When Church Leaders Fall: The Impact on the Body and the Faith

“The Church is a Bunch of Hypocrites.”

evangelicalsI had a conversation with an ex-believer regarding their distaste for Christianity. They had been affected by the sin of a Pastor and believed Christian leaders were all hypocrites. Rest assured, I took a stance on the truth. In love, I had to tell them that not all leaders fall into sin. There are some genuine, consistent leaders on Team Jesus.

I had compassion for this person because I understood how they felt. I was once in their shoes. If it had not been for the grace and mercy of God, I could have easily been an ex-believer. And, while some things they said were true, I knew it was not enough to justify their rejection of Jesus.

So, I felt compelled to write. This topic should be brought to light. This is an uncomfortable topic, but people need to hear it because it’s a sad reality. We have so many leaving the faith because of flawed leaders. And, the world has generated a stereotypical image of Christians or “the Church” because some leaders lack integrity.

My Experience

Over ten years ago, I was a lay member watching a leader fall, repeatedly. That situation almost cost me my faith. I lost hope in God to change my life because the one preaching wasn’t changed. I almost walked away from God because of the sin of the leader. But, God had mercy on me and placed me with my current pastor to prove that it was possible to live a holy and righteous life before the Lord. Because of her example, I believed the words in the Bible were possible. This caused me to strive for purity, and God through His Holy Ghost changed my life. This is the power of a true witness.  It can cause a person to run after God, even though they have not seen Him for themselves.

At one time, I was a person that said, “This is why I don’t go to church.” I have heard others say, “This is why I don’t believe in Christ.”  The life of others was shaping our faith. This should not be the case. Leaders who habitually sin and continue to serve should know the pain that they can cause.

When Leaders Sin, It Affects More Than Them.

church leaders fall

Let’s take adultery as our example of sin. While many may think that this intimate issue should be resolved amongst a leader and their spouse, I can agree partially. Indeed, the couple has some things to iron out because there was a covenant broken between them. However, when it comes to their position as church leaders, they will have to deal with God as well. Indeed, when everyone sins, they have to deal with God, but a church leader will have greater accountability.

Now you may ask – why? If a leader has a genuine call from God and accepts, they come into a special covenant with God. Peter did this when he agreed to feed Jesus’ sheep (John 21:15-17). This covenant involves God and the care of the Lord’s people. Leaders have a duty to sanctify the Lord before men.

To sanctify means to make legitimate or binding by religious approval. This means that church leaders have the responsibility to support God not only through word, but deed. When leaders fail to do this, they, in turn, aide the enemy in his attempt to discredit God and His power.

Accountability is based on the level of responsibility. It’s no different than when a CEO of a company steals, and the cashier of the same company steals. Both are punishable by law, but the CEO receives a larger display of judgment and punishment because of their position.

1 Timothy 3:1-13 talks about the qualifications of church leaders, and one qualification is the relationship of the leader with their spouse. So, it is Biblical for a private issue to become a public display when a church leader is involved. It is just as the Lord told David regarding his sin in 2 Samuel 12:13 “For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

The Unspoken Victim

church leaders fallWhen leaders sin, no one is thinking about the unspoken victim. Who is that? The people of God. When the leader sins, although the people are not directly involved, they are still affected. They are the ones who look to the leader as a tangible example of the power of God. They rely on the leader for guidance. The leader is supposed to be an example of the God they preach.

Remember Moses who parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14)? He manifested God’s power, and this caused the people to not only believe in God but also in Moses. When the leader falls into sin, it causes the people to lose confidence in the man and the God of that man. The scripture says in Romans 2:24 that God is blasphemed among the heathen because of “you.” Who is “you”? The people that proclaim God, but don’t live for Him. The hypocrite.

The Devil Made Me Do It.

The number one excuse of all time is the devil made me do it. Whenever people are guilty of sin, they like to blame it on the devil. But since the beginning of time, before the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, God has limited the power of the devil. I have yet to see the devil carrying men into the beds of women or women into the beds of men. The scripture says, “but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his OWN lust, and enticed. It goes on to say, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

The devil uses what’s in you to tempt you, but he can’t force you to sin. When Eve ate of the fruit, it was her own fingers that embraced the fruit, and her own mouth that ate it. Likewise, for these adulteress leaders, it was their legs that carried them and their body that sinned.

Your Leadership Role Does Not Excuse Sin.

I want to give you an example of two people who did not behave responsibly before the congregation of God and were judged because of it – the beloved Moses and Aaron.

This can be found in Numbers 20:1-13. The short backstory of this passage is that the people angered Moses so bad that when God gave Him the commandment to speak to the rock, Moses hit the rock instead. While the people did get their water, the disobedience of Moses and Aaron caused God not to get the glory. The Lord told Moses, “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel. Therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

Moses and Aaron could not enter “The Promise Land” because of their disobedience, and they died. Failing to do right in front of the congregation of God is a major offense in the eyes of God, even when dealing with something as simple as hitting a rock. Disobedience is disobedience.

Some Church Leaders Fall, Repent and Turn.

Every leader that has made a sinful mistake does not have the same heart. Some have made a mistake, genuinely repent, and turn from it. King David is one example. Moses repented, as well. Yet, their repented heart was not enough to stop the consequences of judgment that followed their sin. David did not blame his actions on the devil – he took full responsibility. He confessed his guilt. He did not make excuses for his sin (2 Samuel 12:13).

SO, WHAT’S THE PLAY CALL?

Teammate, if you are a leader, understand this is not like some casual, earthly career. The Bible says that the leader of God cares for the soul (Hebrews 13:17). That means how you lead a person not only affects this life, but it has an eternal effect because the soul is eternal. If you have some issues, go back to God. Sit down and redo your first works (Revelation 2:5). Consider the soul of your brethren in God’s flock.

As for other teammates, don’t allow the actions of a man to make you lose your hope in God. Don’t let the sin of another cause you to turn from God. We are all subject to the law and will be held accountable (Romans 2:6). Continue in the truth. There are other leaders that genuinely love God and obey Him.

God knows how to prove Himself, even in the midst of man’s hypocrisy. How do I know? Because He did it for me.

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