Leaders are Not God


Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.


I remember a preacher whom I greatly respected and loved dearly as a friend, preaching a series of great messages about what it is to Hold the Line. The idea was that if you will just hold the line no matter what happens, you will come out the other side of your trial stronger than you went in.

As it turned out, that fantastic preacher didn’t end up holding the line himself. As a previous mentor of his, I was gutted, but God held me so I could hold that line. And, true to His Word, I did grow stronger.

Not so for many of the people who looked to my friend for leadership. His fall had far greater devastating consequences than just his family and friendship group. Many people were irrevocably changed by the tragedy of their fallen pastor. Some gave up the fight altogether on the basis that if it could happen to him, there was no point in them even trying. It reinforced in others the sentiment that all Christians are hypocrites and all leaders lack integrity. People spoke scathingly of some of his greatest preaches which now seemed hollow and hypocritical.

Blaming and blame shifting is an easy default, and it’s all the more attractive because it excuses us from having to seek God for ourselves. Disillusionment is the precursor to cynicism and when cynicism takes up residence in a Christian, woe betide them and anyone they influence.

My heart grieves when the body of Christ suffers any blow, but when that blow is the result of a leader being exposed as one who has lost the hope of their calling to the Church (Ephesians 4:12), I sometimes feel overwhelmed with anguish.

My heart aches for the person who has fallen. I am sad because they didn’t have enough peer relationships in place to call on in the early stages when the issues were still developing in their hearts and minds. How horrible that there was no one they could ask help from or confess their struggles to. Church culture can be so fixated on celebrity pastors that many people who are being tempted feel unable to expose themselves for fear of rejection and judgment, of losing their ministry, their reputation, as well as their position/salary/security/title.

Transparency is vital for anyone whose life influences others. Accountability is a word that only stands as strong as the person who is willing to make herself accountable. Large tracts of unchartered territory remain hidden in every heart, and it is the strong leader will find them out in herself.

As long as a leader (or anyone for that matter) thinks they can control their sin, they are fooling themselves. The enemy ensures the eruption will bide its time to spew its most destructive elements when the time is ripe to do the most damage. Make no mistake, what is done in the darkness will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be shouted from the rooftops.

Ugghhhh! It’s such a simple plan, but it works over and over again. For some bizarre reason, so many people who embark down the path of living a double life think they are the clever exception, and that no one will find out. Double lives are not only destructive, they are also hugely addictive. We cannot balance two opposing lives. Power always goes to the hidden life and it will eventually overtake the other. The only way a godly life can prevail is to expose the hidden life. You can’t live two lives long term. One always cancels out the other.

The scary thing about words is that they can be so easily said without being done. You can preach on forgiveness, but not live it. You can talk about giving, but never do it. You can agree with transparency while hiding your secret life away, deluding yourself that no one will ever find out. If we could learn to tell ourselves the truth without justifying, we would be able to tell others, and doing that may save your ministry, and maybe your life as a Believer.

There are different levels of knowing, of accepting, of owning the truth. When truth is painful, it’s something you have to grapple with over and over. It is never swallowed whole. There is a faithful bravery that’s necessary as we slowly take in the entirety of what hurts us. —Heather Caliri                                                          

I grieve also for the tragedy fallen leadership brings to the Beautiful Church. Yes, she has her issues and I know she’s not perfect, but she is the plan of God to bring God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. God puts leaders in place to give guidance and vision and direction.

Leaders, however, are not God. They’re not even better people per se; they are just the ones God appointed to lead in a set place for a set season. Their lives may be in disarray at times, just like yours, but it is the determined and constant choices they make to live with integrity, honestly walking out their calling to equip the saints to minister, that causes the Church to thrive in spite of all the imperfections. Most leaders want to be an example of integrity, love, courage, and faith in the One who saved them, so that the people can follow their leader as she follows Christ.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.” —Zechariah 13:7b

When a leader has stopped following Christ and the church is confronted with the knowledge that they have been obfuscating the truth and disempowering the people they’re supposed to serve, the pain and disillusionment levels in the congregation can blow a church sky high. The exposure of a double life creates far more damage than the original sin would have done. When I hear of another leader falling, I feel the pain almost physically, knowing how their fall wreaks havoc in the church as people struggle to come to terms with outright betrayal by a person they trusted to lead them. Many, especially those whose faith is not mature, find themselves unable to trust anyone again. The Body of Christ suffers outrageous assault at these times and many are the casualties in times like this.

No leader has overcome all of their issues. Temptation is the human condition. All our battles have not yet been fought and old enemies rise up with monotonous regularity, sometimes long after we thought we’d defeated them once and for all.

There’s no shame in being tempted, but shame has its best chance to destroy us when we keep our struggles hidden. Leaders with a Kingdom mentality will put aside their pride and fear and find a safe person to talk with about the issues they wrestle with. The result is a greater capacity to hold the line, and a greater sense of being held by the One who will never let us go. That’s what every leader needs. That’s what everybody needs.

P.S. I wrote this article a few days before Josh Duggar was outed as yet another influencer who led a double life, secretly courting adulterous relationships while outwardly maintaining a “family values” face. Josh isn’t any different from any of the others. He was duped into thinking he could live in two worlds at once and never be discovered. Like too many leaders before him, he now knows he was wrong.