In 1994 at the National Youth Workers Convention held in San Francisco, I sat under the teachings of a man who had lost his integrity. That man was Richard Dortch.
From the pulpit that day, Dortch recounted the story of years of spotless ministry that all went bad over a three-year period when his public persona failed to match his private one. Dortch, now free from serving his prison term, was traveling the country making amends and preaching the message of personal integrity.
As we close this reading plan, I feel impressed to share a few of the things Richard Dortch said. The first is that massive personal failure does not come overnight. Rather, it is earned through a slow and progressive departure from what you know as truth.
Next he said, “The best metaphor for integrity is glass. Glass is solid in structure, but clear. If one looks at glass, it can be seen through. Is your life able to be seen through?”
If you are currently in a place where the windowpane of your life is not clear, but rather murky and covered in haze, the place to start is with prayer. Pray not only for repentance, but that God would give you the courage to regain your integrity no matter what the cost. Only in this way, after being pressed in the vat of God’s truth and integrity, will the life you live be truly labeled clean.
It’s self-evident that a hypocrite is unqualified to guide others toward attaining higher character. No one respects someone who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. What a leader does will have a greater impact on those he or she wishes to lead than what the leader says. A person may forget ninety percent of what a leader says, but he or she will never forget how the leader lives.
Bill Hendricks encountered an illustration of this principle during the days of the flourishing real estate market of the 1980s. He met a developer who claimed to have woven what he called “Biblical principles of business” into his deals. But when the market went south, he skipped town and left his investors to pick up the pieces—and the debts.
Another of Bill’s friends stands in sharp contrast to the first. He too was a land developer. He too talked of integrating Biblical principles into his business. And when the market crashed, so did his empire. But unlike the man who ran away, this land developer, as a matter of conscience, worked out a plan to pay back his investors.*
Which of these two would you rather follow in terms of integrity? There is simply no substitute for a man or woman of consistent Christlike character.
That doesn’t imply that any of us will be perfect. In fact, the New Testament doesn’t call for perfect leaders; it calls for those who are models of progress in their faith. Paul instructed Timothy to be diligent in following godly teachings. “Give yourself wholly to them,” he wrote, “so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15). That’s sound advice for us today, as well.
1 Timothy 4:15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.