Scandals are nothing new to mega-churches. From Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart to Ted Haggard to Mark Driscoll, it may seem as if simply building a mega-church is a one-way ticket to scandal. The truth is, however, that there are many successful pastors that manage to lead large congregations in a way that is both ethical and God-honoring. One such pastor is Andy Stanley. But ethical leadership doesn’t just happen by random chance. Stanley has a long history of setting boundaries and guidelines for himself that he enlists the aid of those around him to help him stay within. Here are three personal boundaries that Stanley has set for himself that help him avoid the scandals of many of his peers.
- He follows the “Billy Graham” rule
Billy Graham managed to weather many decades of ministry without even a whiff of sexual scandal. In part, this was likely due to his longstanding policy of never being alone in the company of a woman. The problem with sexual scandals is that they generally happen behind closed doors and there are no witnesses to what actually happened. Like Graham, Andy Stanley has made it a policy to never be alone with a woman.
- He makes family a priority
Building a church is very similar to building a business. It generally requires many long hours at first, with hundreds, it not thousands of decisions to be made every day. In the early days of building North Point, Stanley’s wife was at home with three small children. Instead of leaving her to manage things on the home front alone, Stanley asked what he could do to help. She asked him to be home at 4:00 pm every day. While most corporate execs and ambitious types would put their family on hold in favor of building their own dreams, Andy Stanley complied with his wife.
- He can be fired – easily
While all churches are legally obligated to have a board of directors – often called an elder board in churches – many business and church leaders find ways of effectively hamstringing their boards so they have very little real authority. While churches are not businesses, they still have many of the same needs as a business. They have overhead and operating costs which need to be covered by congregants. The more congregants they have, the higher their income is. Many high-profile pastors are somewhat akin to the goose that lays the golden egg and even in the religious world, boards are hesitant to part ways with their golden goose. Knowing this, many pastors not only seek to make themselves bulletproof but also give themselves far more authority than they should have. Andy Stanley instead works to ensure his board has teeth that can even be used against him.
Being a religious leader is a difficult position for anyone to hold and many have fallen from lofty heights. Stanley seems to feel the best way to keep from falling is to keep his feet firmly on the ground and not climb too high on a pedestal. Thus far, it seems ot be working for him.
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