I was at lunch with a friend recently, processing the news of another fallen leader. While perhaps we are only more aware of the number of leaders falling because of our constant connectedness via social media and online news, it sure feels like an epidemic at times. Regardless of whether or not the reality of leaders falling is more common or the same as it has always been, it’s happening too much. The moral failures are far too frequent. So how should we, those of us who are believers, respond when a leader disqualifies himself or herself from their role? Here are six ways we should respond when a leader falls:
More than we talk to others about the fallen leader, we should pray to God on behalf of him or her. If the leader has not yet repented, we should pray the Lord works on the leader’s heart through His kindness, in the midst of the discipline and embarrassment, to bring the leader to repent. If the leader has repented, we should pray the leader senses and knows and feels the weight of God’s grace being greater than the sin. In both situations, we must pray for spouses, children, staff teams, and churches that are living every moment in the fallout zone of the implosion.
We are more messed up than we realize if there is any gloating when a leader falls. There should only be grief. Grief for the leader and grief for those impacted. Grief for the distraction the ministry or organization is dealing with and grief for the embarrassment the fall has brought to the name of Christ. But we should also grieve for ourselves. When a leader falls, we should grieve for ourselves because we are reminded that we could easily fall too.
When a leader falls, we must not think or mumble, “This will never happen to me.” It most certainly can happen to us, to any of us. The apostle Paul warned, “Whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.” As we grieve the possibility that it can happen to us, we are wise to humbly throw ourselves on His grace once again.
In the context of accusations and sin among elders, the apostle Paul wrote, “Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will be afraid.” An implosion that results in removal from a role is a clear and painful public rebuke. And the rest of us should be afraid. God’s holiness is not something we can take lightly. While He ultimately dealt with our sin on the cross, He also deals with it among those who lead and serve His people.
While we need His grace to keep us from falling, we must resolve to continue in His grace. We must resolve to finish. One of Jonathan Edwards’s resolutions is instructive for us: Resolved: Never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
Finally, as we pray and as we grieve, we do so filled with hope. We have hope that one day Christ will come and rescue us from these broken and sinful bodies and this broken and sinful world. We are filled with hope that a day is coming when we won’t wrestle with our sin and we won’t hear stories of fallen leaders.
Today is the official launch day of my book How To Ruin Your Life: And Starting Over When You Do. I am praying the Lord uses it to build resolve in leaders and believers to finish well, to run from the sins that can lead to an implosion. For more info, click here.