This world is a hot mess. Evil no longer attempts to masquerade as good. Immorality is proudly proclaimed as the new morality. Biblical standards of behavior are viewed as archaic and unreasonable. Believers often feel outnumbered and defeated.
It hurts, but we shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers behave like unbelievers. Still, their conduct influences Christians, sometimes without us even realizing it. The story of the frog that remained in the pot of water as the heat increased illustrates just how dangerous our culture can be.
Compounding the situation is the truth that God created us to be imitators. If you don’t believe it, watch how young children imitate their parents. Or consider how many adults have mannerisms reminiscent of their parents or other close relatives.
The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV).
Ministry leadership often feels like a balancing act. We have to understand enough of the world to be relevant in our leading and teaching. However, if we’re immersed in the world then we lose our distinction as servants of the Most High God.
We are role models, whether we intend to be or not. Ministry really is life in the proverbial fishbowl. So what example are we providing those in our ministries? Let’s give them reasons to imitate us as we follow Christ. We can choose to live:
Bold is not the same as loud. Our goal is not to drown out the world, but to speak and act with the confidence that comes from knowing who we belong to. Our boldness is rooted in the hope we have in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:12; Ephesians 3:12). Know the truth and stand for truth. To be silent is to hide the message our hurting world desperately needs.
Are you bold or are you loud?
I grieve whenever a ministry leader who boldly proclaimed the gospel message becomes enmeshed in moral failure. The world mocks our hypocrisy when our preaching and teaching is not consistent with the way we live. And we can be sure those inconsistencies will be spotted…by believers and unbelievers.
God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
Even if we’re able to fool everyone else, he knows our heart and mind and discerns our motives (Jeremiah 17:10).
If there is secret sin in your life, will you confess it now and seek help?
Because we are prone to sin, our response to the sin of others should be forgiveness and compassion. “Hate the sin, love the sinner” has become a tired cliché, but the heart of the message still speaks truth. Sadly, the world—and those who belong to our ministries—often know what we are against, but aren’t sure what we are for. Moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality deteriorate into messages of hate and condemnation regarding the sin.
When Jesus dealt with moral sin, he did it within a framework of compassion and forgiveness. Consider the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) or the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Jesus spoke to both women with forgiveness and compassion, without compromising God’s moral standards. He expects us to do the same, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 (NIV), “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Are you compassionate or critical regarding the sin of others?
Humility is a tricky thing. Even as we struggle to remain humble, we inevitably become proud of our humility. When we’re confident that we’re standing firm, we’re the most vulnerable to failure (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Humility in ministry leadership is even more difficult. Those in our ministry look up to us, seek our opinions and teaching, and quote us to others. But we are to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).
Are you proud of your humility? How is God calling you to exhibit a servant’s heart?
Our world will continue to grow increasingly ungodly. But we—and those in our ministries—have choices. We can be silent, hypocritical, judgmental, and prideful. Or we can imitate the One who responded to our own ungodliness with boldness, holiness, compassion, and humility.
Whichever example we choose will be imitated by those around us. Choose carefully.
Ava Pennington teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class. She is also the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur.
Publication date: August 11, 2014