The first crisis the early church confronted was a crisis of integrity.
In Acts 5:1–11, a married couple named Ananias and Sapphira pretend to sell their property and give all that money to the church. The reality, however, was they kept back part of it. They pretend to be something on the outside that they are not on the inside. And God’s immediate and drastic judgment falls on them.
The apostle Peter, the leader of the church, sees this lack of integrity as an invasion of the powers of darkness into their community of the Holy Spirit. He knows the power of the Spirit will be quenched without truth and integrity. Thus, he calls it out.
I have rushed through areas of my leadership more times than I want to remember. I have avoided meetings I knew would be hard. I have skimmed on truth when it was uncomfortable. I have preferred not to ask difficult questions or speak up when something was clearly wrong. The list goes on.
Integrity is when who I am on-stage is the same as who I am off-stage. Living this out on a daily basis is no small thing—especially for us in leadership.
Living with integrity, whether you are in your twenties or seventies, is no small task. These four critical areas form the foundation for a leader’s integrity:
1. Integrity With God
Throughout church history, one of the seven deadly sins was described as sloth. This referred not just to laziness, but to busyness with the wrong things. We are overly active because we cannot bear the effort demanded by a life of solitude with God. The Desert Fathers had no patience for activism, even godly activity, unless it was nourished by a rich interior life with God. They repeatedly warned about being engaged in activity for God before the time is ripe.
2. Integrity With Yourself
Leadership in the church can do violence to your soul. When we give to others out of our emptiness, we are of little value to those we serve. One of our greatest challenges is to manage ourselves. For example, how can I be in communion with other people if I am not in communion with myself? How can I be in a healthy relationship with others if I am not in healthy relationship with myself? How can I be intimate with you if I am not intimate with me?
3. Integrity in Your Marriage/Singleness
The best leadership and denominational conferences, along with our seminaries and schools, do not train us how to have marriages, or a singleness, that taste and point to heaven. We mistakenly assume a great marriage or singleness will happen naturally if we work for God. It does not.
4. Integrity in Your Leadership
Because I had too many things to do, I rushed a lot. I sometimes avoided meetings I knew would be hard. I skimmed on “truth” when it was uncomfortable. I preferred to not ask difficult questions or speak up when something was clearly wrong. I didn’t give myself the time needed to prayerfully get clear on goals and agendas of meetings. This eventually caught up with me after years of failures and frustrations. It eventually catches up with everyone.
Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, and the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. This article was originally posted on Scazzero’s blog at EmotionallyHealthy.org.