8 Reasons the Fall of a Church Leader Hurts So Badly

By Chuck Lawless 

Seldom does a week go by that I don’t learn about a church leader who has fallen. I want to be merciful toward those who fall, but we also need to know how much pain such a fall causes. Perhaps remembering these realities will help all of us fight harder for holiness. Here are eight reasons the fall of a church leader hurts so badly:

  1. We never expect church leaders to fall. We know it happens, but never to the people we love. Not to the leaders we know and love. When it does, we’re caught seriously off guard.
  2. We genuinely love our leaders. Somehow, even in the largest churches where our interaction with the leaders is limited, we still grow to love the folks who bring the Word of God to us each week. That love increases the pain when a fall happens.
  3. We watch a leader’s family suffer. We love them, too. Sometimes, we’ve watched the kids grow up. Now, we agonize on behalf of that family, often having no idea what to do or say. The awkwardness of the situation keeps us from reaching out – and the pain just deepens.
  4. We watch a church grieve. Some are angry or embarrassed. Others weep deeply. Still others choose not to believe the truth, instead defending the leader to the end. Some members will likely leave the church. The future suddenly feels uncertain, and a congregation hurts corporately.
  5. We know it’s not a good witness. Nobody likes for the enemy to win, even temporarily. The fall of a leader makes the work of the church harder, and members most concerned about the gospel recognize that.
  6. A fall can create a faith crisis for others. To whom do we turn if our spiritual leaders cannot be trusted? Why would God allow a beloved leader fall into sin? For some members – particularly newer believers and those on the fringes – the crisis can lead to their departure. 
  7. It makes us feel vulnerable. If pastors can fall, it can surely happen to me. That’s frightening. Most of us don’t want the reminder that we, too, could fall. 
  8. It feels like it will never end. When a fall does happen, people tend to talk about others who’ve fallen in the past. Those conversations make it feel like falls are becoming the norm – and that’s defeating and discouraging.

Church leaders, let’s challenge each other to stay faithful. Our love for God and for our congregations demand it.

Posted on March 11, 2020

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I keep trying to post new comments and they get rejected with a prompt saying “looks like a duplicate post so won’t be published.” what am I doing wrong? Of course this one may get rejected too. Sigh….

  • Why do we keep doing the same thing and expect different results? Could it be the pastoral model of the ‘church’ is wrong?

  • #7 is particularly true for me. I’ve witnessed the downfall of several men I respected, some of whom were my personal friends. I firmly believe one of the worst things a Christian can say is, “That’ll never happen to me.” When you start thinking like that, the devil probably has you right where he wants you.

  • After serving 2 decades as a judicatory I’ve learned at least one thing: isolation is one of our pastors worst enemies. Leaders who fail to build strong friendship and dodge accountability are on a perilous path. Isolated pastors are vulnerable pastors.

    • Bob Finch says on

      Totally agree and as a former DOM I can say it is like pulling teeth to get many pastors out of that trap. There is no way a Pastor can have an accountability shield if they choose to remain in this isolated state. Pastors need each other and our DOMs need to be doing their best in assisting them in building pastoral accountability networks. I am presently in a on-line Pastors support group that meet once a week simply because I do not have access to an in the flesh accountability group.

      • If it is “pulling teeth” got get someone into accountability then why would anyone want such a “bright” person to be a leader.

  • Perhaps we are using the wrong model of gathering. We have never left Rome.

  • Rick Bowman says on

    There is a building, some call it a church,
    Where the pastor that resembled the truth but did lurch,
    To the toils of others he would take for his own
    Discovered, embarrassed, his breath he disowned,
    Alone he was found by his tool made of steel,
    Now cold, he cared less how any other would feel.
    It happened in Traverse, I attest this is true,
    Forgive us our Lord, for too we have stolen from you.