Trying to find the difference between your reputation and your character is like taking a picture in the mirror. You can’t get an accurate picture of who you are because the camera is in the way. We have a version we want to portray but who we really are can be hidden oftentimes.
Christians are responsible for holding themselves to a high standard. We stand before people representing the holiness of Jesus and the reputation of the church. What people see in us, they tend to generalize about that particular fellowship of believers.
What people see on Sunday mornings should be what they would discover in us on Monday through Saturday as well.
Our entire lives must be committed to God – not just a few hours a week. While none of us can live perfectly yet (Matt 5:48; 2 Cor 3:18; Rev 21:27), we must strive towards personal holiness (Matt 5:8; Rom 6:22; Heb 12:14). As those who are called to leading others to a greater degree of personal holiness, we must labor relentlessly with the power that God provides (Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 15:10; 2 Cor 13:4; Phil 2:12-13; Heb 13:21) to align our reputation with our character.
If your reputation and character don’t match up, you are a hypocrite.
I can remember exactly where I was when I heard that line. Francis Chan was teaching a group of adult leaders at a Passion Conference. When you attend a conference like Passion, you feel like you are attempting to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. It is an enormous amount of solid content coming your direction all day and night. Out of all the teaching that I heard that week, the following exercise lingered in my mind years after the event.
Chan had all the leaders present make two columns on a piece of paper. On the left side, he asked us to make a list of adjectives that people in our churches or ministries would use to describe us. In the right column, he told us to make a list of adjectives that God would use to describe us.
- What people say about me is my reputation.
- What God says about me is my character.
After compiling both lists, he asked us to examine and compare both columns. If the two lists didn’t match up, we were in a problematic position. For if people say one thing about you and God would say another, that means the people in your life don’t really know you. They know a make-believe version of you but they don’t know the real you. People who are more concerned with reputation than character are those who are on their best behavior when others are around.
If your reputation and character don’t match up, you are a hypocrite. When I heard those words, I was crushed. I reasoned that my reputation was pretty solid in people’s eyes, but God, who knows every single action, word, and thought, could portray a completely different person.
Unfortunately, all of us live two lives to some extent. I have the life that God sees, and I have the life that everyone else sees. As leaders in a worship ministry, we must strive to have our reputation and character match.
The people we are leading need to have leaders who exemplify integrity.
When we declare God is holy, do we take our own holiness seriously? If we sing that we will follow wherever God leads us, do our footprints testify to that promise? Do we act a certain way in front of the church and act a different in front of our family?
If I’m honest, I’m marred with inconsistency. I care more for my reputation than my character. I can’t stand to think you may look down on me but forget about the one who actually is looking down on me. Regardless of how polished I am, if my life is a far cry from the holiness I claim to possess, I am a fake.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out (Prov 10:9).