I’ve been writing about integrity. Within the flawed system in which we operate, how do we keep integrity?
I get invited to different conferences to speak. In fact, that’s how I make a living. For me, conference speaking is a business to sustain my livelihood and to feed my family. It’s a fruitful endeavor that I enjoy almost as much as my classroom teaching and writing. In this business of freelance speaking, I depend on networks. As I do more and more speaking, the networks become more and more complex. I get to find out more and more the dark side of ministerial business (as if I don’t already from growing up in a pastor’s family). Probably the biggest lesson is that everything is political to a degree. How do you keep your integrity in such a political situation?
I use the phrase “the convenience trap” to describe our temptation. Let’s be honest, a lot of people befriend us not because they really want to be real life friends – they have plenty of those – but because of the benefit they may gain. Lest anyone thinks that I’m complaining, I’m not. I also benefit from this system of “friendship.” It’s called networking. I’m under no illusion that it’s anything other than networking. How do I keep my integrity in check? It’s hard.
I think the one lesson I learn is to avoid the convenience trap. These days, my reflection is often to ask myself whether this networking is merely for convenience. This is an important question to ask. IF convenience is the criterion along with personal profit, then integrity is at risk. A lot of people wonder why Christian celebrities fall. My answer is because they too have fallen into the system and have become part of its machinery. They too have fallen into the convenience trap.
These days, I’m no longer impressed with how large a conference I get to speak for or even necessarily the speaking fee (which is another book-length topic in itself). Number is probably the least important thing on my mind right now. I’m much more careful about the people who invite me because I don’t want to lose my integrity in earning a quick dollar. Sure, my family needs to eat and I like to have some nice things in life, but you can’t buy integrity. That should really be our bottom-line. When financial bottom-line takes over, our spiritual bottom-line will blur. Money and power can numb the conscience, not just in church ministry or the business of church but in life itself.