Shows Main Idea – A supporting member asked me, “Why do so many of our prominent Christians leaders fall into sin and how do you help protect leaders from moral failure?” I’m on the board of a national organization, and this is one of our main talking points in an upcoming meeting. I’d like your perspective on this important issue.
You may want to read:
- 12 Universal Assumptions You Can Make About All People
- Should a Fallen Leader Be Restored Back to Ministry
- The Thirteen Steps to Repentance
Four Preliminary Thoughts
1. Sin is a choice that has a trail of wrong and misguided decisions behind it. These “known” moral failures are not the beginning of failure but the accumulative result of poor decision making that typically goes back years (Ephesians 4:22).
2. The leader’s failure is not unique. It’s no different from the person in the congregation, in that the patterns, processes, and choices are the same (James 1:14-15). Therefore, I would not think about them much differently from a “regular” church member.
Of course, there is a difference as far as context is concerned (larger audience with more opportunities). And the fallout is more catastrophic due to more hurt people and social media noise about the leader’s failure.
3. You can relate to him. Because all individuals have “common to humanity” problems, it makes thinking about our temptations easier. There are no unique cases under the sun. The storylines may be different, but the heart motivations that created these fallen narratives are not different. The upside to this point is that you can think about your temptations and preventative measures to keep from falling into sin (1 Corinthians 10:13).
4. Is he repenting? It is imperative that we guard our hearts regarding how we think and talk about the leader. There are two kinds of fallen leaders: (1) those who are walking out repentance and (2) those who are not walking out repentance (Ephesians 4:29).
If the former leader is walking our repentance, you want to encourage him to keep on moving down that path. If he is not practically repenting, you want to call him to repentance. Unwarranted criticism of a fallen leader is shameful and arrogant.
There is not a week that goes by where we don’t sin. Though the consequences of the sin may be different, we aren’t given smaller nails to put in Christ’s hands because our sin was in secret.
Five Practical Thoughts
Here are five things to look for that may signal a leader is on the slippery slope. If you do not have the information regarding these five things, you have a problem. These things should be publicly known and affirmed by a few close individuals who are caring for this leader.
1. How does the leader talk? How does he talk to and about people, especially those around him, which means his wife first of all? He will let his guard down around those closest to him. You will get the most accurate picture of how he thinks about others by how he talks to and about those close to him. If he values them, it will come out in his words. If he devalues them, his words will reveal that (Ephesians 4:29).
Devaluing others ties directly to adultery or porn: to commit adultery or do porn, you do not regard (value) the object of your lust; you devalue the adulteress and the “cyber object” because of your desire to use them for selfish purposes. If a person is not building up his wife and children but chooses speech to devalue them, it is not a stretch or a surprise to find out he committed adultery too.
2. Who is speaking into the person’s life? Who are the people speaking into his life (Hebrews 10:24-25)? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he shared the story of Kitty Genovese, a victim of murder on the streets of NYC. There were 38 bystanders, and nobody called the police. Many have speculated on why nobody called 911. A few social psychologists determined:
- It’s not that no one called despite 38 people heard and saw.
- It’s that no one called because 38 people heard and saw.
3. Observe his marriage. He has affected his wife by his leadership style more than any other person on the planet, regardless of how popular he may be (Ephesians 5:25). She is the closest and best litmus test to the kind of leader that he is.
A husband is a husbandman–tiller of the soil, a gardener. His wife is his garden. If he has been tending a garden for a decade or more, it’s fair to assess his garden to discern his skill set. If he cannot manage a “garden” well, he has no business leading the “garden management center” at a local church.
4. Observe his children. What is in view here is not whether his children are Christians, but what are they like socially, personally, and behaviorally? How has the leader’s leadership impacted his children? Only God can save anyone, so if his children are not Christians, that should not take away from who he is or his leadership capabilities. Nevertheless, salvation aside, he has led them and has impacted them by his leadership (1 Corinthians 11:1).
5. How does he live within his three primary spheres of life: family, work, and church? What is his travel schedule? His writing schedule? How many family nights does he set aside each week? What are his practices for interacting with his wife and children? He should be spending quality and quantity time with his spouse and children.
It is wise for the leader to be in a small group rather than leading a small group. He leads all the time; he needs a place and the time where someonee is leading and caring for him.
I’ll finish where I began this section: if a group of caring disciplers does not know this information, it could be that the leader is flying blind and is not far from falling.