Stories about Christian leaders’ mistakes and failings are far too common. Those who are supposed to lead us toward a greater relationship with God and give us direction in Godly lives are those who are being exposed for inappropriate behavior toward women, dishonest financial decisions, and unholy temper to staff. The world laughs at Christians’ facade of holiness; other Christians rejoice at the downfall of leaders they didn’t like; and loyal followers are left confused and betrayed.
What Hope Do We Have In Purity?
This article is not to point any fingers, but really to try to pull out something that would prevent future scandals. Why can’t Christian leaders avoid the traps of sin? If these are supposed to be our most learned and experienced leaders, what hope do we have in staying pure?
Since many Christians leaders are men, I will focus some on a man’s worldview. There should be several parallels for women who are in leadership.
How We View Ourselves
As men, we often view our self-worth in what we can accomplish. We get a rush from doing bigger and better things, as we feel it adds value to our self worth.
As Christian men, we often believe we are sinners and can at any moment fall if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore we have two identity statements going on: look at how awesome I am and what I can do, and don’t look at what’s going on inside of me because I’m ugly and sinful.
There is a battle going on inside: who we want to be and who we think we really are.
We Hide What Is Going On Inside
We are afraid to be real because we think our real self is still sinful and ugly. And so, for pastors, they think in order to maintain people’s respect and confidence, he cannot reveal his true self. He must always think spiritual thoughts, make great choices, have a perfect marriage, and raise godly children. If he admits failure in any of these, his job feels at risk. Therefore, whenever any of these areas are struggling, he has nobody he feels he can talk to.
A 2007 Church Leadership study of pastors found that 70% of pastors claim to have no close friends, 75% felt unqualified to manage a church, and 77% thought they had bad marriages. How are these pastors going to get better without people they can open up to?
Why We Hide?
As a church we are poor at helping people express their problems. If someone confesses a sin, we generally tell them to stop, share some “helpful” Bible verses, or counsel them in how they can stop. We may applaud their vulnerability, but without any real help, we leave the repented person feeling terrible and stuck.
Our Christian leaders feel unable to open up to anyone. They are left with their fears and struggles to deal with alone. But being alone, we are left to fight the condemning accusations of our enemy by ourselves. We feel like hypocrites, so we try to convince ourselves that not terrible by doing bigger and better things.
Creating Environments For a Fall
This creates an even bigger divide between how we feel about ourselves and what we are trying to accomplish. With this increase stress, we put ourselves into increasing danger of a fall. We can only live under that stress for a certain amount of time.
Not that any of these Christian leaders planned to fall and destroy their ministry. But, the more we isolate ourselves, the more we think we can get away with. We rationalize that since we are doing so much good, God will overlook our little failings. The stuff we leave in the darkness festers and grows until it gets out of control.
Creating Environments For Safety
The way to safety and freedom is through vulnerability, so we can start believing what God says about us. However, the fear of being known and something bad “found out” keeps us in a place of risk.
God put us in the body of Christ for our help and healing. Will we trust that there are people there that will allow us to expose our brokenness enough to find the healing Christ provided? Christ believes the body can be that safe place; do we even know what this looks like? I will go more into this next week.
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.