Ministry News

The Perfect Model of Integrity





When I turned 50, my staff surprised me with a set of golf clubs. After numerous golfing trips "plow-ing up the course," I resorted to watching videos. My game immediately improved when I learned how to deliver the perfect swing from pros. Hours of written "tips" could not compare to watching master golfers at work.


I heard a funny story about a Bible college professor who would sling his thick hair backward with a swoop when-ever he made a strong point in his preaching.


Ironically, years later his students were also "slinging their hair." Someone discovered that even a student who was bald was slinging his head!


What makes people do what they see and not what they hear?


While traveling through Greece and Turkey for 17 days in 2009, I was struck by Paul's apostolic method of "father-ing." He had no Bible school (not even Bibles!), sermon series or buildings.


His method was to take about 18 young men from different backgrounds in the New Testament to be his traveling companions. His Christ-like example modeled his Christian life before them until they were his "dear sons," and then sent them as his envoys to plant, build and correct his churches.


The apostle Paul makes his intentions known in 2 Thessalonians 3:9, "We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow" (NIV). The model consisted of 10 parts, and focused on integrity, purity and example.

Integrity Matters
Integrity comes from the root word "integer" and means whole number. It is something that is whole with no parts missing or fractions. Integrity, then, is to be a whole, together, healthy person. In my interaction with spiritual leaders, I have seen the need for integrity in several major areas of ministry:


Finances-Surprised by this one? Don't be. Jesus used money more than any other metaphor to demonstrate faith-fulness. When money reaches our hands, we quickly demonstrate our true character just as Ananias and Sapphira, Judas, Gehazi and Achan did in the Bible. Here are a few principles to help lay out some "boundaries" for financial integrity:

  • Use designated funds for exactly the reason they were given or return them to the donor. Always pay bills when they are due, and don't use "cash management" procedures.

  • Maintain a correct church budget at all times. Start with missions at 10 percent, keep salaries at 20 percent to 40 percent; never let money allocated for buildings exceed 35 percent, and an adequate savings should fall between 5 percent and 10 percent.

  • Don't go into business with church members. This changes the pastoral relationship from "overseer" to "money-making partner."

  • Offer fair, not exorbitant salaries. A compensation committee should determine the pastor's salary, and any other member of his family or controlling party.

  • Don't pressure people for finances. This will help you maintain an atmosphere of liberty in ministry. Building pro-jects should be congregation-driven instead of pastor-driven. After all, they are the ones who need the building, not you!

  • Keep financial statements of expenditures. A financial statement actually helps your church as congregants sense accountability and see the true cost of running the ministry.


Commitments—Simply put, keep your promises. My grandfather could borrow money in the 1930s on a handshake because men back then valued their word more than anything else. We must be "men of our word," keeping our com-mitments both locally and internationally.


Announcements—What you say from the pulpit should be "the law of the Medes and Persians." If you constantly alter your word given to the congregation, congregants develop internal questioning about every new piece of direction.


Travel engagements—Frivolous cancelations and no-shows can be devastating to others. There was a pastor in Ni-geria who took 15 different buses to cross Africa to attend a conference in Kenya. When he walked up to the venue, a sign on the door said, "Canceled." It was easy for the American evangelist, but the Nigerian leader wasted one month of his time.


Honesty—Be 100 percent truthful, not 99 percent. Every detail of facts, stories and testimonies must line up with a "court of law" testimony. No wonder they make you swear to tell the "truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"! Humans have found so many ways to stretch the truth, leave out part of the truth and mix the truth.


Exaggeration is unnecessary. Do we think we have to promote, embellish and market God's image?


Spinning the truth (covering the raw reality of an action) leads the congregation to treat every explanation with sus-picion. Get over it and tell them the truth. The embarrassment will be momentary but the recovery will be permanent.

Purity Is Possible
Moral purity, which means to be faithful to a spouse for a lifetime, has become almost unusual in political, athletic, entertainment and now ministerial arenas. Almost weekly, there is a new revelation of an escapade involving a female or male leader.


Satan has used immorality more than any other vice to destroy the integrity and reputation of the Spirit-filled move-ment, beginning in the late 1980s.


It's an all-out war. The days of feeling that any of us are bullet proof are over. Internet pornography and texting have brought the average leader into the arena of moral temptation as never before.


Samson's parents warned him not to touch the grape, touch the dead and not to cut his hair. It's interesting that he killed a lion in a vineyard. But what was he doing there? He took honey from the carcass or dead body of a lion. It therefore became easy to violate the third and last command when he lay his head in Delilah's lap and she cut his hair.


The point: Simple violations of spiritual protocol lead to deadly results. To avoid moral failure, consider James Dob-son's five stages of adultery and stop before you find yourself engaged in the following:


A look: This was David's initial problem. It's a "connected stare" into the eyes of someone to whom you are not married.


A touch: Physical contact, no matter how slight, can lead to a physical relationship


An embrace: Now the relationship is moving rapidly.


A kiss: This is the fuse that lights immorality.


The act: You commit the ultimate act of unfaithfulness.


Put an Internet filter, such as Integrity Online on your computer, phone and every source of online material. Internet porn marketers sit around all day figuring out how to ensnare you with the latest technology. Your filter must be bullet proof and the password known only to your wife or IT Director. Follow these guidelines to defend yourself against sexual immorality:

  • Never be alone with the opposite sex. This means no lunches, travel and even counseling. I use female staff members to counsel women.

  • Always be accountable for your whereabouts. Your wife should know your schedule intimately and you should never show up across town from where she thought you were going.

  • Travel with a partner. Paul had Silas, Jesus sent them out "two-by-two," and you also need a travel partner.

  • Never allow a woman to share her feelings with you. This is usually a first step to adultery.

  • Block all soft porn mailings to your local post office. A simple signature on a form will keep you and your children safe from pornographic mailings.

  • Block channels that air explicit, sexual programs such as MTV. All cable companies have parent blocks. This should be done not only for you, but also for your children who are now bombarded with pornography at younger and younger ages.

  • Take sexual problems seriously. The best defense is a good offense. Counsel with an overseer if your sexual life is dysfunctional.

  • Beware of R-rated TV shows you watch when your family goes to bed. Most temptation occurs after church when you are the most anointed! You are the target of specific marketing at night, so go to bed when your family does, if necessary.

Be the Example
The third part of the model is your example. There are leadership habits you can demonstrate and others will emu-late and follow. Paul called them "my ways." Here are a few I have tried to demonstrate through the years:


1. Order—God is not the author of confusion. He transformed the multitude into a military at Mt. Sinai. Here are a few things you can check to keep your surroundings in shape:

  • Home Environment: Maintain your lawn, closets, garages and cars. People observe the areas because only an or-ganized mind can produce an orderly environment.

  • Time Management: Punctuality speaks of organized time in services, appointments and commitments

  • Attire: Sloppiness does not reflect good leadership. How would you react to a sloppy president addressing the nation?

  • Work Ethic: Spiritual leaders often take liberties in their daily schedules and output. Refuse the temptation of laziness by being an example to your staff of the hours you put in and the productivity you put out.


2. Courtesy—Believe it or not, the community knows your private side, so watch your example in everyday areas of life such as the checkout line. Those who you are trying to influence note belligerence to a clerk or impatience. Take your time and wait it out.


We would all love to abandon our buggy in Walmart parking lots, but putting it where it belongs is an example to watching eyes. And preaching like an "angel out of heaven" in church then driving like a "bat out of hell" to get home is also observed by your neighbors.


3. Family—Paul spoke of the example family as the main criteria for ministry. This, of course, involves your chil-dren's behavior. In church, after church, in restaurants and at school, everyone is watching your children. They will never be perfect, but they should be accountable and corrected. I know a pastor who has 10 sons and they all behave well at restaurants. That should make you feel better!


And honoring you wife is vital. It not only validates your witness, but it also gets your prayers answered. Walk with her, not in front of her, waving to the adoring masses! Open the exit door and even car door for her. You need to real-ize that at least half (and maybe two-thirds) of your church is female, and they notice your interest and concern for your wife's place in the congregation. Your sons, by the way, will treat their wives the way they observe you treating yours.


These are just a few areas of the model. No wonder the apostle Paul could influence his entire generation, billions down through the ages and millions today with his simple lifestyle.


You may not be pastoring thousands, but if your life is a model for others, your stock is rising! Paul told Timothy, "Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4: 12). And John Max-well says, "Be as big a man on the inside as you are on the outside."


Let's rebuild ministry in the United States to once again be as respectable as Billy Graham and his Modesto Mani-festo. A generation is watching, and this is your moment.

Larry Stockstill is the senior pastor of Bethany Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, La., and the author of The Remnant.


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