Gifting Requires Equal Character
Titus 1:10-11 “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, . . . They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”
Gift and character are both needed to lead. Gifting has to do with talent, personality, intelligence, abilities, and even spiritual gifts. Character is internal integrity, honesty, humility, teachableness, accountability, ability to treat others well, ability to honor authority. We must require character equal to or above the level of gifting. We have all seen the bad consequences when someone is elevated because of his gift, but lacks good character. Regardless of how gifted we are, we still need a healthy marriage, the ability to handle money well, the ability to work with others on a team, and the ability to sustain long-term relationships. And regardless of how amazing we think we are, we all need to be humbly accountable to other leaders.
Life in the Spirit is not an excuse from living a disciplined life. Our movement does focus on the work of the Spirit, and we do encourage the development of spiritual gifts. But we must also encourage the development of equal character so that a lack of character does not destroy the fruit of the gift. Gifting can take you where your character cannot keep you! When we are so enamored by a gift that we are willing to compromise standard requirements for character, we are in trouble. The Bible is clear that character standards apply to all leaders. People in ministry impart who they are, not only what they say. They will reproduce even their flaws. There is danger in following or trusting someone who has an amazing gift but whose character does not align with biblical values. When a movement is built partially around personalities, it sets people up as heroes. But making them a superhero can be a setup for disillusionment among believers should a character flaw surface.
But we do not demand perfection, do we? Of course not. None of us will ever achieve perfect character. We can only shine forth a portion of the character of Jesus. But certain qualities are important and if violated, give us risk. This is why Paul told us not to lay hands on any man quickly. This is why the Bible lists qualifications for leadership. Have you noticed that the lists in Timothy and Titus do not include amazing gifting? Gifts are a glaring omission on the list. Why? Because there will always be gifted people, and those gifts will get them attention. We are living in a superstar culture that is willing to ignore character in exchange for thrills.
But Jesus taught a few standards that apply to all of us. We all need to learn to be faithful in serving in a ministry which belongs to another, supporting their vision. We all need to be faithful serving in a place of obscurity–no mic, no big name, just work. We all need to learn to honor authority even if we disagree, especially since all authority is imperfect. We all need to learn to handle finances with integrity. We all need to be humble enough to listen to others without playing our trump card of “God told me so.”
The New Testament gives us basic qualifications for leadership in 1 Timothy and Titus. These qualities are for local deacons and elders, but how much more so do they apply to apostles & prophets? The more responsibility we have, the more important the character becomes. No one in the body of Christ is beyond the need for accountability, especially those who lead others.