While most studios are making bank through slightly altered stories from our past (queue the nostalgia), I admire J.K. Rowling’s courage to launch something unique. Instead of reviving a tale of Hagrid or the boy wonder himself, Harry Potter, Rowling decided to age with her audience. And now, in my DVD collection—yes, I have one—rests Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald, where she has, again, delivered a character to relate to; to strive toward becoming: Newt Scamander. 

Why Newt? His admirable character is so aptly summarized by a young Albus Dumbledore in the second part of the trilogy. He says about him, “Do you know why I admire you, Newt? More perhaps than any man I know? You don’t seek power of popularity. You simply ask, is the thing right in itself? If it is, then I must do it, no matter the cost.”

Honestly, isn’t that the kind of leader we should all aspire to become? If you remember, Paul tells his followers to imitate him as he imitated Christ—one who simply does what’s right no matter the cost. 

I want this for me. I want this for you. I want this for the people I pastor. So we hosted a leadership conference and asked real-world leaders to share how they do what’s right no matter the cost. I’m calling these the 7 Traits to Live Your Faith IRL (in real life): 

Listening

I think it’s important to differentiate between consuming and listening. We listen to podcasts, take in academic lectures, and read books and online articles, which is excellent, but just because we “hear” what’s being said doesn’t mean we’re listening. Megan Briggs says, “We are swimming in a sea of words while listening to very few of them.” To truly listen means to obey, or put what’s been heard into action. And our FBI Special Agent leading the session reminded us of the freedom found in listing to the One whose voice counts the most: God.

Good Decision-Making 

Make good choices. Seems like an elementary point to make, however, the empty box of pizza, cookie bags and cans of soda on my counter beg to differ. (I write this section with a stomach ache.) Like listening, we all know that we should make good choices. But how? Psychologist Philip Zimbardo, speaking about heroism, reveals what it takes to make good choices: “you have to learn to be a deviant, because you’re always going against the conformity of the group.” In short: making good choices means choosing to act proactively, and often against what is now considered the norm. (Our district judge hosting this session reminded us there are lasting consequences when we fail to listen to God, and thereby make poor choices.)

Kindness

A devoted mother of three, wife, and thought-leader in our church shared a story of how a local senior pastor reached out to her recently. In a note of thanks, he shared how her kindness twenty years ago, when they were in the sixth grade!, impacted his life. It was a time of difficulty for him: finding his place to belong, and it was her living out the mantra to “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” that made a difference in his life. Part of our passivity believes the lie the little things don’t matter. Yet all throughout Scripture, we’re reminded that the little things are the big things. 

Serving

During this session, a home-builder spoke about bringing his team together for prayer. He wanted to leverage his position to help his people. One morning during prayer, an employee’s marijuana pipe fell to the ground. This home-builder saw it as an opportunity to pull this employee aside and encourage him toward a better future. In summation, his message challenged the audience to get outside themselves and be alert to the needs of those around them. To be a good neighbor.

Compassion

Part of coping for many of us is to distance ourselves from reality. It’s not intentionally trying to become callous, but attempting to protect our emotional well-being. Unfortunately, as our firefighter pointed out, for him the temptation is to treat people as a “call-out”—or for the rest of us we might treat people as a number, client, homeless person, etc. His wisdom: on the other end of that 911 call is a real person whose life is being turned upside down, and one of his life-saving tools is compassion. Part of leading well is embracing the reality of humanity and allowing ourselves to respond accordingly.

RELATED: 7 Steps for Serving our Bosses and God Faithfully

Correction

As the conference came to a close, fittingly, our airline captain reminded us that when we find ourselves off-course, don’t give up but re-align. When planes approach a cloudy airport the pilots rely on the ILS (instrument landing system). Part of the ILS includes the glide slope and localizer, which display whether the aircraft flightpath is high or low, or left or right of the runway. The Holy Bible is our ILS, leading us through the fog toward God. When you find yourself off-course, don’t fret. Correct. 

Love

Our worship pastor brought us to a place of reflection and response. Nothing could have been more appropriate or affirming than to be reminded that we were created to love God and be loved by Him. As I have written before, John Piper says we bring God true glory when we find our complete satisfaction in Him. When we allow ourselves to be wholly dependent on Him. When we surrender to the understanding that it’s not what we do (or don’t do), but in the finished work of Christ: in His death and resurrection.

If you’re a leader desiring to lead beyond power and popularity, commit to listening to God, let Him influence your choices—to be kind, compassionate and on the hunt to make a difference. And when you find yourself straying, navigate toward Him and His Truth—which is right in itself and worth the cost.

C.J. Wetzler is the student pastor at The Message Church in Lubbock, Texas. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments, connect with him on social media: @thecjwetzler.