When Christian Leaders Fall

Pastors embezzling money, getting caught looking at porn, having affairs, the list goes on and on.  What should church leaders do when a leader falls?

  1. Tell the Truth to your church family.

People are hurting and talking a lot to one another when a leader has made a bad sinful decision.  These conversations can quickly balloon and turn into untruths, suspicions and assumptions that can further cripple the church family.  It’s best to have a formal gathering where a statement is read and published for all to read and hear.  Too many details do not need to be shared but the sin needs to be named publicly.  This is the first step in guiding your church family to healing.  Hiding what happened can split churches.  Protect your church and tell the truth.

  1. Minister to the fallen leader, their family and anyone else that was directly involved.

It’s Godly to offer to pay for a series of therapy sessions for the fallen leader and their family.  We need to acknowledge that the public exposure of sin is MOST painful to the leader and their family.  Give them hope that they can get through this and heal.  If there’s another family directly involved, like with an affair or an abusive situation involving a minor and their family, it’s also crucial to minister to these families too.  If there’s an addiction problem, offer help and be the kind of church that believes our God restores and heals.  You can be clear that offering help doesn’t mean the fallen leader can still have their position of leadership.

  1. Caution: Do not make rash decisions as a reaction to what’s happened.

It’s ok to step away, pray and wait in moments when our emotions are high.  Do not underestimate the value of prayer and asking for God’s leadership.

  1. Reach outside your congregation for guidance and support.

Most denominations have a consultant that can help guide you through a healing process and help connect your church to healthy people who can fill in for you.  Remember the other pastors on your staff team are also experiencing emotions as well and it would be a gift for them not to have to take on everything immediately.  Invite an outside speaker that has experienced something like this to address your church family.

  1. Be clear about the steps ahead.

Be clear about whether or not this fallen leader will have the opportunity to be the leader in the future.  Let people know what the plan is to fill the fallen leader’s responsibilities in the meantime while church leadership can regroup and plan the next steps.  Communicate these steps as they are taken and this will relieve some stress for everyone.

  1. Focus on ministry and celebrate what God has done in your church.

Be quick to remind the church family of their God stories!  Celebrate what God has done among you.  Inspire one another to look ahead and focus on doing ministry instead of gossip and negativity.  Lead your people to God.  You are still God’s church!

  1. Lead your church through a process of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is essential for the church to heal and move on.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that everything is ok and will go back to normal.  Forgiveness is a process and we cannot allow what a leader did to define the church.  Model forgiveness for your church family and speak forgiving words.

  1. Later on down the road, the job description for the open position should be visionary, not reactionary.

Many churches hire the opposite personality of a person they had to fire or ask to resign.  While this doesn’t seem rational this happens in churches frequently.  Hiring should be visionary and about where the church needs to be led, not a reaction to what’s transpired.


Misunderstanding Baptists: Soul Freedom

“So in reality Baptists are the most broad-minded of all people in religion.”  My Southern  Baptist Sunday School class full of young Baptists in their 20s burst into laughter when I read this statement to them!  This quote comes from The Baptist Faith and Message written by Herschel H. Hobbs.  I’m using an edition that was published in 1971.  It’s the explanation of the Baptist faith and explains which distinctive beliefs are so important to Baptists. After laughing, our conversation then shifted to how misunderstood we are in society.

One of the basic beliefs of the Baptist faith is called, “soul freedom,” or the “competency of the soul. “  It’s explained here quoted from the same book I mentioned above:

“Baptists insist that every man shall be free to decide for himself in matters of religion.  Baptists have ever been the champions of soul freedom, not for themselves alone but for all men.  Thus it is that Baptists believe that a person has the right to be a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Jew, infidel, atheist, or whatever he chooses to be.”

“They (Baptists) grant to every man the right that he shall be free to believe as he wants.  But they insist upon the same right for themselves.  The moment a Baptist seeks to coerce another person – even another Baptist – in matters of religion, he violates the basic belief of Baptists.”

I’m guessing what you just read is probably quite shocking to you?  This might even shock some Baptists too?  Our society would probably define a Baptist as a closed-minded, judgmental person who isn’t very open to hearing the opinions of others.  Herschel Hobbs also writes, “If there is any judging to be done, it is God’s responsibility, not man’s.”

Baptists are very concerned that everyone in our world hears and understands the Gospel Message of the Bible.  We are not out to judge, but to share this message and every person has the opportunity to respond to this message how they choose.  We are not out to coerce anyone but to share what God has done for humanity.  It is only God who draws mankind to Himself through the Holy Spirit.  Baptists do not believe this happens through coercion or human persuasion of any kind.  Nobody becomes a Christian through an argument, manipulation or coercion.  We simply share faith and we believe all people have the right to respond as they choose.  And, as I quoted above, “if there is any judging to be done, it’s God’s responsibility, not man’s.”

What do Baptists Believe?  Maybe we should do some reading before we come to conclusions on what a Baptist believes.   I’m assuming many Baptists out there can also use a refresher on what they believe as well.  Maybe some who call themselves a Baptist should choose another term for themselves?  As a good Baptist, I leave this up to them to decide!

The “Right” Church?

Yesterday a smart, educated man was telling me about all the churches he and his wife have attended in town.  One church was too contemporary for them, another just didn’t feel right, etc…  He didn’t indicate whether or not he was attending one currently.

Today, I awoke and turned on a Christian radio station.  They were discussing the “right” church for you, the one that feels right, it doesn’t matter where you go, just that you find one, “that’s right for you.”

I wondered, “What does God think of this?”  All this talk that everything just has to fit us perfectly or we’re out.  Is it really God’s goal to have a church that perfectly fits everyone’s desires to the point that it feels, “right” to them?  What are we saying about us when we speak like this?  What are we saying about God?

In our culture it’s obvious from the conversations above that we Christians have become pretty self-absorbed.  We are consumed by the world of consumerism and materialism.  If we don’t like something we throw it out and get another one. It’s our culture.  Are we applying our immediate gratifications/consumerism/materialism to the church?  We seek out things we like that we feel fit us.  Is this really God’s plan for us?

Does God want us to choose our church family based on worship style?  Preaching style? Location? Children’s Ministry? Youth trips?  Certain kinds of small groups that I like?  Use of media?

What’s at stake here is the answer to this question (our worldview):  Who or what’s at the center of the universe?   Us or God?  Who should be at the center of my life?  Me, or God?  Of course Christians will say, “God!”  But, is that how we are fleshing out our lives in our everyday conversations and decisions?

The conversations above are coming from a ME-centered worldview.  A ME-centered worldview says, “I’m in the center of it all and I make decisions with me as the most important thing.”  A God-centered worldview looks a bit different: it means God is placed at the center and God is elevated as the most important.  My personal desires yield to God’s commands in Scripture.

Entertainment based ministries are fun but lack depth and aren’t a place to grow in your faith.  These kinds of churches yield to the ME-centered church shoppers.

We have a young couple that noticed this about a local church that does big events and spends a lot of effort entertaining people and trying to do cool stuff by creating different fun themes and applying them to the Bible.  If we are God-centered, we start with the Bible and the theme comes out of scripture.   If we are entertainment based, we think of a theme and apply the Bible to it.  Make sense?   It’s a bit ME-centered.


What is the “right” church?

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