The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Holiness is not optional. God expects his leaders to live holy lives. Although he requires holiness from all his children (see 1 Peter 1:13-16), he especially requires it from those he uses in specific ways. As Paul explained to Timothy, “All who make themselves clean from evil will be used for special purposes. They will be made holy, useful to the Master, ready to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21, New Century Version). This suggests a correlation between personal holiness and effective ministry. Nineteenth century Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne declared, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” He believed that more than eloquence, more than organizational skill, more than intellect, charisma, and vision, he was called first by God to live a holy life before those he led.
Holiness isn’t the only thing Christian leaders need in order to be effective at their tasks. Commitment, vision, and a strong work ethic are all vital. But no combination of natural abilities can compensate for a lack of personal holiness in the leader’s life.
Help is readily available. The Christian leader’s work can be lonely and difficult. When no one else is able or willing to step up and take on the hard task, that role often falls to the leader. When unpleasant and unpopular decisions need to be made for the cause of Christ, the responsibility of making and communicating such decisions usually falls to the leader. Whoever coined the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top,” knew something about leadership.
But thankfully, Christian leaders always have help available to them. Prior to his ascension Jesus said to his disciples, and ultimately to us, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He knew those who lead the church would experience isolation and hardship, and he wanted them to know he would always be available to help them. Today’s Christian leaders can depend upon the authority of the Word, the work of the Spirit, and the power of prayer to guide and support them in their leadership tasks, depending on the one who said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
It’s worth it. Leaders who serve Christ and the church will face their share of problems. They will be misunderstood, unappreciated, opposed, and even persecuted. Some will give up, but many will endure knowing their work for God has eternal value. They will have taken to heart the words of the apostle Paul: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
As the Christian leader’s work blesses others eternally, it blesses the leader as well. Speaking to elders in the church the apostle Peter noted, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:4). Of all the blessings the Christian leader anticipates in the life to come, the greatest will be to hear the one for whom they led say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”