Recently, this theme flowed across the surface of the public consciousness like a ripple of tsunami working across the surface of the sea. Because the media is now playing a serious game of “Gotcha” with all leaders, winners, and achievers who stand in the spotlight, the higher standard serves their interests. (This interest seldom serves the good of society anymore because their motivations are simply greed and fame.)
The question, “Should leaders be held to a higher standard?” was debated and discussed with various subtitles of “personal life vs political or public life,” and “are we destroying our best and brightest with false expectations?”
For believers, we begin with the Bible: “Does God hold leaders to a higher standard?” The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” He selects leaders on this basis, makes leaders accountable to a higher standard, and invests this point of view into the kingdom. God doesn’t demand perfection in the sense of “no mistakes or misjudgments;” however, God does expect a higher level of personal character and behavior to qualify to lead and to maintain that leadership influence and impact.
Trust and Leadership
One fundamental with leadership authority and responsibility is trust. Leaders are entrusted with decision-making and problem-solving that has greater impact upon the outcomes of God’s purposes and affects more people by virtue of their positioning. So, the behavior and performance of leaders must be measured by a higher standard, a broader expectation, and a more effective accountability.
The more leadership a person fulfills, the greater that person should make themselves accountable for their personal behavior and leadership. Their influence is greater for good or bad.
Paul outlines some considerations about people interested in leadership that are obviously specific to leaders with Timothy and Titus. James mentions the higher standard rather specifically: teachers will be judged at a higher standard. [James 3:1] These are considerations, not of a moral purity or ethical goodness, but of what would become limiting factors or evidence of fatal flaws for leaders. In other words, leaders aren’t asked to be righteous while others can get by with wickedness. There is an expectation of good behavior and moral righteousness for all believers! We aren’t going to act as if God only expects leaders to be righteous and godly while the rest of the kingdom struggles with besetting sins!
We don’t have the right to say, “Well, I got this porn problem, but it really doesn’t matter because I’m not a leader in the church.” The truth is that all believers are part of the kingdom of God and represent Him in the earth. So, our lives should exhibit the priorities and values of the kingdom of God! Part of the Great Commission mandate is teaching people to observe Christ’s commandments, and discipling has a strong, valid, observable behavior measurement.
Part of the leadership standard is consistency. That is, a person in leadership maintains a higher standard, and that lifestyle provides them the basis for trust. Other people are willing to follow their lead because they have observed their behavior, and people trust their leadership. This is a higher standard. “My leader’s good decisions and problem-solving cause me to want to follow their leadership. They have shown me a higher standard, and I need that next level leadership in my life.”
So, when leaders fall into sin, we may be quick to forgive them, but we should be slow to restore their leadership because of the trust factor. (There is a difference between falling into sin and having a deeper, hidden fatal flaw.) We may be more hesitant to trust a leader who has failed in some basic area of trust such as family relationships, financial integrity, purity of motivation, or basic honesty in communication.
God positions leaders He has prepared. This doesn’t mean God guarantees their perfection. David, Simon Peter, and Judas are good examples of leaders who had rather glaring failures. Each has a restoration opportunity, and each responded differently. David and Simon Peter were restored. Judas was in despair. Paul didn’t trust John Mark after he ran home to momma but later said that John Mark was profitable to him for ministry; it seems that John Mark did some growing up along the way and regained trust.
In any case, because of this enormously important “trust factor,” we can see that leaders are held to a higher standard. We can also see that they should be.
Jesus Held to the Highest Standard
Jesus was tempted in all the ways a human being can be tested! His leadership standard was the highest because His leadership is the highest – far above all rule, principality, authority, in earth or heaven! Jesus was expected to live and die with a perfect, sinless life, finishing the assignment of His destiny and fulfilling the purpose of His Father. As the second Adam, he