Caring about your team’s character begins with the ongoing process of building and assembling the team, but it does not end there. Care for their souls. Pray for them. Remind them of the grace of God. If you sense a lapse in character, if the Holy Spirit brings something to your mind, don’t bury it. Behind closed doors, have an open and honest conversation.
When the apostle Paul challenged Timothy to reproduce himself in others, to broaden the number of leaders, and to hand ministry over to more people, he emphasized character over competence. He didn’t diminish competence, but he started with character. Notice the order of the language of this often-quoted leadership development verse:
The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others [2 Timothy 2:2].
The verse does not read, “Entrust to able men who will be faithful.” Paul is not saying:
- Go find some great leaders and try to make them faithful.
- Make a list of high-capacity leaders and work to turn them into faithful followers.
- Find the best, most talented people and put them through a character boot camp.
To the contrary, Paul essentially says, “Entrust all the important things to the faithful, and in time, they will be able.”
- Find those whose hearts are His and coach them on their competence.
- Invest in people who love the Lord and develop their skills.
- Pour yourself into people who have devoted themselves to Him.
No doubt you have seen the devastating effects of character implosion in ministry leaders, whether prominent leaders of major ministries or individuals in smaller roles. When the role and responsibility outpace the leader’s character, disaster is inevitable. And more people than the leader suffer. Competence is important in ministry, but character must be first in these two realms:
1) Character First in Your Life
While the apostle Paul was far from perfect, he was faithful. He was able to say, “Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Paul’s life was a sermon to those he served. The lives of great leaders are lessons to those they serve.