Courageous Leaders, Bullies and Weasels


True leadership demands character.

The other day, I talked about arrogant pastors — a problem that is all too common. As I had both expected and feared, there was quite a response across various forms of social media. People quickly identified with the issue.

I’ve been thinking more about the issue of character. Even this morning, we see what the lack of courageous character can do as we watch government leaders fail to take action and the “sequester” takes effect.

True leadership demands character.

In ministry, that character has to be courageous character. My experience is that it is not celebrated enough and, to be honest, is sometimes lacking in ministry.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Well, it is not a secret that ministry positions can unfortunately become places of power more than servanthood.

Let me also add that Christian ministry often elevates people who can write and speak into positions of leadership and influence before their character is prepared to handle it. In other words, if you can write and speak, you sometimes gain influence without possessing the character to handle it.

But what is character, exactly? It has become a word we sometimes throw around quite flippantly. Almost like the nebulous “it factor,” we can identify those who have it, and we can most certainly identify those who don’t. But it is something we all should display, regardless of our position.

When it comes to ministry leaders, I thought of four things that fit the description. Mind you, it is not an exhaustive list. Just one that has been developed through my observations of those who evidence character, and those who do not. As with yesterday, I’d like to hear your comments on them and any additional traits that you might suggest.

Ministry leaders with courageous character:

1. Always tell the truth.

Most of the time, the temptation to lie, hide or manipulate the facts comes because we want to protect ourselves. A leader of character knows that truth is primary.

In particular, leaders in ministry know that self-protection does not fit with what we know to be true about the gospel. Jesus Christ died on the cross to save sinners and meet our greatest need. There is nothing left to protect because He has already protected everything for us. Forever. We have nothing to lose and nothing to hide, and with that comes great freedom — the freedom to be transparent and honest.

If you shade or distort the truth, or hide facts and plans for your own benefit or advancement, you are not a leader of courageous character.

Ed Stetzer Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.

More from Ed Stetzer or visit Ed at

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