I tend to read challenging books. I mean the type that push me to think and not entertain me. I started reading a new morning devotion last week. It’s focus is integrity.
You may know I am a fierce supporter of Willow Creek Church and the Willow Creek Association. I attended my first Willow Creek conference in 1996. I learned more about leadership and the church from Bill Hybels than anyone I’ve ever known including all my education in seminary through the academic rigors of an MDiv degree and a DMin degree.
The controversy surrounding Willow these last six months has caused me to pause and consider what I believe about leaders and leadership.
I attended the Global Leadership Summit opening worship Wednesday night with our Next Gen Global leaders. Most of them had no idea what was going on in the background. They were blessed to be at Willow. They were blessed to be part of a global network whose focus is Jesus Christ and his church having greater impact in the world. They were blessed to be part of what God was calling us to to do on a greater scale.
There was a great sense of spiritual sadness in worship as we sang the awesome opening worship songs. I kept thinking of all the people that have been part of Willow’s story and influence. I thought about Bill Hybels.
Everything he taught me about leadership and the church belonged to God. He was the conduit God chose to use as the delivery system. I accepted what he taught because of the spiritual credibility and integrity of the content. I knew what I faced as a church leader and the challenges are real! I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pressure he faced as the leader God chose to lead Willow to become a global force for the Kingdom.
We aren’t born with a heart of integrity, and if we want it, we have to fight for it. If we want to fight for deep-rooted integrity, it means that we must intimately know, understand, and love God’s truth. It’s this truth that develops wisdom in our lives and helps us discern and put into practice the standards and boundaries that form a heart of integrity.
To fight also means to surround ourselves with people who are always watching and holding us accountable. Sins multiply in silence and seem smaller with a lack of accountability. We are much more likely to continue to compromise when no one cares that we are doing it or will not find out. Accountability is hard, but is a key ingredient to taking responsibility for our actions and words. It’s how we mature. It’s how we understand grace.
Fighting for integrity will grow our capacity to face and change the obstacles that continually force us to compromise God’s truth. It makes it a little easier to not over-promise things, change jobs or find a different circle of friends. Fighting for integrity keeps us grounded in God’s truth and greatness not lost in our own delusions of grandeur.
Fighting doesn’t mean we will ever be perfect. *We all fall down. We will never be perfect. We fight for integrity because it matters to God. His greatness is not compromised by our inability to be great. As a matter of fact, where we are weak he is made strong. That’s how our God magnifies himself. In the midst of our sin, destruction and failures his greatness is made known. The Apostle Paul would remind us that this is not a license to prove God’s mercies by being even more sinful. But more aware of that grace as the motivator to keep our hearts right and to fight for integrity until the day we die. The revelation being that our successes were never really about us but about God and his ability to fulfill his purpose in spite of our actions.
Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day. Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT