do we really think we’ve got away with something if no one has seen?
The Christian tradition that I’m a part of, emphasises the importance of three things for Christian leaders: character, convictions, and competency. We say that character is king, but I wonder if we truly believe it. We can be easily dazzled by the achievements on a CV or the size of a ministry or some perceived leadership strengths. Character is less clear, absent on a resume, harder to assess in interviews. If we don’t show due diligence in following up referees then we can hardly claim we value character.
There are many leadership books on conviction and competency—I have shelves full of them. There are fewer that focus on the leader’s heart. Faithful Leaders is one such book that looks at the importance of Christlike character and attitude in Christian leaders. It argues that the spiritual health of leaders plays a large part in determining the spiritual health of the congregation and therefore the success of the ministry.
Rico Tice calls for a Biblical definition of ministry success. This is not so much about numbers of people involved, but about handling God’s Word correctly and ministering it to the hearts and minds of others. This is how God works in and through his people. He calls every leader to be diligent in looking to the gospel and battling sin in response.
This book has an important focus on self-leadership, living a godly life both in and out of the public eye. Finally, it calls the Christian leader to serve the church, rather than using the church to serve his or her needs. We are reminded that we follow in the footsteps of the suffering servant, who came not to be served but to serve. This book is short and punchy. It’s not rocket science—it’s much more important than that!
I purchased copies of Faithful Leaders for each member of our church staff and leadership team. Our council meetings have included one person sharing a review of a chapter and drawing some implications for our ministry. We have found this helps us remember who we are and how we are called to serve before we get into the nuts and bolts of the meetings. Perhaps you and your team could be strengthened by a similar approach as you launch into the new year.