Was Churchill correct?

Winston Churchill:  “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” I usually don’t take issue with a well-known leader, but…

There are examples of successful leaders falling because of serious flaws in their lives. President Richard Nixon comes to mind. 

Are there certain kinds of flaws that Christian leaders may develop which could spell the end of their leadership effectiveness, their leadership altogether or, worse yet, the downward spiral of their walk with  Jesus? I believe there are. Here are three to consider:


Integrity has been at the top of my “Essential Leadership Qualities” list for a number of years. Integrity leads to credibility which leads to trust which leads to influence. No influence, no leadership. People should be able to trust me without wondering if I will do what I promised and deliver it when I promised. I can think of few things worse that having someone say, “I don’t trust you!” I am increasingly careful about what I say and how much I promise, because I’m committed to integrity in all I do. Recently I sat with a pastor who had sent out an e-mail with information about me that was flattering but not accurate. Because integrity is a high value, I set the record straight. Charles Colson was once asked what he considered to be the top three qualities of a leader. “Well, the first one would be integrity—and the second would be integrity. And the third one would be (you guessed it) integrity.” Did his experience in the inner circle with the Nixon administration have any bearing on his response?


I don’t think I can lead if I don’t grow; especially considering the warp speed at which everything is traveling and the number of major changes coming my way on a daily basis. I want to continue to develop and grow myself (especially spiritually), to stay vibrant and relevant in my living, thinking and practices. Very much related to growing is being teachable. I’m reminded of the person who said he wanted to learn but didn’t want to be taught! No can do! Learning is synonymous with being taught. I’m a committed life-long learner, ready to learn from any source, any person, any time. At times, I’m humbled regarding the sources from which I receive needed insight and instruction. I once had a non-Christian make significant suggestions on how to change my presentation of the Gospel (that was hard to take.) Listening well is a good way to continue to grow oneself.

A few years ago, I was talking with Catherine (extremely gifted and very articulate) who is responsible for the women’s ministry at a mega church. She shared with me that the most important thing she was learning was being a better listener by asking lots of questions rather than doing most of the talking. I’m learning that as well. I don’t feel I have arrived in any area of my life, even though I have been a Christian for 54 years, been married 46 years, been in vocational Christian ministry 46 years and have four adult children. & seven grand children I’m still eager to learn even more about ministry, marriage, caring for kids and grandkids and cultivating my intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:6 in The Message says, “From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you’ve been hungry for more.” That’s me—hungry for more. More of God and all He has for me. Yesterday’s home runs won’t win today’s ball games!


 I was talking with a counselor who told me that sexual addiction is the number one problem among men with whom he counsels. This scares me to death. We live in a cesspool of explicit pornography and graphically displayed sex, which is hard to escape or avoid. I have been faithful to my wife for 51 years and, with God’s help and grace, intend to keep it that way. It is an increasing challenge. II Timothy 2:22 in the Living Bible: “Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts that young men often have.” Although I am not young any longer, the advice still stands. I need to run away from movies, books, magazines, music, web sites–whatever displeases the Lord and can cause me to go down a road from which retreat is difficult. 

The song “A Pure Heart” by Rusty Nelson speaks volumes to me.

“A pure heart, that’s what I long for; a heart that follows hard after Thee. A heart that hides Your word so that sin will not come in; a heart that’s undivided but one You rule and reign; a heart that beats compassion, that pleases You my Lord, a sweet aroma of worship that rises to Your throne.”

I’m reminded of Paul’s warning in I Corinthians 9:27: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” The Living Bible adds: “…and be asked to step aside.” What a horrible thought…to be taken out of the game…sidelined…watching the action from a distance…to be “unblessable.” I’m not talking about my salvation, but being unable to bear fruit for God.

Is failure fatal? 

In some cases it may well be. I have seen it and, perhaps, so have you. Do you need to make some changes? How close to the edge are you skating?