With the start of the New Year many people are evaluating their lives, including many ministers and leaders who are making vows and resolutions to the Lord. In light of all the scandals in the church and the intense scrutiny all leaders in society are presently under, my proposal is that one of the primary vows leaders make should be to walk in integrity.

What is integrity? Integrity is basically wholeness or perfect condition; one root word of “integrity” means “soundness, wholeness;” also the root word “integer” means “whole,” that is to say, it has to do with a person living a simple life in which their public and private lives are the same, because their public persona lines up with their interior life and motivation.

Too often people live divided lives in which they do not practice what they preach because, as Jesus said, they are whitewashed on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean (read Matthew 23:27-28). This is a season when God is dealing severely with leaders and ministers of all walks of life which should lead all of us to contemplate who and what we really are.

The following are symptomatic of ministers who walk in integrity:

I. You pursue personal, informal, mentoring relationships with people

1. One of the qualifications for serving as an elder in the New Testament church was to be hospitable (1 Timothy 3).
Leaders who avoid allowing people entry into their private homes may have something to hide regarding the way they live and act, and in regards to the condition of their family life.

One of the greatest blessings leaders can have is to allow people to spend time with them in their homes to pour Christ’s life and wisdom into them. Letting folks live with you under certain circumstances (under the leading of the Lord) is perhaps the greatest way to impact younger people who need the security and model of a leadership home to frame their view of life and family.

2. Having young leaders travel with me has been one of the great thrills in my life! I love spending time pouring into emerging leaders by taking them with me to preach or on longer trips so that we can get to know each other. A leader impacts people more with their life than with their words. Truly, our life is the real message people follow and emulate! 

II. You value your name more than making money or ministry success

1. Proverbs 22:1 teaches us that our motivation for living should be based on having and emanating a godly influence more than having a desire for possessions and monetary wealth. Unfortunately, with some people, their payoff in ministry is more in dollars and cents than in spreading the gospel and changing people’s lives. There are many ministers who won’t even consider preaching in a church unless they receive a huge honorarium along with numerous bells and whistles. The first question we need to ask before we take an invitation to minister somewhere should be “Is the Lord sending me?” If the Lord is sending you, then He will cause the proper provision to come your way. (This is opposed to the posture of making sure the financial obligations are met first and then asking God to bless your ministry!)

III. Your standard for devotion and commitment to God in your private life is no different from what you portray in your public ministry

1. Our lives should be very simple. Complicated interior lives with various allegiances and distractions replete with ungodly habit/patterns will eventually cause ministry burnout, severe family issues, or a moral collapse. Our motto as ministers should always be to people “what you see is what you get”! We can be real with our congregations without acting ungodly and without coming off as super religious or perfect! People can usually tell when someone is being authentic; authenticity is a carrier of the true anointing and authority of God!

IV. Your spouse and children will say you are a person of integrity who keeps their word and loves God at home

1. I always say, if you want to find out if a person has integrity, you need to ask their spouse and children. The pressures of life and family are too great for anyone to hide from those closest to them. If family members call a person godly then it is safe to say they are living a life of integrity.

V. You prioritize character development more than the development of your gifts and talents

1. The books of Proverbs, Kings and Chronicles show that leaders who want to have an enduring, lasting effect in regards to their lives and legacy need to be people who build the foundation of their lives on strong godly character. These scriptures teach that those with enduring success were those who walked in integrity and feared the Lord. Those who build their lives only on the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, talents, and abilities will eventually fail in every aspect of their lives. Many are the young ministers whose anointing has taken them to places and given them platforms their character was unable to sustain. Remember: the height of a tree is always determined by the depth of its roots.

VI. You value and respect each individual as a child of God irrespective of whether or not they can benefit you or your ministry

1. In thirty years of ministry I have seen other leaders gravitate toward me if they thought I could do something for them or their ministry. But these are the same people who will avoid or sidestep me if they think someone else is available that can bring them further. Jesus valued the lepers, the lame, the sinners, and harlots. He took time for the down and out, not just those called to be apostles. Those who have an understanding of the significance of the act of God when He made people in His own image have no problem addressing even the vagabonds in the street as “sir.” People of integrity understand that the ground is level at the cross and that we are not to love a person for their title but because of who they are as an image-bearer of God.
 
VII. You are more passionate about knowing and seeking God than making Him known

1. Because of the sinfulness of humanity we need to constantly seek God and expose our true sinful hearts to the blazing fires of holiness. When we live a life in which we value activity for God more than being with and receiving from God, then we are already on the wrong track. The first call of the apostles, before they were to preach or heal the sick, was to be with Jesus (read Mark 3:14). The greatest and highest calling any of us have in our lives is to be lovers of God. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it or is a derivative of it. When we have these two commandments reversed, and love our neighbor more than we love God, we fall into humanism, lose our effectiveness, and our interior lives begins to fall into shambles (read Matthew 22:36-40). We need to seek God to know Him and know Him so we can seek Him, and continue this exciting cycle on and on for eternity!

VIII. You surround yourself with other leaders who hold you accountable

1. You can tell how far a person will go in life by the closest friends they have. If you surround yourself with shady people who are only out for themselves, then that is a picture of who you really are.

2. Those with integrity surround themselves with people not afraid to speak the truth to them.

3. Those with integrity want open, transparent relationships with key people as a protection because they know and understand their own sinful hearts and the potential they have to fall into sin.

4. Pastors needs a pastor or pastors over them to hold them accountable in regards to their ministries and personal lives. Also, they need trustees and/or elders serving alongside them to help them hear from God and handle the finances of the ministry.

5. The more influence a person gets, the stronger their base of accountability needs to be in legalities, in finances, in their personal life, in ministry, etc. Those who have ministry without accountability beyond their family members or small circle of blood-sucking leeches will have a difficult time experiencing personal and ministerial longevity with integrity and are in danger of destroying their legacy.

Joseph Mattera