You’re well aware, I’m sure, of the recent scandals and failings of prominent Christian leaders, some of whom were trusted and revered by Christians and non-Christians alike. On every level, we’ve been disappointed, heartbroken, and frustrated. What should we do?
I asked our own staff team here at Life Action Ministries to refrain from adding to the “commentary” about any specific ministry or fallen pastor, and instead to respond in the quietness of our own hearts and within the walls of our own ministry. For years we’ve shared a core value together that there is power in a “life message,” and that the inner character associated with this message must be watchfully cultivated.
This issue of Revive is our attempt to encourage a renewal of life message among the leaders of our time. And not just “other leaders” or “prominent leaders,” but us—you and me.
Shortly after the founding of Life Action Ministries, back in the 1970s, our leader (the late Del Fehsenfeld Jr.) was asked if he would ever consider becoming a pastor rather than a traveling revivalist. Del replied with his usual prophetic wit: “I cannot be a pastor, because I don’t yet have enough sermons. It’s not that I couldn’t come up with more, but I made a promise to the Lord that I would never preach a sermon I was not living. The world does not need more powerless sermons.”
Here are five responses I have been striving to remember and apply to the recent reports of failure among leaders:
We should not be surprised. Satan is still a roaring lion looking for opportunities to devour God’s work, and especially God’s workers. He often targets those whose downfall will have immediate, residual, and long-term impact. Why would we expect anything less? He knows the end of the story, and he only has this life to continue to prowl about as a master liar, killer, thief, and destroyer.
Our hearts should be broken. Broken not primarily because of the impact it could have on good and godly organizations, but because of the reputation and name of Christ being stained. “Against you, you only have I sinned” should be the first response of all transgressors (Psalm 51:4). So shouldn’t our first response also reflect grief that our holy God was sinned against?
God is miraculously redemptive. He can take evil and turn it to good, no matter how impossible it may seem. When failure occurs, the foundation of God’s redemptive process is repentance. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave wise advice in cases of failure among pastors and leaders: “Restoration to public ministry is only possible when one’s repentance is as widely known as their sin.” Those who have been given much (e.g. huge platform visibility) will struggle to ever have their repentance as widely known as their sin because media feeds on negative, scintillating sin stories, not sacred stories of repentance and restoration. God is able to redeem, but are we willing to let Him?
Sin’s carnage and collateral damage are real. Sin of any kind in the community of believers affects all of us. The Enemy always wants to discredit the way of Christ and His message. Satan looks for stories to use as ammo. Right now, he has an abundant supply. This is why it is so vital to be walking wisely, “because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
But for the grace of God, there go I. We are all one decision away from a ministry-disqualifying sin. Humility, honesty, and a lifestyle of brokenness and repentance, followed by obedience, is our pathway to protection and prevention. No need to fear or doubt IF we are walking in humility, where grace always prevails.
There will be failure. We are each a work in process. Cultivating a life message isn’t a one-time project; it’s a moment-by-moment, choice-by-choice, prayer-by-prayer pursuit.
Someone recently asked me how I account for God using men and women so powerfully while they were engaged in disqualifying sin. I was reminded that God blesses three things—His Word, which never returns void; God-given gifts and abilities, which even those who fail may possess; and the power of a life message . . . which begs the following question: How much more could God have blessed these ministries if He could have blessed all three? Not just the first two, but the authenticity of the minister as well.
Today, I invite you to join all of us at Life Action Ministries in asking the Holy Spirit for help.
Byron Paulus is the Executive Director / CEO of Life Action Minitries.