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 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:
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:
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:
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.