Over the last few weeks I’ve had 4 conversations with lay leaders serving in local churches around the country. All 4 voiced the same concern about their congregation: Integrity!
Here’s what they said:
- I began to understand why my congregation lacked growth and impact when I was asked to serve as the accountant and realized that from our entire eldership and staff – a total of 12 people – only our preacher and one elder tithed.
- Every one on our church staff keeps an hourly log of time and work, there’s no way our singles minister is working more than 20 hours a week. He gets paid for 40. I feel like I’m being robbed.
- My husband and I are trying to figure out whether we should continue giving to our congregation because we know our leadership obfuscates legal requirements and pays contractors under the table.
- When our preacher left in the midst of a sexual scandal, instead of telling the congregation what happened, our leaders covered it up, which left everyone’s imaginations to run wild.
Sadly, you don’t have to walk around the ministry block too often to hear some of these stories. What is at stake here is the very integrity of a church.
And I want to suggest that a congregation cannot grow numerically, impact their community or represent Christ well when there is a fundamental and deliberate lack of integrity in their organization. Your leadership team (deacons, ministry leaders, elders, pastors, staff, etc…) needs a ferocious commitment to integrity.
- Failure To Tithe Is Robbery. Malachi 3.8ff says, Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.”But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.When leaders don’t tithe (10% of income, not whatever it is you give), they are both taking what rightfully belongs to God and setting a horrible example for their congregation. It is extraordinarily presumptuous for church leaders to expect that God will trust them with what is most important to Him (people), when we will not trust Him with what is most important to us (money). What would it mean for your church if no one could serve on staff, as a ministry leader, deacon, or elder if they did not commit to tithing? If your church is struggling it may not be your strategy, your preaching, the programs or worship. It may be the failure of your leaders to lead with financial integrity.
- Lack of Integrity Costs You Your Credibility. The four people I spoke to had all arrived at the same point; they no longer trusted their leadership team. They remained in the congregations because of relationships with others, but when certain leaders addressed the church or asked for something – particularly if it called on others to go the second mile – they were tuned out. Theses folks had come to believe that their leaders didn’t believe what they were saying and more and more people in the congregation were coming to not believe them too.
- The Truth Will Set You Free. Surprising, to me at least, are the number of churches who don’t trust congregations with the truth about staff changes and other institutional transitions. Ostensibly, the reason church leaders are not more forthcoming is a desire to protect someone – either themselves, a particular individual or the congregation as a whole. I get that. Yet, when leaders aren’t candid, people’s minds assume the absolute worst. In our culture, we are scandal prone. We always think there is “more to the story.” Church leaders, trust your people. They are adults who handle really big and important stuff all the time. They know people sin; they know what redemption is and they can explain difficult situations to their children. Our attempts at hand- holding communicate that we are more concerned with creating rose-colored tapestries than dealing with reality. And, guess what? I’m not inviting my non-Christian friends to an organization that doesn’t deal well with reality.
My overwhelming experience is that God blesses churches that operate with integrity and truthfulness. How can church leaders call the world to integrity if we are not practicing it organizationally?
If you’re a church leader, look at your systems. Are they operating without reproach? Are there places you’re cutting corners and hoping for the best? Are you being truthful with your people? Nothing less than the future of your church may be at risk.
Help us out. What systems does your church employ to ensure things are handled with honesty and integrity?