It’s not a secret anymore, but it will remain a poignant lesson for years to come.
It was just after a rousing evening service in 2006 where the worship was powerful and the sermon was stirring. A pastor is accused of soliciting drugs, and for that and the allegation of homosexuality, he would soon be let go by the board. Ted Haggard of New Life Church lived a double life, and religious postures and eloquent words were not a substitute for unresolved inner inconsistencies. All during the wonderful worship and challenging sermons, something was out of place.
“Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them …” (Jeremiah 14:12)
As leaders, we are good at leading services, emceeing programs, and making speeches that can motivate people. We can arrange activities for small groups, all night prayer meetings, and all congregational fasting. We put together mission programs and preach moving sermons, as the church would require.
But what does God require more than these? The prophet Micah in 6:8 tells us:
“The LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.”
Who I am in the shadows rather than in the footlights is what God measures.
Israel and Judah had fallen away from God, and when God asked them to repent, they chose not to. After a refusal to repent, the next step is not going to be absolution. The next step is consequences; for Judah, it would extend over the nextseventy years. The defining moment of repentance either opens the door, or closes it, to God’s healing and restoration. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, used to greet his friends with these words, “Have you repented yet today?”
I guess he knew the power of repentance, for a repenting leader is a growing leader; a repenting church is a healthy church.
I have noticed that the leaders that God has used in mighty ways in the past have been adept in repentance! In Numbers 14:5, we find these words: “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel.” It seemed as if they were always the first ones to repent because they understood the power of repentance and that following repentance is always grace and wisdom. But with the refusal to repent, the next step is alwaysconsequence.
Genuine leaders are good at repentance!
We often have the wrong definition of repentance. We have been raised to believe that if we repent, it is a value statement meaning that we are weak. It makes us vulnerable and somehow we think it relegates us to the consolation bracket in ministry and life. Shame teaches us that humiliation before our peers has to be the worst thing in life. But in actuality, repentance is making the switch to realizing that looking good before God is far more important than looking good before people.
And let’s be reminded that the result of repentance is not looking bad in front of people. It is healing, restoration, and wisdom. However, the next step after a refusal to repent is consequences, and for Israel, it was seventy years of consequences in Babylon.
Allow me to repeat: “Repentance is making the switch of realizing that looking good before God is more important than looking good before people.”
This has to be one of the most crucial realizations I can make in my lifetime.
So, repentance is what I choose. I will be quick to repent. I will even practice it today. I am good at giving eloquent reasonings, but not as good at repentance. I need practice.
A Leader’s Prayer:
How I stand before You is more important than how I stand before people. Thank you for helping me to lead others from a clear heart so that leading people is a natural result of following You.