When Christian Leaders Fail

December 16, 2017 at 10:37 AM

It is important to understand that all of us are fallen human beings. However, we too often use that as an excuse when we fail. “We’re all sinners!” “Don’t throw stones!” These are often heard as if stating them reduces the consequences of our sin before holy God.

We expect the unsaved of the world to fail. It’s what they do. Unsaved people live as enemies of God; the very thing we were prior to becoming Christians. It should be no real surprise when we see the increase of sexual harassment accusations between unsaved people in business, politics, or entertainment industry.

However, we don’t expect those who are saved to fail in a spectacular way and we certainly do not expect pastors and Christian leaders to fail us morally.Theirs is a uniquely high calling, a calling that should not be entered into with lightness or carelessness. With greater responsibility comes the potential of a greater height from which to fall.

The truth is that there is failure every day in the lives of millions of us Christians. Most of that failure is through what we call sins of omission. These sins are the ones that we are not generally aware of from God’s perspective. In truth, if we are in fellowship with God (walk in the light), the blood of Christ cleanses us from all of these “sins of omission.”

This is clearly pointed out to us in 1 John 1:7, which says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” They key of course is to be in true fellowship with God. The “light” points out our sin. Being a Christian is one thing, but being in fellowship with God as a Christian is another thing altogether and it is what every Christian should aspire to daily.

Verses 8-10 of 1 John (below), point out that we do sin and I believe he is mainly referring to those sins that we are not aware of but are true sins nonetheless. This offers a rebuke to the idea of sinless perfection, to which no Christian will ever attain to in this life because of the presence of our sin nature, which will not be eradicated until after our deaths.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (ESV)

The truth is that we do sin. John’s reasoning is very logical. We are sinners, therefore we sin even after we are saved. As we live our Christian life, the Holy Spirit will remind us of the times we sin and when that happens, we should turn to the Lord in confession. This is essentially agreeing with God that we have sinned, instead of ignoring it. By taking that approach, our hearts will start to harden and our consciences will eventually become fully seared, unable to warn us.

But notice also that as we confess our sins, forgiveness is applied to us and we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. This is an ongoing process for the Christian who remains in fellowship with God. We will always and unfortunately, be guilty of sins of omission; sins that we are not aware of until and/or if the Holy Spirit brings them to our mind. The implication here is that He won’t necessarily bring all our sins of omission to our minds either. In that case, we might be spending all our days simply confessing sin. However, when He does inform us, we should confess. The person who insists that they do not sin is, in John’s description, is tantamount to making God a liar. If that is the case, then clearly, “his word is not in us” meaning we are not in fellowship with Him.

Do you know specifically every sin you’ve committed this week? The Holy Spirit may remind us if He chooses. But these are for sins of omission, the “incidental” sins, if you will. These are not the “big” sins, the deliberate, well thought out, pre-planned sins, the type of sins we all get “warnings” about when red flags go off in our minds and we know we’re moving into dangerous territory.

In Genesis 39, we read of the situation with Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. She came onto him and wanted him to lie with her. She wanted to have an adulterous affair with this young, good-looking man whom her husband had placed his trust in. Joseph did what he could to avoid her advances, even running out of the house when she grabbed him, leaving behind his outer cloak. Of course, she then used the cloak as “evidence” that Joseph had tried to rape her. This landed him in prison where he remained for several years even though he had done nothing wrong.

Joseph had not sinned, yet was treated as though he had. It was all part of God’s plan to save His upcoming nation of Israel that He would eventually create. He had pre-planned this whole thing so that Joseph, treated terribly first by his own brothers and then by a strange woman, ended up being the second in command over all Egypt. God honored Joseph for his integrity. Joseph was so horrified by the potential sin of adultery that he did what he could to avoid it, even physically running away.

Today, there are many pastors and Christian leaders who fall into this type of sin. Too often, after they are caught, they offer words of sorrow and seem to be humbled. They appear to repent. Some of them step down from their leadership position of their church or organization. That’s certainly what they should do because through their sin, they have disqualified themselves from serving the Lord in that capacity as leaders over others. Unfortunately, all too many end up getting back into leadership over people.

King David fell in a huge way. Yes, God forgave him for his adultery with Bathsheba and the fact that he ordered her husband Uriah to be killed in battle. But there were unalterable consequences and as a result, the sword never left David’s house. His son Absalom turned against him and it created quite a mess.

When Moses sinned by striking the rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20), while the Lord forgave him, Moses was prohibited from continuing as the leader over Israel. His leadership career was over, his life ended, and Joshua took the lead.

There are too many individuals in ministry who have disqualified themselves from it through their adulterous affairs or other moral failures. They can argue that they sinned only against God but this is not true if they were married or if the person they committed adultery with was also married. When two people are joined together in marriage, as far as God is concerned, the two become one so to have sexual relations with another individual is also sinning against the married person’s mate.

Peter also sinned by denying our Lord three times on the night He was betrayed (Mark 16). Jesus forgave Peter later, inviting him to take up his leadership mantle as servant over the flock (John 21). So why didn’t Peter lose his apostolic authority altogether? Why wasn’t he disqualified? Mainly because the Holy Spirit had not been poured out onto believers yet and because of the nature of Peter’s sin. Had he denied Him after Acts 2, it might have turned out differently for Peter.

There is a particular individual (who is no longer with us), who was very well-known within evangelical circles. He was a pastor, wrote many books and articles on subjects like integrity in marriage. During his ministry days, he is said to have worked with somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200 couples, helping them improve their marriage through fidelity and integrity.

Unfortunately, it was eventually learned that from the 1960’s to the early 1980’s, this man was involved in an adulterous affair with another woman while he was married and raising his own children. Should we condemn this man? No, because to condemn him is to condemn ourselves. As noted, we all sin. We are in no position to condemn anyone because God no longer condemns Christians though He had every right to do so (Romans 8).

But, we wrongly believe God’s forgiveness includes the eradication of consequences related to our sinful actions in this life. Not true. There are consequences to our sinful actions and they often remain. For instance, one can only wonder what the ultimate revelation of his affair did to his wife and his marriage to her, not to mention how it affected his own children. I cannot imagine the pain they must have endured and suffered through because of the husband’s/father’s sin. Beyond this, the man’s integrity was destroyed. Completely gone.

I read with interest many of the comments regarding this man’s indiscretions on various blogs. Some were quick to judge. Others were just as quick to condemn those who judged, stating we should all forgive. Yet others felt like a knife had been driven in their backs because they were among the couples this man had helped.

Those who wanted to do nothing but forgive fail to comprehend just how tragic our sin is before God. Yes, by all means, there should be forgiveness if there is true repentance, but one is at a loss to determine how someone could carry on an affair for twenty years all the while preaching on Sundays and helping couples cement their relationships together? How does that happen? Unfortunately, it can only happen when a person’s conscience becomes at least somewhat seared. They must come to a point where they divorce themselves from their adulterous actions otherwise there would be a complete break down under the weight of their sin and duplicity. Humans were not created to be duplicitous. It is the result of sin.

As stated at the beginning of this article, we expect unsaved people of the world to fall morally. It seems to be a daily occurrence now with men being accused harassment, rape, or sexual molestation in some other way. I’ve even read recently of a woman politician declining to continue her campaign for election because of sexual claims against her. One by one, these people are being forced to resign their positions of authority whether in politics, the business world, or the entertainment world. It’s like watching a house of cards collapse.

That’s the world for you. It’s what they do and should not surprise us. However, we are right in asking how men who hold leadership positions within Christendom as pastors or leaders in other capacities can make such egregious sins common place. It seems that there is little concern among many for these sins because the excuse is that we all sin, therefore no one should cast any stones. This thinking is a perfect example of taking Scripture out of context as we discussed in another article. Because we are all sinners does not mean that we have no right to have and uphold specific guidelines about the qualifications of our Christian leaders.

Paul’s guidelines for choosing men to be overseers or deacons rebukes the type of thinking that believes regardless of sin, people should be allowed to continue in leadership positions if they repent. Reading through 1 Timothy 3 carefully reveals Paul’s mind on this. Here are the qualifications for a person who wanted to be an overseer:

  • husband of one wife
  • above reproach
  • sober-minded
  • self-controlled
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • not a drunkard
  • not violent, but gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • hot a lover of money
  • must manage his own household well
  • must be dignified
  • able to control his children
  • cannot be a recent convert
  • must have a great reputation

Clearly, to not have these traits disqualifies a person from consideration. How does a man who cheats on his wife or have other moral failures continue to fulfill this list of requirements? He doesn’t, and therefore, is excluded from continuing in that capacity. In fact, Paul says that an overseer should serve as a deacon first (v. 10). If they prove successful there, then they can be considered as an overseer.

Again, the Christian who succumbs to immorality should always be forgiven when they show fruits of their repentance. However, as has always been the case throughout Scripture, those in leadership positions who were tested and found wanting, normally lost their positions of authority.

The church does no good in allowing fallen leaders to remain in their positions of authority. They’re actions have brought disrepute on the Name of Christ. Their hypocrisy is what they then become known for and while this has nothing to do with a need to forgive, it is clear that according to Scriptures, they have lost the ability to oversee and manage people because they failed to oversee and manage their own lives.

No matter how he pleaded, God would not keep Moses as leader of Israel. God finally told Moses to stop asking about it. Moses was replaced, though he was certainly forgiven. The same applies to David and the many others who sinned terribly and sought the Lord’s forgiveness. Forgiveness came, but consequences of their actions remained.

This should speak to each Christian’s heart. We are correct when we say that no one is beyond the ability of sinning and sometimes, grievously. While God forgives, the consequences of our sin remain in this life. Fortunately, our salvation is never in question. We can look forward to the day we die, when our sin nature will be fully expunged from our lives….forever.

Ah…what a day that will be!

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Cultural Marxism, Demonic, devil worship, Eastern Mysticism, emergent church, Emotional virtue, eternity, Life in America, new age movement, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , .

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