A Higher Standard

The role of holiness in pastoring

The story is told of an older man who habitually returned every few years to the city of Athens. Upon each visit, he’d climb to the top of the Acropolis, take a seat on one of its ancient stones and spend an hour or two letting his eyes wander over the massive pedestal, the soaring columns and the perfect proportions of the Parthenon. When asked to explain the reason for this pattern, the elderly gentleman’s eyes crinkled as he smiled: “I do this because it keeps my standards high.”

For the same reason, many of us who hope to be used of God as leaders keep returning to gaze upon Jesus. He is the greatest possible standard for what it means to be a person and a leader. Leadership is the art of multiplying influence, and by this standard Jesus must be considered the master artist. He is simply the greatest.

In the kingdom of God, leadership is founded on followership. What does it look like for a Christian leader to follow in the holy path of Jesus? Four key imperatives come to mind.

1. Root out impurity. As Christians we are grateful that God ultimately measures us not by the standard of our own righteousness but by Christ’s. At the same time we remember that Jesus has “called us to a holy life” (2 Tim. 1:9, NIV). Our pursuit of purity is first and foremost a sign of our passion to be like the Master. It’s also a major part of how we preserve our credibility as leaders. “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way” (2 Cor. 6:3-4, NIV). We can have tremendous natural gifts, all the right techniques and fine skills as a leader, but if we let pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth or some other sin go unaddressed in us, our creative influence will be diminished or even canceled. Leading disciples remember that purity isn’t the passion of prudes but the desire of those who want a life and legacy like Jesus’.

2. Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Purposefully doing this may be the most important thing leaders do. It’s not just because people will bear with the imperfections and missteps of Christian leaders far more easily when those leaders exhibit the fruit, or because more people will want to come and stay at work alongside leaders who are holy in this sense, though both of these are true. Rather, this “produce” is far more influential than any program we turn out. When people meet true love, joy, peace and the like in the flesh, they are meeting the character and are drawing closer to the quality of Jesus Himself.

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3. Consecrate yourself daily. Jesus reveals that those who follow in His steps must be willing to be holy—that is, set apart and dedicated to God’s purposes. To make the point forcefully, Jesus says: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Christian leadership, then, is a daily and deliberate choice to pursue a path that will be very painful at times, but it also will have enormous influence on others.

4. Remember the One before whom you stand and serve. Knowing a Lord of such awesome purity and potency keeps us properly accountable. We understand that “all authority in heaven and on earth” belongs to Jesus (Matt. 28:18, NIV), and whatever power or influence we are privileged to have in this life comes from Him. One day He will fully review how we have handled the resources and relationships entrusted to us (see Matt. 25:14-46). This same God expects to see His holy will done on earth as it is already being done in heaven (see Matt. 6:9-13). Thus, as His disciples who lead others, we handle our leadership with a blend of humble gratitude, trembling reverence and sacred purpose. “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). Doing so, you’ll find that it keeps your standards high.

Daniel Meyer is senior pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Ill. Adapted from Leadership Essentials by Greg Ogden and Daniel Meyer. Copyright © 2007 by Greg Ogden and Dan Meyer. Used with permission of InterVarsity Press.


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