What does winning look like? Yesterday I sat with a fellow pastor at lunch. We have both been at it now for over twenty years. We fell into the litany--the sad litany of listing former heroes who have fallen into shame. Great ministries turn into great shame and embarrassment with a single news article when it all goes public.
It's usually marital. The marriage began to struggle. The heart needed comfort. The body needed contact. The boundary lines were left behind. Mistakes were made. And now it's all public. But right up until the moment, the leader was celebrated! The confidence, the personal charisma, the egotism even, these were all celebrated qualities--doing big things in big ways for a big God! Right up until...
Andy Crouch has led the way lately talking about power and influence. His 2016 book, Strong and Weak flipped power on its head again for me in life-giving, Jesus ways. In the middle of three different scandals breaking out just before Easter this year, Andy dropped a penetrating article on us at The Gospel Coalition called "It's Time to Reckon with Celebrity Power." Read it. Please.
But, isn't Andy a hero? He sure is to me! Isn't Andy a celebrity? Sure, he is. And he gives us a look at the end of that article at all the safeguards he holds in place to stay grounded and accountable. But celebrity is necessary. Andy is one, and he could not stand to speak with clarity and sobriety about Christian leadership unless he had the platform God has granted him.
So it isn't that this should never happen. It isn't that leaders shouldn't be. It isn't that we should never have or never hope to be exemplars of the faith. It must be that we have lost our way of producing, and of being, inspiring leaders.
The church has a responsibility to produce heroes. The church will naturally produce known figures who exemplify the Jesus way of life for us and inspire us toward it. If we don't do it responsibly, if the church doesn't learn how to make heroes responsibly, then it will happen irresponsibly and unintentionally and without any order, and the story will end with failure and shame. As the church, we have a responsibility to guard our admired leaders and keep them under healthy accountability. For their sake, as much as our own.
What does victory look like in the age of warlords? For the Christian leader it is faithfulness. Victory for the Christian leader is doing just what God has called you to do in quiet and humble faithfulness to the commitments God has called you to make. Faithfulness to the work. Faithfulness to the friends. Faithfulness to the family. Faithfulness to the spouse. Faithfulness to Christ himself. This is victory in the age of warlords.
May you be led forward into full, heroic service of God! May you be blessed with humility in your godly ambition! And may the lines of accountability be drawn in good places in your life that you may run the race to the very end and know the victory of faithfulness.
'The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.' Psalms 16:5-6