Fallen Leaders

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, October 20, 2017 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the most tragic things that happens to Christian leaders is when they fall. Many of us have heard the stories of numerous Christians in almost any industry fall into sin. These are some of the prominent examples in my time. Ted Haggard, pastor of a mega-church in Colorado Springs, was caught in an extra-marital sexual relationship. Trey Pearson is a personal friend of Worldview Warriors’ leader Jason DeZurik, and last year Trey came out as an open homosexual. Before him, Ray Boltz had an extremely powerful ministry in music, before he announced that he was a homosexual. Sandi Patty was a major Christian artist until she had two affairs and got a divorce. And there is Kent Hovind, then a very popular creation speaker, who was arrested and spent nine years in prison for tax evasion (although many debate the legitimacy of those charges). Let me make this absolutely clear: I am NOT bashing these people, however when this topic is brought up, these are some of the names that may pop up. I want to address the proper way on how to respond when a Christian leader like these people fall.

First off, no one actually “falls” into sin. As Paul Washer puts it, “they slide” into sin. What we see is what happens when someone gets caught, but the issues had been there for much longer. These pastors and worship leaders who fell into sexual sin had struggled with it for some time. In the article linked, Ray Boltz said he knew about his issue since he was young. I know Kent Hovind had been open about his opinions about the government, education, and taxes and I do believe that was part of why the hammer fell on him. Should he have been quiet? I’m not going to say here. What I am going to say is no one suddenly “falls” to the temptations of sin. The draw towards sin had been there for some time.

There are two things we need to recognize in for such cases. First, the person who sins is still responsible for that sin. We as Christians are NOT to make any excuses for them. Even if we want to defend them and protect them and cover the sin, we must not make excuses for them. Second, the fact that they fell showed they did not have an Aaron nor a Hur who stood by Moses’ side and held his arms up during the battle with the Amalekites. There is a sad reality. Very few pastors report feeling like their churches are supporting them, particularly in prayer. In many churches, the pastor not only does all the work in the church, but they also do all the prayer work or feel like they are. Many congregations are not praying for their leaders as they ought and you can tell that simply by how quick people are to criticize them when something goes wrong. One of the reasons why Christian leaders fall is because they have big targets on their back and their followers are not covering their backs. They are not lifting up the leaders in prayer, nor are they holding the leaders accountable to their faith. So when a leader falls, it can be because of one or the other or both, or even others reasons not addressed.

There are typically two responses to the fall of a leader. First, we throw them under the bus. So and so failed to deliver, so not only are we going to reject them as a leader, but we are going to make sure everyone else knows what they did wrong. The world is good enough at looking for any possible flaw in our lives and they love to expose the smallest detail, even if all they can find are spelling and grammar issues. And sadly, many Christians join the world in taking a fallen leader and throwing them under the bus.

Second, we sweep the problem under the rug. This is the equal and opposite wrong response. Instead of proclaiming the sin to the whole world, we instead hide it as though it never happened and don’t actually deal with it. The Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal broke into the light because this was going on. Instead of actually dealing with the problem of pedophile priests (who are NOT the majority nor represent the Roman Catholic Church as a whole) abusing their parishioners, they hid the sin and moved the priests to a different diocese. The problem when you sweep the problem under the rug is that God will expose it eventually. All sin is going to be exposed, but to what extent is dependent on how much you try to hide it.

So what is the proper response when a leader falls? It is absolutely critical NEVER to bring back a leader who has fallen into sin without a clear sign of repentance. David Wilkerson gives an account of a pastor he knew who fell in love with another woman and soon left his wife to be with her. It totally broke his wife, and his daughters, who started strong in the faith, turned against him. But not even six months later, the pastor had moved into another church and was leading Bible study there. The ex-wife asked how he could go on like that and the response was “I just fall upon the grace of God every day,” yet according to Wilkerson everything he touched resulted in death.

Before planting the church I currently attend, my pastor preached in a farming community and news broke out of a very famous preacher being caught in a sin and was making a public confession of his sin. As he sat at the coffee/breakfast bar of the community, listening to the confession, one of the farmers said: “That would mean a whole lot more had he said that before getting caught.” What was he saying? The farmer could tell this pastor was only making a superficial confession and truly was not repentant of that sin. My pastor said the same preacher was caught a second time a little later.

But that is not it. We must seek that the fallen leader be disciplined in the ways of the Lord, healed, and restored. I do not agree with the actions of these leaders in how they fell, however, I am not going to throw them under the bus, even if they are not repentant. But if they are not repentant, I am not going to support them in a leadership position either. I will pray that God does what needs to be done to break them of their sin and should they show genuine repentance, I will welcome them back. That is what Paul told the Corinthian church to do with a man having an affair. He told them initially to boot him out and not tolerate sin in their midst, but when he repented, he told them to welcome him back. Never, ever bring an unrepentant fallen leader back into a position of influence. If we do that, we run the risk of inviting an Absalom in our midst. Abaslom, after murdering Amnon for the rape of his sister, was invited back but was not repentant. He ended up stealing the hearts of Jerusalem and threw a coup to take the throne from David. It nearly succeeded. Never bring back a fallen leader unless there is clear, genuine repentance.

When Christian leaders fall, all of our comments and actions should be two-fold: discipline for the purpose of dealing with the sin and getting rid of it, and the purpose of eventual restoration should the discipline do its job. Love covers a multitude of sins, and there is no better place to confess your sins than in the presence of God in your personal prayer time, and to a truly loving, mature, tight small group who truly love you and seek the best for you. Last year, I got a chance to be in such a prayer circle and while the work that night did not finish the job I wanted done, it is something I definitely want to go through again because I can see the cleansing that comes with such a prayer posse. But choose such a circle very wisely.

Let us lift up our leaders and pray for their protection. Do not wish harm on them if they offend you. The leader’s job is tough and it is very lonely. Support them. That does not mean hide their flaws, but it also means don’t broadcast them. There is time to expose and time to cover. Your leaders need your help. Raise their hands and rise up in prayer to protect them from the enemy’s attacks. If your leaders cannot depend upon you to cover their backs, do not be surprised when no one covers yours. Treat your leaders as you would like to be treated as a leader, even when you fall.

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