I love what I do. Really. Every day is like a new adventure of learning and exploring the future of congregational and clergy life.

While the future is uncertain and daunting, there is no doubt that this is a pivotal time to be alive and engaged in the work of the kingdom.

A significant part of my job satisfaction is the people I get to journey with into the future.

Every week I meet some of God’s finest clergy and lay leaders who are taking seriously what it means to be God’s people in this unique moment in time.

Additionally, my fellow Center for Healthy Church (CHC) team members are amazingly talented and dedicated to our task. All of this breeds a level of job satisfaction and enjoyment that is real and tangible.

Experience and training have taught me that what I am experiencing is a high trust culture that is doing meaningful work. That is the sweet spot that everyone I know, in any profession, is looking for.

My Franklin Covey training rings true: Trust is a byproduct of character and competence. Both are required to produce that remarkable zone of fulfillment when you realize that you are doing something significant with trustworthy people of character and talent.

If your church or organization is experiencing low trust and conflict, chances are the root causes have to do with these two words: character and competence.

If either of them are lacking, the trust level in your church, business, family or organization will start to sink.

Often, this will bubble to the surface in symptomatic form. That is, the real issue is not actually what draws the initial attention, but lies deeper than the presenting symptoms.

In congregational life, declining attendance and contributions are often the presenting symptoms. Our tendency to react and engage is a short-term programmatic solution to falling numbers.

Nearly always, the issue is deeper than a special emphasis or new class start can address. Usually, what emerges is a fundamental misalignment in the areas of character, competence or both.

The solution is to go back to foundational health rather than treat the issue topically. In starting a new organization 20 months ago, we tried to model this from the beginning.

Not long ago, I took a hard look at the 15 people who make up the CHC consulting group through the lens of character and competence.

Each of them is an individual who takes character seriously. They are active in their faith, love the church, love ministry and continue to believe that God has grand designs for his people. That, alone, makes this group unique.

In addition, they are remarkably competent and gifted. Ranging in age from 36 to 74, they have a collective 350 years of experience in congregational leadership in 54 churches – 215 of those years were in the role of senior pastor.

In addition, they have worked as congregational consultants for a combined 126 years, have 79 years of experience as coaches or counselors, 80 years in academic leadership and have authored 23 books between them.

Their job experiences are amazingly broad: pastor, youth minister, communications consultant, music minister, small business owner, professor, therapist, corporate coach, nonprofit director, faith-formation minister, educational coach and so on.

I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by such character and competence.

Is it working? We are engaged in a vigorous evaluation process of our work with congregations and denominational groups.

The resulting ratings and remarks have been beyond gratifying: meeting and exceeding expectations in an above-average fashion on nearly every occasion.

In talking about such a fundamental foundation with a group of congregational leaders, one of them asked a poignant question: “Is it really that simple? Can character and competence really be that central to our issues?”

I invited them to look at how Jesus and Paul established the work of the church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Character, or a personal encounter with God through the person of his son Jesus, was the beginning point for anyone to be used for the good of the kingdom.

Over and over, the point is made that faith begins as an internal conversion that transforms one’s world.

The disciples and early missionaries bear witness to this. Something changed them, and they changed the world.

Competence, the ability to do things well, is at the heart of the way Jesus chose his disciples and behind Paul’s description of individual giftedness in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere.

We are created to use our gifts and talents for the good of the kingdom, not simply for our good.

So when issues emerge in your church, always revisit these core questions:

  • Are we embodying the character of Christ?
  • Are we equipping people to use their unique gifts for the good of the Kingdom?

Nearly everything else flows from these.

Bill Wilson is president of the Center for Healthy Churches in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @BillWilson1028 and the center @ChurchHealthy.

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