Awakenings / Culture / Formation / Global Church / Mission / Witness

The Essential Need for Integrity in Leaders and Systems (Part 2)

*Editorial Note: Part 1 of MaryKate Morse’s piece, “The Essential Need for Integrity in Leaders and Systems,” published on Tuesday, May 14th. It can be read here. ~CK


So, why is integrity so hard?

We find it hard because we don’t ultimately trust God, and therefore we take control. We all do this. The desire to control comes out of our fears that God isn’t really there for me or for my mission. The desire to control comes out of our fears that we won’t be noticed, or successful, or good enough, or safe, or happy. The desire to control comes out of the ungodlike pressures to produce shiny fig leaves, regardless of whether there is fruit or not.

We all fall short of the glory of God in big ways and little ways. And yet, Christian leaders possess a deep desire to be more like Christ. Although most of us hopefully won’t fail on the big stage, all of us do fall short in the little ways where the “I” in me becomes more important than the ‘you’ in “Thee.”

Dallas Willard wrote that you can tell one’s emotional and spiritual maturity by responding to two questions:

    1. How easily am I irritated?
    2. How quickly do I become discouraged?

I probably could pass for a fairly decent fig tree, but sometimes my fruit is scarce. Sometimes I do get irritated.

Just the other day, I became so irritated with a delivery truck driver. He was being unbelievably cautious about pulling out into traffic, even when other drivers would stop to let him in. We were at a T-intersection and I was stuck behind him. I finally got out of my car and went up to where he could see me in his mirror, and I started yelling at him to get going. ‘What’s wrong with you? Can’t you drive?’

I’m the head of a seminary and I’m standing in the road yelling at a delivery driver because he was nervous for some reason!

What’s up with that?!?!

My actions weren’t the response of a fig tree with no fruit. They were simply wrong! Of course, by the time I had gotten home, I felt terrible. It took me days of confessing in prayer to move past how badly I felt for treating the driver that way.

I will do better.

If we are to be the lights on the hill, the figs, the fruit on the vine, our number one priority work is to be more like Christ.

Integrity is our embodied choice-making to be like Christ no matter what – from the consequential to the insignificant, from the easy to the hard, from joy to embracing the downward suffering path of Christ.

I want to suggest a continual prayer for leaders, churches, and ministries to be more like Christ, to embody integrity.  The prayer comes from Romans 12:1, and reads: “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

Our work is to put our bodies on the altar before God, surrendering our bodies as an offering. When we lie exposed on the altar before God, we give up our need for control. As a result, we enter our day as a fragrant presence. We represent the good. We are pleasing God, and it is our reasonable response to God. We put on the very posture of Christ.


Integrity is our embodied choice-making to be like Christ no matter what – from the consequential to the insignificant, from the easy to the hard, from joy to embracing the downward suffering path of Christ. (1/2) Click To Tweet

Integrity is an everyday sacrificial commitment to be like Christ, to embody the Savior we love. We are the product the world sees. We are the sign. (2/2) Click To Tweet


We read this in Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, the good, pleasing, and mature.” This posture – presenting our bodies – helps us resist the way our fearful, broken age tries to conform us to dreams and actions which are not God’s. This posture of gentleness and humility will allow the Holy Spirit to transform us by renewing our minds so that our compulsions become God’s instead. Our temptation to be as God becomes our submission to God. This too allows us to discern God’s will, to separate out our own will from God’s. This puts God’s purposes at the center of our day, not our own. This act is also good, pleasing to God, and leads us to maturity in Christ.

This is the continual prayer for us as leaders and as churches and ministries: “Merciful God, we present our bodies, a living sacrifice.” This prayer orients us to choosing integrity as Christ followers over the impulse to make our own way.

Use this prayer regularly. I suggest that to use this prayer, you center and say this prayer before every engagement. Take a few seconds before entering any room or meeting, whether on Zoom or in person. Go into a posture of contemplation and center on Christ. Imagine Christ in you, before you, behind you, beside you. Have Christ be the presence you are bringing into a space – virtual or physical. This breath prayer centers us: “Merciful God, we present our bodies, a living sacrifice.”

At the end of the day, spend a few moments in reflection with Christ. Think through the story of your day from beginning to end. Do it by yourself, or with your family or on your team. Reflect on these two questions:

      1. When did I embody Christ today?
      2. When did I not?

When you did not, confess – name when your integrity to be like Christ was not apparent. Confess to Christ. Make amends if you need to.

Every time I come to that T-intersection on the way home, I remember my lack my of integrity. I confess my arrogance and impatience. I pray for more of the Spirit of Christ: “Merciful God, I present my body a living sacrifice.”

Integrity is an everyday sacrificial commitment to be like Christ, to embody the Savior we love. We are the product the world sees. We are the sign.

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Presenting our bodies helps us resist the way our fearful, broken age tries to conform us to dreams and actions which are not God’s. The Holy Spirit transforms us by renewing our minds so that our compulsions become God’s instead. Click To Tweet


When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, a remolding project of the Reichstag building began. The basic external structure of the building was unchanged. The sign was unchanged, but a glass dome, a cupola, was set on top of the building. It is made of 800 tons of steel and 32,000 square feet of glass and mirrors. The center piece is called a ‘light sculpture’ and the mirrors angle down on purpose. There is a walkway around the inside of the glass dome, spiraling to the top, again on purpose.

Why?

So that the members of Parliament can be constantly reminded by the people walking above their heads, and the mirrors reflecting down, that they are there to serve the German people.

As Christians, our integrity – to be like Christ – is our most important work. Our sign – the cross – is not decoration, but the sign of our transformation into his posture of gentleness and his purpose to save us, to set us free. 

Dear brothers and sisters, make your devotion to Christ and being like him your number one daily priority.

Merciful God, we present our bodies, a living sacrifice. Amen.  

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MaryKate Morse, PhD, is professor of Leadership and Spiritual Formation at Portland Seminary. Currently, she is the Lead Mentor for the Doctor of Ministry in Leadership & Spiritual Formation. Raised in the Air Force, MaryKate lived in various states and overseas. With family, she lived in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru doing ministry and social projects with the Aymará Indians. MaryKate completed her doctorate at Gonzaga University where she studied the characteristics of renewal leadership as modeled by Jesus. After her doctorate she planted two churches and served in various administrative positions at the university, including Executive Dean of Portland Seminary most recently. She is a spiritual director and leadership mentor and coach, conference and retreat speaker, and author including Lifelong Leadership: Woven Together through Mentoring Communities, Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space, and Influence, and A Guidebook to Prayer. MaryKate is married to Randy and has three adult children and five grandchildren. She enjoys being with family, hiking, reading, exploring new places, and playing with her puppy, Tess.


As Christians, our integrity – to be like Christ – is our most important work. Our sign – the cross – is not decoration, but the sign of our transformation into his posture of gentleness and his purpose to save us, to set us free. Click To Tweet


*Editorial Note 2: The plenary keynote lecture above, entitled “The Essential Need for Integrity in Leaders and Systems,” was given by Dr. MaryKate Morse of Portland Seminary, a Missio Alliance Leading Voice. ~CK

  • Purchase the “The Essential Need for Integrity in Leaders and Systems” video plenary here.
  • The full Awakenings 2023 Gathering bundle is available here.

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*Editorial Note 3: Awakenings 2025 returns to the DC area this coming March 6th-8th, 2025! Our theme for our 6th biennial National Gathering will be “Wholeness and Beauty in the Life of the Church.” Missio Alliance is thrilled to announce that our first featured speaker is none other than the esteemed Dr. Willie James Jennings.

Sign up here to be notified via email when registration goes live!

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