Character and Competence

When I look at figures from the Bible and other admirable Christian leaders throughout history, there really seems to be two distinct characteristics that define them: character and competence. This may be oversimplifying it, but I’m not sure the basic truth can be overlooked. Any man or woman that God has used in positions of leadership (be it high-profile or low-profile) possessed both strong character and competence in their God-given tasks.

Look at Joseph, for example. Joseph was faithful to God for many years despite being hated by his brothers and being horrendously mistreated. If anyone had the right to complain about life not being fair, it would be Joseph. Yet his integrity remained intact despite every obstacle that came his way. God was gracious enough to raise Joseph up to save Egypt and literally the entire surrounding world in the face of severe drought. Additionally, Joseph demonstrated a knack for leadership, organizing the entire Egyptian empire in such a way that it became the most powerful nation on earth. Joseph had both character and competence.

Others come to mind as well. Nehemiah was a man who stood firmly for God while successfully leading a complicated building project. Joshua walked with God and functioned as a gifted army general. Esther demonstrated great trust in God on her way to saving an entire race from genocide. Paul was as passionate a Christian as there ever was and oversaw an amazingly successful church planting movement. Outside of the Bible, figures like Saint Patrick and Charles Spurgeon also come to mind. And, of course, Jesus tops them all as the sinless Savior who instigated the largest and fastest-growing movement in the history of the world.

The point is that effective leaders have both character and competence. They don’t need to be perfect (thankfully!), but they do need to have a genuine and growing walk with the Lord. And, they must also possess certain abilities that help them achieve the tasks to which God has called them. To have either one without the other kills the effectiveness of a leader.

It should be noted, however, that character precedes competence. They are not on an equal plane. If a leader has all the needed skills but has no character, they are not ready for Christian leadership. It seems that the typical pattern is that humble people are the ones God raises to positions of leadership, even if they don’t initially have all of the skills. God is the one who equips each leader with what they need to do his will, and the first thing any leader needs is the power of God. That comes through character.

In one sense, we are all leaders. God has a calling for each one of us to fulfill. Don’t just think of leaders as those with big names, big ministries, big educations, and big resources. Any humble servant God can use to effect change. I fact, he desires to do so!

A few questions for reflection:

  • What are the tasks to which God has called me? List some of them.
  • Do I spend more time sharpening my character or my competence? How can I rightly focus on character first?
  • While focusing on my character, how can I also develop my level competence? What resources do I need to tap in order to be more effective?

Don’t Be a Consumer Christian

One of the greatest inhibitors of the North American church is the consumer Christian. Few things drain resources and lag the advancement of the gospel more than this sin. Being a consumer Christian means you are more concerned about how a church fits your needs than how you can meet the needs of others. It includes a mindset that church exists for your benefit, rather than for God’s glory. Typically, consumer Christians have a few standard markers identifying them. They might include:

  • Frequently moving from church to church because none seem “biblical” or “good enough”
  • Regularly criticizing the way things are done while contributing little to nothing yourself
  • Being more concerned with your own preferences than the good of everyone collectively
  • A regular desire to see your own needs met while neglecting your responsibility to meet others’ needs
  • Witholding financial giving from a church for virtually any reason

Consumer Christians, sadly, are common in our churches here in North America, likely because of the self-centered culture that exists all around us (and has affected the church in some regards). We see that the world around us caters to our every need; we wonder why God’s loving people can’t do the same. The unfortunate yet provoking reality is that a consumer Christian is no different than a parasite, selfishly sucking resources and contributing nothing to the very mission to which they too have been called.

Truth is, we all have a little of the consumer Christian in us. We’re all guilty of subtly (or maybe blatantly) thinking the church exists primarily for our own benefit. Before any of us are too quick to point the finger, we need to examine our own hypocrisy and consider how we have misplaced us at the centre of the universe instead of Jesus.

Here are a few things to consider in regards to consumer Christians:

  • There may be a grain of truth in every criticism. Every church can do a better job of serving it’s people.
  • Point them to Jesus. Encourage them to see the church as primarily existing for God’s glory and the proclamation of Jesus’ gospel.
  • Help them to get connected. Christians who are serving have less time to complain because they are too busy doing kingdom work. Serving is the antidote to consumption.
  • Motivate them with joy. Loving God and others in practical ways is one way in which Christians experience great joy and satisfaction.

Lastly, a few questions for a self heart-check:

  • Am I more concerned about what I get out of church than if God is glorified and others are uplifted?
  • Am I being generous with my time, abilities, and money?
  • Am I expecting too much from the church?
  • Do I do more talk than action in my Christian walk?
  • How am I contributing to the mission of the church?
  • How can I raise legitimate concerns in helpful ways?
  • Have I considered that there may be logical reasons things are done the way they are that I don’t know about?

Don’t just consume…produce!

Hello blog world!

I’ve been thinking about doing a blog for almost 2 years now, and it has finally arrived! It feels kinda weird, actually, having my name in a url at the top of a web page…just more fuel to feed the pride it seems. Truth is, writing this blog has far less to do with me sharing my extremely valuable opinions on everything (chuckle here) than it does me honing my writing skills. I’ve enjoyed writing since high school, and someday I’d like to see some of my work published. You know what they say – practice makes perfect! Hence, welcome to jeremyedgar.wordpress.com.

On the other hand, some of the content you find here may be of value or interest to you. I’ll be writing about the 4 things I am most passionate about: Christianity, marriage, family, and ministry. That’s a pretty good sum of my life right there. I love Jesus, I love my wife, I love my kids, and I love the church. Hopefully, along the way you will find some things profitable to you personally.

In the future, I may also turn part of this blog into a resource tool for those I pastor and lead, adding things like my lesson notes with discussion questions, topical resources and book reviews, leadership training, or anything else that might be helpful. We’ll see, but for now I’m just going to start writing and see where it goes.

Thanks for joining me in my journey. God bless and have an awesome day!