When you look at leaders and leadership today, it doesn’t take long to observe that good old fashioned integrity is an endangered species.

This seems to be true in government, in business, in sports, in the military, in the media and unfortunately in Christian leadership as well. Who can you trust to be honest and consistently tell the truth? I love Matthew 22:16 (The Message) on the integrity of Jesus, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don’t pander to your students.”

On this critical topic, Rick Warren shares four ways to lead with integrity.

Originally posted by Rick Warren

You don’t need to read much of the Bible to realize that God cares deeply about his reputation. 

For example, the Bible says in Ezekiel 20:44, “Then you’ll know that I am the LORD, when I will have dealt with you for the benefit of my own reputation and not according to your evil attitudes or corrupt practices” (ISV).

But God doesn’t just care about his reputation. He cares about the church’s reputation, too. This is taught throughout Scripture. As Christians, we are “little Christs” who represent Jesus on earth. We can either bring him fame or shame. 

This is important for all believers, but it’s particularly crucial for those of us who lead. We must be people of integrity. The world is watching how we respond to the tests and trials in our lives. We either draw people to Jesus or repel them with our lack of integrity.

To have a ministry of integrity, make these four commitments:

Speak the truth plainly. 

The Bible tells us in James 5:12, “But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned” (NLT).  

James isn’t talking about profanity. He’s telling us to avoid a different kind of swearing. We’re not to take an oath. If you don’t have enough integrity to do what you say without swearing, you have a problem.

As a follower of Jesus, your word should stand on its own. Others taught the same truth in Scripture. Paul wrote similar words to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:17-19, and Jesus said it in Matthew 5. 

When you read something more than once in the Bible, you better pay attention. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ starts with having a faith that says what you mean and means what you say.

Share the truth completely. 

Lying is when you intentionally mislead others by either falsifying or concealing information. If you deliberately hold back part of the truth, you’re lying. Half the truth is a whole lie. To be a person of integrity, you don’t play games with the truth.

Proverbs 10:10 says, “Someone who holds back the truth causes trouble, but one who openly criticizes works for peace” (GNT). Pastors, there are many ways we can hold back the truth. Sometimes we need to have hard yet honest conversations in our families and in our churches. If we shrink from these conversations, we can’t call ourselves people of integrity.

Sometimes you may be tempted to hold the truth back because you want to be kind. But after 40+ years of leadership, I’ve learned this always backfires. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 28:23, “In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery” (TLB).

Truth often hurts, but dishonesty leaves lasting scars.

 Use the truth tactfully.

The Bible never tells us to use the truth like a club. In fact, Ephesians 4:15 says, “Speak the truth in a spirit of love” (GNB). 

People change faster and easier when the truth is wrapped in love. Truth without love is always seen as an attack.

Without love, all of our actions mean nothing. If you don’t love the people you’re sharing the truth with, stop sharing it. You’re just a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal (1 Corinthians 13). Your truth-telling will never produce lasting fruit.

If you’re just trying to get something off your chest, you’re not speaking in love. Just because you’re willing to share the truth doesn’t mean the other person is ready to hear it. 

The solution to any conflict in your ministry or your family is not deception; it’s tact. You can use your words to heal or hurt, make a point or make an enemy.

Live the truth consistently.

Integrity isn’t being honest 80 percent of the time. Partial honesty is dishonesty. 

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15, “Let our lives lovingly express the truth” (AMP). When we let the Bible permeate our lives, I believe many people would listen better to what we have to say about Jesus.

Integrity is a requirement for leadership because all leadership is based on trust. If people don’t trust you, you can’t lead them. 

The Bible says of David, “He shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:72 NKJV). David demonstrated two important components of leadership—character and competence. Both are essential to leadership. One without the other is a disaster. 

More than anything else, I want to lead my church with integrity and skill. 

How about you?