When Leaders Fall…

If I had to choose a most memorable moment from my work with young people, one of the top contenders would be a youth event around seven or eight years ago. Hundreds of teenagers from across our city and beyond had gathered to listen to the Big Name Speaker, and the atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation.

It almost resulted in disappointment for around 200 young people who were unable to be admitted to the venue because of strict fire safety limits, but then Big Name Speaker heard about the situation and decided that he was going to come outside and give his talk on the street. While the worship band were leading inside, Big Name Speaker preached on the street. Then when he went to speak inside, the guitarist came out and led worship in the street. It was amazing to witness 200 young people worshipping in the middle of the city centre, not to mention the confused glances from all those passing by on a Friday night out.

It is a memory I have cherished, so I was greatly saddened and disappointed this week to hear about allegations of bad conduct and abuse which have been made against Big Name Speaker. Investigations are ongoing, and I know nothing about the truth of the situation beyond what has been shared by the media. I am glad it is being investigated, however, to say that this situation has shaken a lot of Christians in the UK, particularly those involved in youth work, would be an understatement.

Then a few days later, I heard of allegations against another Christian leader – one I am less familiar with but whom I had respected from what I knew of him and his teaching. It brings up all kinds of questions: Why is this happening with so many Christian leaders? How many more? Who else? And how can we know who to trust?

There is a lot I don’t know, and I’m still processing it all, but, here are a few things I do know:

I know that power can be dangerous and that we shouldn’t idolise leaders.

As a friend pointed out to me this week, this is really nothing new. People in the Bible who we might regard as great leaders often fell in dramatic ways. David was “a man after God’s own heart,” but went on to mess up in so many ways in the situation with Bathsheba and Uriah. Solomon was known for his wisdom, but then he married multiple women and had many concubines and his heart was turned from God to worship idols.

If we are in any kind of position of power (which almost all of us are, no matter how big or small) we must take that responsibility seriously and guard our hearts.

And it helps to remember that no matter how great our leaders may seem, they are flawed humans. The only perfect leader is Jesus.

I know that God can use flawed people.

I believe that God has used Big Name Speaker in mighty ways. Many young people have come to faith as a result of his work and his witness. Does the news this week mean all of that counts for nothing?

No! God has to work through flawed people. There are no perfect people available.

Life isn’t a movie where there is a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Each of us has a mixture of good and bad, and God uses us despite that.

We need to hold to the good, while also recognising that there is a point where the bad becomes unacceptable, particularly for someone in a position of leadership.

I know that no-one should ever be put in a position where they feel they can’t speak out about inappropriate behaviour or where they fear not being believed.

I have been in that position myself on a few occasions. The current situation has brought to mind one particular (unconnected) incident several years ago where I felt unable to speak out about someone’s inappropriate behaviour. This was a well-respected Christian leader, and I was sure that if I tried to speak out I would be disbelieved or told that I was over-reacting. For a long time, I tried to convince myself that I was over-reacting.

As I look at the situation now with an older and wiser perspective, I know that I was not over-reacting and I should have spoken out. Who knows, I may even have been listened to, but it seemed impossible at the time.

I think it is so important that churches and Christian organisations have structures of accountability in place. People should always know that there is someone to report inappropriate behaviour too, knowing that they will be listened to.

And where we can, we should also speak for others. Proverbs 31:8-9 urges us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (NLT)

I know that allegations of abuse are not made lightly and should always be taken seriously.

Our first response to hearing a story of abuse should always be to listen and to take it seriously. Sharing about abuse is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and when someone shares about abuse and is dismissed, the chances of them speaking out again in the future are greatly-reduced.

Our default response should always be to believe the person sharing their story. Of course there can be false allegations, but these are few and far between. Every allegation of abuse should be listened to and investigated properly.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18 NLT)

I know that God knows the truth and that he is a God of justice.

Nothing is hidden from God, even the things that are concealed from other humans. God looks beyond the outward appearance and reputation of our leaders (and of each of us) and he sees things for what they really are. God loves justice, and one day the truth will be made known.

“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” (Luke 8:17 NLT)

I know that the church should be a place not of abuse, but of healing.

One of the things that saddens me the most is when people are turned away from God because of the bad behaviour of people in the church. We have to do better. The church has so much to offer those who have been hurt or abused, and I would love for the church to truly reflect the heart of God in being a safe place where people are protected and where those who have been hurt can find healing.

Check out these links for some resource on this:

Church Cares: Becoming A Church That Cares Well For The Abused – 12 lesson video training for churches along with an accompanying handbook (all free)

We Too by Mary DeMuth

I know that God is still sovereign and that he can work for good in all things.

In these circumstances, which have left so many people hurting and confused, it is important to remember that God is still sovereign – that he sees, that he cares, and that he can work good and bring transformation in any kind of brokenness.

Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18 NLT) Maybe these situations will be a wake-up call to the church to examine leadership structures and practices to prevent similar situations occurring in the future.

Linking with: Inspire Me MondayTell His StoryInstaEncouragementsLet’s Have CoffeeRecharge WednesdayTune In ThursdayGrace & Truth


23 thoughts on “When Leaders Fall…

  1. I’m so sad to hear of these leaders falling and the resulting heartache it caused the Body of Christ in the UK, Lesley. May the Lord comfort you and give you the grace to process all your feelings.

    I have seen people share and not be believed. I have seen false accusations used to try to destroy people’s reputations (similar to Joseph in the Bible because he refused sexual advances). And I have seen people share, with the resulting investigations, then the truth comes out, and it is used in a healthy way to bring wholeness to all those affected. Leadership has a HUGE responsibility in how they handle allegations of inappropriate behavior.

    The Lord starts His cleansing with His own house, then He attends to outsiders. Exposure of sin can usher in the spirit of the fear of the Lord, a spirit of repentance, and revival. That’s my prayer, instead of shaking people’s faith, it shakes people to their knees and brings a return to our First Love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa! Yes, I pray that God will work for good even within this awful situation and that it might improve the way the church deals with things.


  2. oh this is so hard, Lesley. you have written important words on a sad subject. may God give you healing and wisdom as you continue to interact and lead the young adults He’s given to you to minister to.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Heartbreaking and overwhelming! I’m speechless every time I hear about another person who has been using his platform as a tool for selfish ends. I’m sorry to hear that you have experienced this personally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Michele! There seem to be so many stories like this coming to light recently. It’s good that things are being brought into the light but sad that there is so much of this kind of thing going on.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have just finished reading a very good book by John Sandford, called ‘Why Good People Mess Up’ – it is an excellent book to read to understand in what ways we can all be vulnerable to messing up, and how to receive healing when we have.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such good points, Lesley. Not only have I heard about these things in online news, but it happened with someone I really looked up to in college. He became a missionary but then fell into adultery with someone–and refused to repent and confess his sin when confronted because he said he loved his sin too much. I felt so bad for his wife. He has not lived for the Lord since then (about 40 years now). I think in his case, he was somehow probably not saved to begin with, though we don’t really know. But there are instances like David and so many others who have loved God and yet fallen spectacularly. We all need to remember to “take heed lest we fall.” We should be willing to put safeguards in place as much as possible. And we do need to take seriously allegations or concerns people bring up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lesley, such a hard subject to wrestle with. I have seen this happen and become saddened too by “big name speakers” falling, including the pastor of my church. God always reminds me, we are all flawed, and subject to our sinful flesh. Big name speakers and leaders are not exempt, if anything they become even bigger targets. But it still doesn’t bring much comfort when we witness these events. Thank you for sharing your heart here today!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a sad story, Lesley. It does seem as if this is happening with increasing frequency these days. It’s so hard to hear every time, and my heart breaks for the victims And also for the damage it does to the church as a whole.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very sad, and I hate that for many non-Christians these are the only stories they hear about the church. No wonder they dismiss it if that is all they hear.


  8. In the past two elections in our country, I’ve seen how idolizing leaders can jeopardize the whole nation. It’s really sad when people do that. They can’t even hold the leaders accountable and just keep attacking those who call them out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, all leaders need accountability, and it is so important for us all to remember that all leaders are human and therefore not perfect.


  9. It is so discouraging when our moral leaders turn the opposite direction. 😦 It just shows we’re all subject to temptation and none of us are perfect. But it also shows that power really can mess with a person’s mind. I hope that the leaders you mentioned will be able to straighten out their messes and get back on a healthy track.

    Liked by 1 person

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