Today in all honesty was kind of a bittersweet day. As much as it was a good day for having visitors on my website, it was because of the story of a fallen Christian leader. It had all the stuff that appeals to humanity’s darker side. A middle aged man, a teenage girl and sex. It was something that totally breaks the heart of God. It has caused me to think about what it is that causes Christian leaders to fall.
I want everyone to understand that I am not pointing fingers at anyone nor am I talking about one specific person. As I see it, there is not just one issue that causes moral failure, nor is there just one person responsible for why our leaders fail. There is both the spiritual reasons for why leaders fall and there is mutual responsibility that we must all address concerning why they were placed in leadership in the first place. So let me first address our own mutual responsibility first, so that we deal with our own hearts and practices before we point any fingers at the spiritual and moral failures of the individuals.
2 major reasons that church leaders fail.
- 1. We use worldly wisdom in who we place in leadership.
The criteria that most people use in deciding who will be a spiritual leader to them or who is qualified to lead the flock of God is not based on biblical values. We look at things like education, ability to speak, charismatic personality, and management skills more than we do the things that Jesus looked for. Many times nepotism and favoritism runs rampant in churches and denominations. This has led to some really big tragedies within the church world. So let’s take a moment and look at some of the things that Jesus looked at in deciding who would be leaders.
- Jesus looked for a servants heart.
Mark 9:35 New Living Translation (NLT) 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
I have learned over the years that it is the people who self promote that end up being the problem children in the church. When people come to me touting of all their experience or all their wisdom, they end up being the ones that I am not able to use. Now when I look to find leaders within my church, I look for those that are serving because they love Jesus and have no agenda to climb the church leadership ladder. When we choose leaders, including pastors we need to look at whether or not they have been willing to serve in obscurity. Have they taken on projects not because there was any fame or fortune involved but they served because there was a need. This qualification alone would eliminate half our leaders in our churches today. Especially the ones that were elected or appointed because of family ties or because they knew someone in power.
- Jesus looked for those that would die to being self centered.
New Living Translation (NLT)
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.
Dying to self and dying to being self centered is not something that most of us think about when we are choosing a leader. In fact we look for just the opposite without thinking about it at times. We look for the self accomplished, the self made, self confident but what comes along with that is the self indulgent, the self righteous, and the self centered. We need to start having a standard that says I want to see if the man or woman I am thinking of following or promoting as a leader is God accomplished, God made, confident in God’s ability alone. We need not only to hear the lip service to this but see the fruit of it in action.
- Jesus looked for those that would be faithful in the little things.
New Living Translation (NLT)
10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.
Being faithful in the little things is an important quality in a leader. If a person has not or is not willing to take on something because they think it is beneath them, then it shows that they will not take seriously the little things in their spiritual life. I find it interesting that we have multiple people in large churches that are waiting for a position to come open for them while at the same time rural churches are hurting for leaders. If it is beneath someone to lead a small church of 20 people then they are not willing to be faithful in the little things. If they are not willing to help with the children, clean the church, or mow the grass, but want a “position” that is the time to beware.
I can go on and on about how we look at the wrong things when choosing who to follow and who will be our leaders. I think I have made the point that what we look at and what Jesus looked at were very different things. This is in all honesty all of our responsibility. We have not looked at the type of people that Jesus would promote to leadership so at least in part we are partly responsible for why our leaders fail.
2. Both leaders and followers forget their spiritual mandates.
The lack of prayer both by the leader and by the congregation is a serious problem within our churches. Regardless of denomination, all of us would agree that prayerlessness causes powerlessness. If you are not daily praying for your church leaders then you are letting them down. They are constantly under attack both by the devil and by those that do not agree with the Christian faith. That does not mean that they are not called by God to a life of prayer themselves. The leader that does not have an intimate prayer life will not last long in fruitful ministry. They may last in man made ministry but that is much different than fruitful ministry.
- Lack of transparency
There is a false mentality out there that somehow pastors and leaders have to stay above and aloof from the people they lead. They believe that people will not follow them if they show them that they are real and that they struggle with things. This is far from the truth. They believe that somehow if you are real and transparent with those you are leading that they will no longer respect you and follow you. This is not a New Testament mentality but it is a worldly mentality of superiority. Take a look at what the Apostle Paul says to those that he was leading in the book of Acts chapter 20.
18 When they arrived he declared, “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now 19 I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. 20 I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. 21 I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.
He was transparent with them concerning his trials and tribulations. When we have a mentality that leaders are infallible or the leaders make themselves out to be infallible, it causes an isolation that becomes very dangerous and the enemy will pick off a lone soldier very easily.
- Losing our focus
Finally I just want to reiterate what I said on the post about the fallen leader. When we focus our attention on anything other than Jesus then we lose our strength to operate spiritually. We start trying to maintain our sanctification and our standards with our own will and strength and eventually that strength will fail. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. We are not the ones that make ourselves righteous or holy. He does. When we look to Him, when we spend time with Him, when we make that our priority above all else, then we have the strength to live according to how He would have us to live. When we look or focus on something else, in all actuality we have already failed. It is just a matter of time that it comes out in the open. So take care. You can lose your focus if you are not careful and so can your pastor or other leaders in your church. They are men and women just like you. The only difference is that they should have a level of maturity that is higher than most within your church.
3. My final note.
If you have a pastor or leader in your church that falls, do not despair. Jesus is still in control. It is His church and this did not take Him by surprise. Get on your knees, start praying and asking God to bring repentance and restoration. It is the heart of God not to throw that leader to the curb or make him pay. It is the heart of God that the leader would be restored and that they would still be able to bear fruit in ministry. God is the God of second, third, fourth, and infinite chances. If He wasn’t, you wouldn’t be where you are today. Remember Jesus restored Peter even after he denied Him.
This article was first published on my website Taber's Truths