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Integrity and Anti-Corruption

Manfred Kohl, Lazarus Phiri & Efraim Tendero

Unbelievers often justify their refusal to take the Christian faith seriously by pointing to instances of hypocrisy in the church. We Christians know that God does not choose to make believers sinless on this side of heaven, and that the imperfections of believers do not contradict the truth of the gospel. However, our failures to exhibit integrity—or consistency between our whole life and the teachings of Jesus—do make the gospel seem less credible, because they suggest that giving our lives to Christ does not have the transformative impact that we claim.

In this article, three of us, all members of the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance’s Global Integrity Network, address complementary aspects of the call to integrity and resisting corruption. First, Efraim Tendero presents an overview of the topic and stresses the need to incorporate the message of integrity in our disciple-making activities. Lazarus Phiri proposes making the Great Commission a central life principle, not just a program to carry out, as a means of fostering integrity. Finally, Manfred Kohl pinpoints a key source of the problem: Christians who live in a me-centered rather than Christ-centered fashion.

Integrity as a Component of Discipleship

I am frequently bothered by projections regarding the future of Christianity. The Pew Research Center predicts that by the year 2050, there will be almost as many Muslims as Christians globally. According to Pew, 31.4 percent of the world’s population was affiliated with Christianity in 2010, and trends indicate that in 2050 the percentage will be . . . 31.4. In other words, on the global level we are stuck in neutral gear.1

Why is this so? One important contributor to this is that many professing Christians do not serve Jesus with integrity. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity and the Joshua Project,2  although nearly one-third of the world’s people are nominal Christians, only about 12 percent are committed followers of Christ.

“…our failures to exhibit integrity – or consistency between our whole life and
the teachings of Jesus – do make the gospel seem less credible.”

And even those 12 percent frequently fail in glaring and public ways. In recent years, we have endured major sexual abuse scandals in Catholic and Protestant settings alike. We have all been embarrassed by revelations about famed apologist Ravi Zacharias following his death. In many countries, the political involvement of Christians has caused us to appear more self-serving than servant-like.

As a global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance, I have encountered the impact of these failures for many years. The world does not expect us to be perfect, but neither do they expect us to so obviously contradict what we claim to stand for. We are justifiably criticized by the comment often attributed (though perhaps falsely) to Mahatma Gandhi: ‘I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’

This is why I joined the Global Integrity Network (GIN), co-sponsored by the Lausanne Movement and the WEA. The GIN has established this standard of integrity, applicable to all Christians: ‘A person of integrity and anti-corruption is moral in character, ethical in action, truthful in dealings, accountable at all times, and engages in transforming the society.’

We intend to develop Christians of integrity through four main strategies:

  • Identify and advance good governance, accountability structures, and anti- corruption advocacies.
  • Pursue and engage in the promotion of ethical life discipleship.
  • Educate and teach the principles and practice of integrity.
  • Promote models, studies, initiatives, and best practices of integrity and anti-corruption at both the individual and institutional levels.

I am also a leader in the Galilean Movement, which is a global disciple-making initiative that seeks to multiply disciple-makers in every region of the world and every sector of society. I hope, as an important part of my legacy as a world Christian leader, to make the fostering of integrity a central commitment of the discipling process everywhere.

In the Galilean Movement, we frequently say that the Great Commission of Matthew 28 must function alongside the Great Commandment of Mark 12:29–31 and the Great Collaboration of John 17. In other words, we cannot carry out the Great Commission if we are not selflessly loving our neighbor as ourselves and seeking to work humbly and in unity with fellow believers. It is not enough for us to act this way when we are in church. We must also be servants of good moral character, deep concern for others, and clear thinking in the rest of the world, where 95 percent of Christians live and work: business, education, the arts, and community life. 

We envision a partnership between GIN and the Galilean Movement to introduce principles of integrity and anti-corruption as part of disciple-making in countries all over the world.

One of the best ways we can love our neighbor is to live free from corruption and to expose corruption where we see it. Here is an example of what we have in mind from my home country of the Philippines. We have a strong discipling movement reaching out to government officials, police, and members of the military. Along with leading people to Jesus and into spiritual growth, this movement calls on public service to fight corruption in their sector and to stand for ethical living. Some of the disciples trained in this movement, as they have been promoted within Philippine police and military departments, have instituted training programs aiming at values transformation.

The Great Commission: Program or Principle?

In pursuit of fulfilling God’s mandate to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the church looks to what is known popularly as the Great Commission, based on Matthew 28:18–20: 

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

This is not the only passage, however, that offers Christians a commission. In addition, passages in the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John, and in the book of Acts also give Christians similar directives. In all of these passages that refer to the task of proclaiming and sharing the message of salvation, the key is the transmission of the gospel by word and life. 

When asked why one passage is referred to as the Great Commission, most Christians will state that they are the last words Jesus gave to his disciples. These words were certainly significant. However, they are not the only words that should guide the church in the task of sharing the message of salvation. Elevating one passage of Scripture to the exclusion or neglect of others, as has been traditionally done in this case, robs Christians of opportunities and impetus to live in light of the full teachings of Christ and to imitate his example of self-giving love. Calling a single passage ‘the Great Commission’ has the tendency to narrow our attention, leaving equally critical commands seeming peripheral. This misunderstands and misrepresents God’s intention for our mission. 

As already mentioned, other passages of Scripture that communicate the principle of sharing the message of salvation include the following:

‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’ (Matt 24:14, ESV)

And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’ (Mark 16:15–16, NKJV)

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ (John 20:21, ESV)

‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8, ESV)

‘[. . .] repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’ (Luke 24:47, ESV)

The church desperately needs integrity of interpretation and understanding of the so-called Great Commission. The key word in all the passages above is ‘witness’. The best source of the description and demonstration of being witnesses of the message of salvation is the book of Acts. In it, we find the disciples understanding and undertaking the task of being witnesses to what Christ had done for them and how it had changed their lives.

One of the major temptations the church has succumbed to is turning a principle into a program. In general, a principle is a guiding foundation of belief or behaviour, whereas a program may be a series of steps or activities one follows. When the command of Matthew 28:18–20 is understood as a principle, believers are perceived to be witnesses. When it is understood as a program of activities, the church loses touch with the need to practice a lifestyle of sharing the message of salvation. It becomes a task to be accomplished. In recent history, some parts of the global church have sought to determine when the ‘Great Commission’ task will be accomplished. Shifting predictions of this timeline have drawn the attention of Christians worldwide, to the displeasure and frustration of others seeking faithfulness in interpreting and understanding God’s word holistically.

Reassessing Our Evangelism Paradigm

Another consequence of this Great Commission misnomer is that many Christians have misunderstood the concept and turned a lifestyle into a profession. A few select believers claim a special call, turning a lifestyle into a career. In the end, the church is left with a mission enterprise of men and women responding to a special call as a unique group of workers called ‘missionaries’. One pending and impending result is the shortage of such workers around the world, leaving the global church in want of gospel witnesses. 

This compels us to reassess our paradigm for evangelization. The task was never meant to be entrusted only to ‘professional’ witnesses, ie ‘missionaries’. Is there a place for lifelong dedication to sharing the message of salvation for the glory of God, as he accomplishes his mission of redeeming the world? The resounding response is yes! Over the years, believers have left the comfort of their homelands to take the gospel to people with less opportunity to hear the gospel. This is commendable and a worthy call for the cause of sharing the message of salvation. And yet, the task of sharing the gospel needs to be part of the life and work of every believer. While not all Christians are called to leave their home country or culture for the sake of sharing the gospel, all Christians are called to bear witness to God’s work of salvation through Christ. In that sense, we must all be on ‘mission’ as carriers of the message of salvation. 

It is essential and urgent that the church reflect on how we understand the task of gospel life and sharing. One way of doing so is to re-educate the church on its identity in Christ and his bidding of all his followers to know him and make him known. Every believer is and should be a witness of Christ. When every believer is regarded as a witness, the task of sharing the message of salvation becomes a lifestyle rather than a program.

Rejecting the Prosperity Gospel

Another agonizing reality of misunderstanding our commission has been the omission and misappropriation of the gospel. In the recent past, some have established and imposed a message of material prosperity linked to believing in Christ. This approach teaches people that when they believe in God, God will provide all their physical needs and comforts of life. With this teaching comes the misleading belief that whoever believes is guaranteed wealth and health in this life. This approach of preaching and teaching is sometimes referred to as the ‘prosperity gospel’. 

The prosperity gospel, which is not the biblical gospel at all, is a scourge and scandal of God’s gracious promise of salvation. This approach of evangelizing tends to be man-centred rather than Christ-centred. It sometimes seeks the fulfilment of carnal needs of man rather than the deep-seated need of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God. The proponents of such an approach tend to omit or downplay the sinfulness of man and our dire need for the saviour. Instead, it concentrates on promising physical and material relief and sustenance. Preachers who promote this message adulterate the gospel to yield results for their own personal gratification. Instead of preaching a message characterized by the gracious offer of salvation, they proclaim a message that demands payment for blessings.

The church urgently needs to be committed to the principle and not merely the program of our commission. Every believer’s goal should be total commitment to the glory of God in his mission to save lost sinners—faithful interpretation of and obedience to Christ in his mission of saving sinners. The message and the messenger must be Christlike both in their identity and service. To carry the message of salvation in the so-called Great Commission, believers must be genuinely saved from sin, pointing others to the saviour, Christ Jesus.

The Problem of ‘Me’

The last instruction Jesus gave before ascending into Heaven was given to his followers.3 Millions of sermons were preached on the subject and countless books have been published on the topic of the Great Commission.4 It would seem impossible to find something new to say or write on the subject. The challenge for the last 2,000 years and for the next 30 years and beyond is simply to practice—to ‘make disciples’. We must shift from knowing to doing.

As a catalyst of the Integrity Network,5 the opening statement and the closing phrase of the Great Commission catches my attention. Jesus said, ‘All authority is mine.’ There is no need to fight over it. Scripture is clear in stating that whoever wishes to be great should be a servant.6 We are under his authority. We are servants, workers, and managers within his kingdom. Expressions like, ‘my church’, ‘my ministry’, ‘my mission’, ‘my board’, or ‘my organization’ give the false impression that we are in control and are under our own authority. All leaders must operate and serve under the authority of Jesus always. Judging by the scandalous power struggles within the Evangelical Church and its parachurch organizations and missions, we have a long way to go in living out this principle.7

The call for ‘Humility, Integrity, Simplicity’ was for me the key of the entire Cape Town 2010 Congress. In his presentation on ‘Calling the Church of Christ Back to Humility, Integrity, and Simplicity’, Christopher Wright said:

What hurts God the most is not the sin of the world but the failure, the disobedience, and the rebellion of those whom God has redeemed and called to be his people. There are three idols that can have particular appeal to God’s people: power and pride, popularity and success, and wealth and greed. Many Evangelical leaders have become obsessed about status and power in the Christian church and have become disobedient to Christ in the process. They worship popularity and therefore exaggerate or report dishonest statistics to make themselves look more successful than they are. Similar to the false prophets of old, these leaders claim to speak the word of God but really act in their own self-interest. We cannot build the Kingdom of God on foundations of dishonesty.8

Even Paul the Apostle—unquestionably one of the greatest church leaders, pastors, missionaries, and theologians in Christian history—called himself a servant and slave of the Lord.9 What the church of today and of tomorrow needs are women and men who demonstrate humility, integrity, and simplicity under the full authority of Christ. Only then can the ministry of disciple-making be authentic and trustworthy, bearing fruit through generations. 

The closing part of Christ’s Great Commission states simply, ‘I am with you always’. Nothing can be more comforting for Christ followers. We are never, never alone. Jesus Christ himself, the risen and reigning son of God, is always with us in every circumstance. However, we have to realize that there is another important aspect to that exciting and comforting statement. Christ is light, and in his presence is no darkness. If he is with us as he promised, there is no space for shady business or corruption.10 Disciple-makers, who are always in the presence of Christ, must abstain from any dishonesty, bribery, and corruption. Hwa Yung, the former Methodist bishop of Malaysia, wrote, ‘We cannot separate complete submission to the Lord and our service with him and for him.’11 The Integrity and Anti-Corruption Network has dealt with this topic at several public conferences and has established a long list of valuable materials on the subject. 

Although the text of the Great Commission is very clear, a reminder might be helpful. Jesus said, ‘Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ The divine instruction is indeed awesome. As a follower of Jesus, and therefore a person of integrity, we must be very serious and precise with our Lord’s instruction to, ‘teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.’

As the Lausanne Movement is developing a vision for the next decades in fulfilling the Great Commission, we must take Christ’s first statement of his authority and the last statement of his presence as essential and fundamental and focus on our Lord’s specific instruction to obey everything he commanded. Ultimately, all our efforts must be poured out for ‘his harvest’.12


  1. “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” Pew Research Center. April 2, 2015. https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/.
  2. “Status of World Evangelization 2022.” Joshua Project. n.d. https://joshuaproject.net/assets/media/handouts/status-of-world-evangelization.pdf.
  3. Matthew 28:18–20
  4. The latest publication on the topic is: Steven Loots, Disciple Makers (to be published in late 2023).
  5. The Integrity and Anti-Corruption Network was founded in 2010 after the Cape Town 2010 Congress. The Network is co-sponsored by the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance. It has an Executive Team of 15 individuals and is led by three co-catalysts. 
  6. Mark 10:43–45
  7. Reuben van Rensburg of Re-Forma circulated a paper in June 2021, ‘The Titles Pastors give themselves: A strain on the Church’ in which he listed the titles that he came across like: Chief apostle, Senior Apostle, Head Apostle, Lead Apostle, Senior Prophet, Head Prophet, Visionary and Prophet, Visionary Pastor, Lead Visionary, Visionary Apostle, and the list goes on. Apart from these terms being unbiblical, they reflect an underlying evil, namely the desire for position and power.
  8. Christopher Wright. “Calling the Church Back to Humility, Integrity, Simplicity.” in Christ Our Reconciler: Gospel, Church, World: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Julia E.M. Cameron (Ed.). (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012), 149-158. 
  9. Philippians 2:5–8; Ephesians 3:8a
  10. John 3:19–21; John 8:12
  11. Hwa Yung. Leadership or Servanthood? Walking in the Steps of Jesus (Cumbria, UK: Langham Global Library, 2021), 47-61.
  12. Matthew 9:38

Authors' Bios

Manfred Kohl

Dr Manfred Kohl has served in many senior roles in theological education and has personally visited a total of 495 theological institutions. In his academic capacity, he has published over 120 books and articles. During the course of his ministry he established the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision in several European countries and founded Re-Forma, an institution that has set a global standard for non-formal theological education. He also founded the Galilean Movement, which calls for an additional one million women and men for biblical ministry each year. Kohl is catalyst for the Global Integrity Network (GIN), an issue network of the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance.

Lazarus Phiri

Dr Lazarus Phiri currently serves as missiologist-at-large with Pioneers, a mission organization, and is the acting president (vice chancellor) of the Evangelical University (formerly Theological College of Central Africa) in Ndola, Zambia. He attended the Second Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Manila in 1989 as a young leader, and later attended the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town in 2010 as one of the senior leaders. Phiri is a Catalyst of the Integrity & Anti-Corruption network of the Lausanne Movement.

Efraim Tendero

Efraim Tendero was born in the Philippines, is an Evangelical leader, an ambassador as well as former Secretary-General of the World Evangelical Alliance. Prior to this position, he was National Director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches for 22 years. He was also executive director of the Philippine Relief and Development Services (PHILRADS) and executive editor of the periodical Evangelicals Today. Tendero is a Catalyst of the Integrity & Anti-Corruption network of the Lausanne Movement.