Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character.
– Jesus (Matthew 7:15, The Message)
Last night the AIMers, Tanya and I were reading through the Sermon in the Mount from the Message. This passage (as well as quite a few others) jumped out at me. It jogged a memory of a podcast I was listening to while trimming the hedges and sawing down Chinese Sumac (aka “stinky tree from the Hadean realm”). It was an interview of Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in CA. He was talking about several topics in an interview, and eventually got to the topic of leadership (the discussion up to this was football, but it morphed into leadership and church leadership). This passage and what Warren had to say are important reminders to us, especially in an age where TV, radio, and the web can give charismatic people seeming credibility they may not have the character to back up. Below is a transcript of what Warren said that dovetails this passage:
One of the things we need to understand is that leadership has absolutely nothing to do with charisma, and has everything to do with character. … The most charismatic leaders of the 20th century were also the worst leaders. Mao, Stalin, and Hitler. What happens is, when a person has talent, and a person has charisma, we often assume that they’re a leader, and that’s just not true. And if you put people with charisma and talent into places of leadership who don’t have the character yet, the temptations of celebrity are going to tear you down. They’re just going to tear you down. It creates an expectant spirit like “the world owes me a living” that “I’m something, and everybody should do something for me” when Jesus said the exact opposite. The real leader is not how many people do I get to serve me, but how how many people do I serve. It’s servant leadership, and we’re not training people in leadership like we need to. I absolutely hate the celebrity culture, because it puts these young guys under tension because most people don’t have the spiritual maturity to handle influence, or to handle power, or to handle fame, and it goes to their head.”