This article has been extracted from an insightful article by Sarah Yardley entitled HOW TO COPE WITH THE FAILURE OF CHRISTIAN LEADERS. She is a Californian based in Cornwall, UK. She studied Theology at St. Mellitus College. Sadly she ignores the Holy Spirit’s role as our teacher, comforter, and counsellor. Jesus made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to indwell our spirit and enable us to live the Christian life. For many of the leaders that have failed, one has to question: were they ever born again by the Holy Spirit? If they were they have certainly grieved Him and quenched His work in their lives.
Recently, it seems like we have seen an acceleration of sins exposed, hearts laid bare, and the broken places in the lives of our leaders revealed. What do we do when we find our heroes have fallen from their pedestals? I have found the following areas essential as I navigate moral failure.
- Look to Jesus
Beyond the current headlines, I think of key leaders in scriptural and Christian history: Noah, Moses, Naomi, David, Martin Luther, Karl Barth, Bill Hybels, Bob Coy, Ravi Zacharias, myself… At some point, all will fall and all will fail. The only one in whom I have certain hope, trust, and expectation of faithfulness is Jesus. When my leaders fail, I fix my eyes on Him.
- Seek truth and accountability
When I first experienced a period of watching leaders close to me fall into moral failure, I struggled with panic attacks, doubts, and anxiety. If they could fall, surely I would too. (I do, often). These questions can push us into pain and bitterness, or they can cause us to say: “But for the grace of God, there go I.” Choose friends in your life who will speak truthfully and honestly to places of failure, and ask for grace and help in growth.
Forgiveness is a key distinctive of the Christian faith. It reminds us that the faults and failures that once defined us can be redeemed at the cross of Christ. Actively choosing to forgive can be challenging and raw, but it frees us from carrying a weight that will cripple us. As Ray Hinton, wrongly imprisoned for years for a crime he did not commit, wrote: “If you want to be free, you have to forgive, and I want to be free.”
- Process the pain
Leaders fail. Allow that to bring grief. Let it break your heart, stretch your soul, and make you weep. Don’t rush past the emotion that it can – and should – bring us when one who proclaimed the words of truth with life and power, who made doctrine dance, also allowed honesty to dance away as well. Read the Psalms. Lament. These are the wounds we received in the house of our friends, and our saviour is still binding them up.
- Live in the light
I don’t publish every sin I wrestle with. I don’t feel the need to post every place I have battled pride, lust, gossip, fear, or offense. But they are many. And my close friends, leaders and, above all, Jesus are walking with me in these places. If we walk in his light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Wherever possible, live in the light.
- Pursue presence above platform (Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance continually each day so that you will not grieve Him and quench His work in your life)
Everything in our lives is an invitation to intimacy with Christ. Every day, we choose to turn our hearts towards his love or towards our own pleasures. I see some of the moral failures in our Church today and wonder about the infinitesimally small, unseen choices that turned hearts towards pleasure and power. It’s easy to sit in the position of judgment towards others and forget how much our own souls long for immediate pleasure. In the presence of Jesus, we find a different, deeper, eternal joy. He continually invites me to choose his presence above any other platform.