Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Secret Sauce of Private Purity

In March 2001 at the age of 38, I left the business world and transitioned into a role on a church staff team. I had always been very active in church life but now I was fully immersed in the church world and, to my initial surprise, found myself being swept along by a tsunami of teaching on leadership. Looking back now the shift had started years before with good heathy teaching on the character of those entrusted with caring for the flock of God, helping believers take their next step in their Christian journey and prophetically calling people to follow them in the cause of Christ as 'they followed Jesus'.

As so often happens in the church what starts as a healthy challenge or correction can finish with a wild and unhealthy pendulum swing. Book after book and conference after conference focused on developing yourself as a leader, finding leaders, appointing leaders, and developing leaders. Talk of discipleship was replaced by an emphasis on leadership development and leadership levels when scripture to my knowledge is silent on the latter but is crystal clear in its call to 'make disciples.

Of course, I must be careful not to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' and pursue yet another dangerous swing. However, a short story from Pastor Rick Warren during a chat with Carey Nieuholf really brought home to me the crushing failures of our leadership teaching. 

One of the Pastors, from whom I have learned much, but has featured large in creating the leadership culture wave is Bill Hybels formally of Willow Creek Church and Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The great sadness is that all his teaching on leadership was holed beneath the waterline because his public platform life was not flowing in integrity with his private backstage life. Despite teaching others about leadership for decades he created a leadership culture that was abusive and not life-giving.

In the middle of a conversation with Carey about pastors protecting themselves from moral failure, Rick recalls a conversation with Bill Hybels:
'I remember telling this to Bill Hybels back in the eighties. I warned him. I said, "Bill, I think you're flirting with fire the way you travel with female staff and the way you don't hold up lines." And I gave him my Saddleback Ten Commandments. His response to me was "Rick, you're going overboard." That's what he told me. And I looked at him in the eye and I said, "Bill, I'd rather go overboard than be thrown overboard." And he was thrown overboard.'
I also remember hearing Rick say: ‘In ministry, private purity is the source of public power.’

This is true for all of us, whether we are operating in the family, the workplace, the community or the church. If we want to have a powerful impact for Christ in the world, we need to be people of purity.

Lord help me to continue to walk close and consistently with you, allowing you to do the work you need to do in my life that only you can do, enabling me to serve you faithfully with the humble confidence that comes from a heart overwhelmed by you.