When a shepherd we cherish falls

We have all felt let down by someone at some point, but pain can be harder to swallow when it comes from within the four walls of our church.

Perhaps a well-loved pastor led your parents to Christ and officiated at your wedding, but you later found out he was spiritually abusive of other church members. Maybe your youth pastor always supported you at football games and plays, but he recently left his wife and his family for someone else. God used this pastor in your life, but now the memories feel tarnished. How can we reconcile the good he has done for us with the harm he has done to others?

When a pastor or other church leader fails morally, church members often tend to one of two kinds of responses. We can deny or excuse the pastor's failures: "You have done so much good in our congregation over the years; It can not be true!». Or we can discredit his ministry entirely:"All his sermons and everything I have learned from him are no longer valid.».

For many of us, the race of faith involves dealing with sinfulness and broken leadership in the church.

On the contrary, we must learn to keep these extremes in tension. The good that has been done does not mean that a pastor is incapable of doing evil, nor does the bad necessarily erase the fruit of his ministry.

keeping the tension

The Bible is full of people and leaders that God used for good, even though they had great failures. Abraham and Moses are familiar examples.

Abraham followed the Lord into an unknown land and offered his son as a sacrifice, fully believing in the power of the resurrection (before it happened in the story). But he also lied twice that Sarah was not his wife and went ahead with his plan to have an heir through his servant Hagar (Gen 12:12-14; 16:2-4; 20: 2).

Moses led Israel out of Egypt through the parting Red Sea and God entrusted him with the Ten Commandments. However, after seeing miracle after miracle, he struck a rock in disbelief to produce water (Ex 20; Nm 20:10-13).

What were these two men commended for, along with many other flawed people, in Hebrews 11? By your faith. Although Abraham and Moses failed at times, they always returned to the Lord in obedience. Their failures did not erase the wonderful ways in which God used them for his purposes.

But that doesn't mean church leaders get permission for their sins. Abraham was separated from his son Ishmael, and Moses never entered the promised land. The results of sin can often be severe and painful. Pastors may need to resign their positions until repentance and reconciliation occur and church discipline has been applied. even then, restoration to ministry may not be possible or prudent.

Clinging to Christ

What does that mean for those of us left behind? The sad reality is that a church leader we once admired may no longer someone we should trust or follow. We may even have to look for one new congregation to join.

When our earthly leaders fail, let us remember to continually look to Christ

However, that does not nullify the ways in which God used these leaders in our lives. We can still thank God for what he taught us through them as we express our hurt, disappointment, and even anger to the Lord over our broken situations at church. That is part of casting all our anxieties on Him (1 Pet. 5:7). Rather than suppress our emotions over these failures or allow the sin of bitterness to destroy us, Hebrews 12:1-2 gives us a better approach:

Therefore, since we have around us such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also throw off all weight and sin that so easily envelops us, and let us run with patience the race that lies ahead of us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher. of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.

God has set a career before each of us, and for many of us, that career involves dealing with sinfulness and broken leaders in the church. Let his failures remind us of our own need to rid ourselves of the sin that clung so tightly to us.

Only Jesus lived perfectly. When our earthly leaders fail, let us remember to continually look to Christ. Because only He is the author and finisher of our faith, we can keep in tension the good and the bad of our leaders. Only Jesus deserves that we cling to Him with all our hearts.

Originally posted on The Gospel Coalition. Translated by Eduardo Fergusson.

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