Character Matters (Moody)
A CONVERSATION WITH AARON MENIKOFF, AUTHOR OF CHARACTER MATTERS
Why does the church need to hear the message of this book right now?
When it comes to our character, everyone has blind spots. This is always a problem, but it’s a special problem when talking about pastors and ministry leaders. Jesus said disciples will become like their teachers (Luke 6:40). This means our congregations will resemble the pastors who lead them! Therefore, there is an urgent need for godliness in the lives of our leaders.
We are witnessing a growing hostility toward institutions, even churches. People are more skeptical of church leaders than ever before. Some of this is simply a sign of the times; we’re living in a hyper-individualistic age. But if we’re honest, some of the problem rests with us. We read of pastors and ministry leaders falling, and these stories take a toll on our view of the church. Of course, we all fail—I wrote this book first and foremost for me! I need the fruit of the Spirit so I can better the serve the people God entrusted to my care. Still, I know I’m not alone.
Finally, I began my ministry at Mount Vernon in 2008, the year smartphones took the world by storm. Soon came the stunning rise of social media. As a result, pastors today are tempted each day to look outside themselves. How many “likes” did I get? Who is following me? How do I compare with him? This kind of examination won’t serve the church. Now, more than ever, we need to examine our hearts and plead with the Lord to grow the fruit of the Spirit within us.
What happens to ministry when the fruit of the Spirit isn’t present?
A ministry where the fruit of the Spirit isn’t present and growing is a ticking time bomb. It may endure for a few months or years, but it is set to explode. The catastrophe could be something as visible and dramatic as a moral failure, but it could also be more subtle and gradual—a slow and steady decline into depression and burnout. Either way, our churches will begin to whither on the vine if our pastors lack the fruit of the Spirit.
We need to remember what Jesus said about bearing spiritual fruit. Not only does spiritual fruit glorify God, it’s the evidence we are Christ’s disciples (John 15:8). Ultimately, a fruitless ministry isn’t just a bummer, it’s dangerous—for the church and the leader.
What are some of the most common hindrances to growth, and how can they be avoided?
It’s hard to grow if you don’t realize you need to grow. Let’s face it, a lot of us have been at it a long time. We’ve become pretty good at reading our Bibles, clocking in for prayer, and preparing solid, inspirational messages. Over time, you can forget your need to examine yourself. Just like a car busts if you don’t change the oil, a believer who doesn’t realize he needs to stop and examine himself will find his spiritual growth greatly hindered.
Another huge obstacle to spiritual growth is a lack of accountability. Most of us understand how isolating leadership can be. People tend to be deferential to leaders and slow to challenge or correct them. This isn’t good. Godly leaders will surround themselves with Christians who will speak the truth in love. This means humbly leaning into regular accountability—ideally within your local church—even when it’s hard.
How do you find a balance between resting in the finished work of Christ and actively pursuing sanctification?
Instead of looking to “find a balance” it might be better to lean into the metaphor of war. How do you engage in two battles at the same time?
One battle is to rest. I know that doesn’t sound restful, but it’s true. We train our minds to remember the gospel. We pursue good theology. The better we understand justification by grace alone through faith alone the better equipped we’ll be to pursue sanctification. It’s a lot easier to plod toward holiness when you truly realize Jesus already paid it all.
The other battle is to fight. It’s not enough to remember the gospel. We have to roll up the sleeves of our heart and get to work minimizing the number of temptations to which we’re exposed, drawing near to God in prayer and study, and surrounding ourselves with godly brothers and sisters in a local church.
Perhaps it’s safe to say sanctification is 100 percent resting in what Christ did and 100 percent fighting to honor Christ in what we do. Sound impossible? It’s why we every Christian needs the fruit of the Spirit to be growing in his or her life.