Eight Reasons Long-term Pastors Still Fall

October 30, 2019
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By Chuck Lawless

We all know stories of long-term pastors – leaders who’ve been in the ministry for years – who still fall morally. We grieve when we hear the stories, and we wonder how it can happen to ministry veterans. Based on my studies of how Satan attacks leaders, here are some reasons even long-term pastors fall.

  1. “Success” leads them to let their guard down. The more “successful” pastors are, the easier it is to assume, “That will never happen to me.” Their thinking sounds like this: “After all, God has always blessed my ministry, hasn’t He? He won’t let this happen to me.”
  2. Longer ministry = more opportunities to fall. This reason is really simple. The more time pastors spend with more people, the more opportunity they have to get wrongly connected with someone. Longer ministries demand more awareness of falling—not less.
  3. They’ve learned to hide in the ministry. Busyness and excellent speaking skills can cover a lot of private sin. Public ministry does not always include private accountability. What looks great on the outside isn’t always so pure on the inside.
  4. They never really developed spiritual disciplines. I speak to a lot of pastors who candidly admit that Bible study and prayer have always been struggles. They’ve searched for a deep relationship with God and have never really found it.
  5. Ministry has worn down their defenses. I’ve not met any pastors who started ministry defeated and discouraged. I’ve met many, though, who are now in that state. Sometimes emotional and spiritual fatigue drives them to wrong solutions.
  6. Their own marriages have been strained. Sometimes their spouses feel second (or worse) in the line of the pastor’s priorities, and they’ve felt that way for a long time. Marital neglect has led to long-term emotional and physical separation – and the pastor wrongly looks elsewhere for comfort.
  7. Mid-life crises happen. They really do. Leaders who figure out they haven’t reached their dreams battle their own emotions. Some feel hurt, alone, disrespected, and tired. Others have had success, but they thought they’d see more by now. Weakness leads to disaster.
  8. They’ve seen others restored. I tread softly here, recognizing views differ on whether fallen pastors can be restored. I also affirm ministries that walk alongside fallen leaders to bring them through the defeat. My point is simply this: the enemy is so evil he convinces some folks to go astray with these words: “Well, you can be restored, too. This action won’t cost you much.”

Take time now to pray for some long-term pastors you know.

What other reasons would you add?

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31 Comments

  • This article was on time for one who has served in two long term pastorates. I have to set boundaries for myself with the help of staff and key laypersons female and male. You can become the face of the ministry and too much can be left to lead pastor. It is best to use the structures that are in place to hold the accountability system for moral and institutional integrity.

  • I believe in too many cases, the “mid-life” crises thing is an excuse rather than a valid reason. When I reached mid-life, I bought an old 8N Ford tractor to fix up, not a red sports car!

  • Gregory Lynn Ross says on

    I can’t help but feel disgusted when the devil is blamed. Certainly a good way to shift the focus – I see all the folks that worshipped the pastor come to his defense. What about personal responsibility, discipline, honor, etc? Just think of all the perps in the priesthood – “the devil made me do it.” Tell THAT to the victim, the parents, etc. And Protestants are no better – they also do not publish pastor sins/abuses. They also do the “hide, glide, and shuffle.” And fools continue to forgive and give. I wonder what would happen if men like Martin Luther came to the fore? It is easy for those in power to talk for God…”we are to forgive…what about YOUR sins….you are a disrupter/unforgiving and rebellious!” Okayyy!

  • Well that’s not good. I have 7 out of 8 of those things working against me.

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