Session 4 of Growing Leaders tackles "Developing Character". This is the final session of part one, in which we are encouraged to think about the "foundations" for good leadership, without rushing on to the question of how we actually lead. Character and calling are the two principal foundations on which competence in leadership can be built.
I personally found this the most challenging session so far. The essential question we were being asked was, "is your character consistent with the calling you profess?". 'Character' is a particularly telling word, because it prevents us from reducing the idea of holiness to the keeping of rules. A Christ-like life is not a matter of doing the right things, but of integrity of mind, soul and heart - a life shaped by the values of love, humility, faith, and compassion.
For our group of developing leaders this is food for thought. But for me, and for all church leaders and ministers, it is both the challenge and the actual experience of our lives. It's a challenge because so many ministers seem to fail this test at some point. When the character no longer matches the calling, then it's painful for all concerned, not least the churches who suffer the results.
And yet how hard it is to maintain Christian integrity when you're constantly in public view, in fact setting yourself up for people to examine the way you live your life. Ministers live with the knowledge that the flaws in their character are exposed for all to see. And yet, if they try to cover this up, they veer toward hypocrisy. In 21st century Britain there is hardly anything else that will test someone's Christian character in the way that church leadership will.
It's tough. But Christ is, as they used to say, sufficient. As the apostle Paul knew, his promise is "my strength is made perfect in weakness". That is the core of Christian character, and thank God for that.