Every morning, I squeeze the same tube with the expectation that my favorite flavored toothpaste will come out. But what if something other than toothpaste came out one morning? I guess I might say that, technically, this tube had lost its integrity. It would no longer be what it was meant or advertised to be.
What happens when we are squeezed as ministry leaders? What should come out? What does come out? Do the results reveal that you are walking with ministry integrity?
The Apostle Paul’s ministry integrity was challenged in the city of Thessalonica to the degree that he had to give a defense for himself and his teammates. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 he reveals five characteristics of his own ministry leadership that should be ours today.
Take a personal inventory as you review the DNA of his ministry integrity:
1. Ministry integrity is never to be situational or circumstantial.
“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition” (2:1-2).
Paul reminds them of the severe treatment he and his team suffered in Philippi, the kind of suffering that could have produced a more stealth approach in Thessalonica, but didn’t. Instead, they continued to speak openly and without fear even though once again facing opposition to their message.
What happens to you when you face unfair and unfounded opposition to your leadership, your pulpit ministry, or your walk with Jesus? Do you shrink back or do you remain laser-like in your focus, continuing to do the right things in the right way? Paul and his team demonstrated ministry integrity by not shrinking back or changing their strategy because of their present situation or circumstances. They kept at it! Will you?
Pray: For spiritual leaders to communicate the Gospel courageously, freely, and openly.
2. Ministry integrity always seeks to please God and not people.
“We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” (2:4).
Some were accusing Paul of speaking a message birthed in error and impure motives—in other words, that he knew he was communicating falsely and from a heart that was self-serving—concerned only for his own gain.
Have you ever faced this accusation? I have and it’s not much fun, is it?
Paul’s response: No way! His reason: My ministry credentials come from God, not from you or even from myself. Paul was not focused on being liked, growing a fan club, or obtaining spiritual celebrity or superstardom, but instead on pleasing an audience of One and then receiving from this One what he didn’t deserve nor could ever earn. Ministry integrity—then and now—always seeks to please God and not people.
Are you still seeking to please an audience of One, or your so-called “raving fans?” Remember, your raving fans today could be your strongest critics tomorrow. Keep looking to the One who has given you your ministry and who is the only One you ultimately need to please.
Pray: For spiritual leaders to always seek to please God first and never people.
3. Ministry integrity is always self-sacrificing and never self-promoting.
“We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else” (2:6).
About praise, Solomon says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives” (Proverbs 27:21). How does praise test us?
First of all, by what it does in us when we receive it. How it makes us feel, think, and respond. Secondly, by what we do with it—where it goes once we’ve received it. Praise is the great revealer of the motives of our hearts.
Paul lived among these believers like Jesus—gentle, loving, caring, placing them above his own needs, sharing with them not only the Gospel but his very life. In so doing, Paul reveals that ministry integrity is always self-sacrificing and never self-promoting. It’s about making Jesus famous so that we remain obscure, especially in our own mind and heart.
Pray: For spiritual leaders to be self-sacrificing and never self-promoting.
4. Ministry integrity flows from the heart, not the head.
“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed” (2:10).
Paul made his own way without being a burden, financially or in any other way, to these new believers. He set up his tent-making, leather-working shop somewhere in town so he could provide for himself while preaching Jesus, discipling the church, training leadership, and facing his own opposition.
Not only did he ask them to recall his vocational lifestyle, but also the inner qualities of his own life, to remember that he and his ministry team lived their lives in a way that bore witness to the very Gospel they were preaching—they were holy, righteous, and blameless among them. Paul shows us that ministry integrity flows from the heart and not just the head.
Pray: For spiritual leaders to live from the inside out, in purity and holiness.
5. Ministry integrity always seeks the maturity of Christ’s church.
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (2:11-12).
Paul encouraged, comforted, and urged these believers to live out what they now knew to be true—to live lives worthy of God. Why? So that the body of Christ, in their city and in other places where their reputation was known, would become the mature faith community God intended. Paul shows us, finally, that ministry integrity should always seek the maturity of Christ’s church.
Pray: For spiritual leaders to always seek the maturity of Christ’s church.
Let’s strive to live and lead with the kind of ministry integrity revealed in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12!
Copyright © 2013 Mike Moran. All rights reserved.
Mike Moran serves as the Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church in Auburn, WA. After several years in the business world, Mike served for 19 years at a church in Northern California before coming to Grace in October 2009. He is married to Nancy and they have two adult children who live in Washington. Mike is a founding member of The 6:4 Fellowship and a church consultant with Strategic Renewal, an organization committed to helping pastors and church leaders develop a culture of transformational prayer in their local congregation.