by Rev. Mike Ramsdell
Rev. Mike Ramsdell served for 21 years as Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Mansfield, Texas in the Central Texas Conference. He is currently the North District Superintendent. Mike has a clear grasp on the many appointments which flounder because of relationship confusion. Increasingly, especially around “hot” political and moral issues, clergy and lay leaders run into conflict. Listening to Mike argue that clergy are often confused and fail to make a distinction between pride and integrity, I asked him to write a guest blog on the subject. While I am away on a mission trip in Kenya, I commend his blog to you for its important insights.
I remember some years ago having a conversation over lunch with a pastor who was in trouble. His church was in conflict and a ministry that had begun well was about to end badly. It did not have to happen. He was talented, likable, and called. But he had yet to learn the difference between pride and integrity, and thinking he was about integrity, he had created and exacerbated personal conflict with church members over issues that weren’t really that big of a deal. Everyone paid the price; he the most. He was left in a position where he could no longer lead his church.
Integrity is on pretty much every list of characteristics of effective leaders, and it should be. Integrity is about faith, about the cause, about holiness, humility, right, the truth. It is one of the cores of following Jesus Christ, an unwillingness to compromise our faith and what is good and right. It’s where we find the rules we will not break, the lines we will not cross, and the life in Christ we choose to live. It is the foundation of long term success in ministry and leadership. Humility is the foundation of integrity – being willing to put the cause of Christ, what is right and good – ahead of ourselves.
- Integrity: a moral compass that doesn’t waver, a wholeness of character (dictionary definition)
- The integrity of the upright guides them (Proverbs 11:3)
My guess is that conversations about integrity are not new to Church leaders. The problem is that often people get integrity and pride mixed up, and thinking they are making decisions and dealing with relationships from a foundation of integrity they sometimes damage themselves, others, and the cause of Christ. Yet pride just might be the real motivation. There is a difference!
- Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)
- Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
Integrity is about Christ, about faith, about the truth, about selflessness.
Pride is about us, about me, about my feelings about self-centeredness.
Integrity in a leader will build the Church, strengthen relationships, form and shape the cause that the leader is about, focusing the Church on Christ and His mission, a focus away from the leader. It is the foundation of long-term ministry and success.
Pride destroys relationships, creates division, breaks down the cause of the Church, and focuses people on the leader, his or her personal ambition, the leader’s feelings and self-importance. Pride limits the long-term life and success of a Church leader and the Church they serve.
For the prideful Christian, everything becomes personal, it’s always seems to be about them. For the person who is about integrity, everything becomes about Christ and the mission of Christ. Knowing the difference makes all the difference.