Pause for a moment and think about Christian leadership–especially in a Teen Challenge center. What do you believe are the most important characteristics needed to be a successful leader? Write down what comes to mind. I think of the words faithful, trustworthy, faith-filled, and caring. When I consider leadership in Teen Challenge, I would include diligence, tenacity, and communication, to name a few.
Our personal character traits impact the way we live in public and at home. As I write this, I think of my oldest daughter when she was about to turn 16 and I took her out on her first date. I let her pick the restaurant and after we had ordered, I asked her a question. “Denee, can you tell me what characteristics and/or attributes you are looking for in a young man that you would date and maybe marry one day?” I stayed quiet while she shared what she thought and was pleasantly surprised by her answer.
As I recall, she said, “First of all, I would like him to be a Christian, well-mannered, honest, and hard-working. Denee went on to say she wanted him to not have a temper or easily angered. “I want him to be kind, giving, compassionate, and loving.” She then added, “Dad, I want someone just like you.” That made me feel pretty special until she finished her thought. “…But with patience.” We both laughed and I felt moved and happy, at first. Then I thought more about the fact that she sees me as impatient at times.
Others can see our character and describe our qualities. We do the same, which leads us to think of people we admire. Who is it that you desire to emulate? What are the characteristics they possess that you want in your own life?
If we have come to admire someone and emulate his/her character trait(s), how much more should we admire and emulate God’s? In Exodus 34:6-7, we see God passing in front of Moses and proclaiming His own character: “...The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
God revealed Himself as compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, loving, faithful, and forgiving. Accountable to no one, there is no higher standard to which He must conform, and therefore His personal character is the absolute by which all of these qualities are defined. His own eternal and uncompromising character gives ultimate meaning to love, graciousness, faithfulness, and forbearance. As Christians and leaders, these characteristics are critical to our success.
In Deuteronomy 5:32-33, we read that “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” Any real success in building character begins by searching scripture but character isn’t shaped by the mere intellectual comprehension of truth, it is forged by penetrating into the depths of the heart. Lasting character is shaped by staying in the Word, prayer, and seeking wisdom from the Holy Spirit to daily walk it out.
Cultivating character takes time. Many want a quick fix for weaker character traits and often have all kinds of excuses as to why they cannot seem to change. Some may look to short-cuts for a quick solution but the heat of inevitable challenges makes molten of any short-term success they provide. Instead, lasting character is forged on the anvil of experience, and long-term self-discipline and dedication.
Let me challenge you as a leader to do some soul searching and truly consider how well you are measuring up to the standard God has for us all. It certainly can be a challenge but we can and should grow to become all that God has intended us to be as leaders.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge