First Priority

No Shortcuts to Character

Integrity is one of the permanent foundations of ministry


Recently I was asked to contribute a chapter for a book compendium by various authors. The subject was “power ministry.” I was thrilled. There were so many stories I could tell of the Holy Spirit’s working in my life!

Then I asked the Lord what He desired for me to write—and the whole scenario changed. The chapter instead explored the permanent foundations of power ministry: prayer, humility, and—most important—character and obedience.

As leaders, the impetus is on us to set these examples. That’s why I’m writing this column.

Billy Graham once said the three greatest areas the church needs to work on are: (1) integrity, (2) integrity and (3) integrity. In strict dictionary terms, integrity is the “quality or state of being complete; an unbroken or perfect condition; wholeness, soundness, entirety.”

I went on to investigate honesty—the synonym of integrity. It’s a mammoth word, meaning: “Respectable, creditable, commendable. One that will not lie, cheat or steal. Truthful, trustworthy, straightforward. Upright, and free from deceit. Genuine, pure, frank and open. Honorable and reliable.”

That mouthful being said, think how most leaders are introduced: “So and so pastors a 1,000-member church”; “This woman has a TV show, is the author of five books and travels extensively”; “Our distinguished guest today has a Ph.D. from ImaStar Seminary.” But could you imagine if we were introduced solely by our character traits?

I stay in reverential fear of the Lord at how easy it is for us to deceive ourselves and nurture hidden indulgences or sin. I run to those I am in covenant relationship with at the first sign of a satanic trap to bring me down. I don’t trust my flesh as far as I can throw it. None of us should.

We are in an hour now when God’s glory is being displayed in increasing power and majesty. His reputation is at stake, not just ours. We have no right to do what we please. Truly, we are not our own (see 1 Cor. 6:19-20).

It’s all wonderful and exciting when we give our lives to Jesus or receive an ordination. Yet it’s just like a marriage or any valuable long-term relationship. As the years go by and we are pressed time and again, the truth of who we are and what we will choose to do and be when under pressure will come to the surface.

It has been said that “what you do in secret shows who you really are.” We may pursue some kind of sinful behavior and think no one notices. Even if it takes the outside world a while to pick up on it, “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing” (Eccl. 12:14).

There are no shortcuts to character. If there are areas in your life that need special attention, humble yourself and seek healing or restoration. Confess and repent. Seek wholeness in your life and relationships. Allow the Lord the time He needs to build you so you will not fall.

Likewise, if you know a brother or a sister headed toward or fallen into sin, then “hold them back,” as Proverbs 24:11 (NASB) says. Warn them. Help them. It is a “truthful witness [that] saves lives,” according to Proverbs 14:25 (NASB). We’re all in this together.

When the day is done, forbidden pleasures do not last. They may bring sickness and even death (see Ps. 38). How much better to hear Jesus say for eternity: “Well done, My good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.” That’s my heart’s desire.



Ché Ahn is senior pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, Calif. One of his greatest joys is simply joining the Father in what He is doing today.


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