Wise as Serpents: Five Non-Christian Habits Christian Leaders Need to Learn

phil cooke Jun 30, 2022


By Phil Cooke

When I say “non-Christian” habits, it’s simply because Christian culture tends to look down on them, since they’ve not been considered traditional Christian behaviors. But one of the big reasons we’re losing our voice in today’s culture is that we don’t understand and master these critical habits. Here’s the list:

1) Confrontation:   Old Testament prophets and early church leaders weren’t afraid to call people out. Paul trained Timothy to be gracious but firm. It’s time we got back to raising the standard in our behavior, our commitment, and our excellence. Be gracious and be loving. But when a brother’s behavior is out of line, we can’t be afraid to confront.

2) Conflict:   Speaking the truth invariably creates conflict because someone won’t like it. So, we have a choice: either stand up or shrink back. We don’t have to be jerks or control freaks, but there are times when we do have to be bold. The Bible says that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), but that only happens when the two pieces of iron slam against each other.

3) Be Ruthless:    Be ruthless in one important area: Yourself. Be ruthless about your commitment to Christ. Be ruthless about your intellectual growth. Be ruthless about finishing well. When it comes to others, be gracious. But when it comes to you and your habits, be ruthless.

4) Judge:   When the Bible says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1), it’s talking about judging people, not behavior, quality of work, or results. We can’t possibly judge the motivation of someone’s heart or their standing before God, but we absolutely can judge external results. In the false name of “not judging” we’ve allowed employees to do shabby work, projects to be ineffective, and doctrine to be compromised. Perhaps most of all, we’ve allowed pastors and Christian leaders to disregard moral standards without reproach, which erodes the church’s moral authority within the culture.

5) Say No:  Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Obviously, you can take it too far, but when you don’t say no, you spend your life focused on other people’s priorities, not your priorities. If God has called you to accomplish something with your life, you’ll have to say no to many things.  In fact, learn to say no even to good things, so you can make time for great things.

Obviously, in all of these areas you can be extreme and exhibit negative behaviors. But just read the Bible to see how each of these areas was mastered in ways that allowed people to follow God’s call and accomplish great things.


This article was extracted from Issue 1 (Spring 2020) of the AVAIL Journal.


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