“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4.5From David King
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Romans 1.16
Recently there have been scandals around two high profile church leaders: Carl Lentz and Ravi Zacharias. How do you feel when stories like this hit the news? I feel a mixture of emotions. I feel sad. I feel frustrated because it makes it harder to share Jesus to our culture. I feel confused when it was someone I looked up to: is everything they said a lie? I feel worried: can I trust those whom I look to for leadership. I feel frightened: can I trust myself? So how can we choose leaders who will not fail us?
In one blog I can’t deal with all of the issues thrown up by leaders who fail, but I have been struck by two aspects of leadership: power and focus. The danger of leadership is that the leader’s desire to be a good leader causes them to look: to a source of power other than the gospel; and to a focus on themselves rather than Jesus. When this happens, whatever the cause of the fall of the leader, the impact is big.
In the Amazon blurb of one of Carl Lentz’s books it writes:
“When you think of a Christian pastor, you probably don’t envision a tattooed thirty-something who wears a motorcycle jacket, listens to hip-hop music, references The Walking Dead and Black Lives Matter in his sermons, and every Sunday draws a standing-room only crowd to a venue normally used for rock concerts—in godless New York City, no less.
But then you clearly have never met Carl Lentz.”
I wonder if you notice two things here: the first is how contemporary Carl Lentz is, the second is that this paragraph is about him and not Jesus – in fact it’s not even about what’s in the book! It feels like the power rests in being contemporary, and the focus is the man.
Think also about the name, “Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.” No doubt the name was chosen to make the most of Ravi Zacharias’ high profile, but again the focus is on the leader and the power is in the profile of his name.
Paul, in the two verses above, points to a different leadership . It is a leadership which only looks for its power, inthe words of the gospel – the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 3.4). And what you are left with when you’ve encountered it, is not the feeling, “How impressive so-and-so was” but how glorious Jesus is.
In our staff meeting we spoke about this and each named a leader who had exhibited this leadership. I told them about my Dad. Whom would you name?
One thought on “When leaders go wrong”
I too was deeply troubled by the revelations recently of RZ.
It was a blow because I so loved to listen to his teachings. It made me question my own Christian walk and if I had lost the spirit of discernment.
I went through a similar crisis of confidence when Bishop Eddie Long was exposed. But I am old enough to remember to remember Jimmy Swaggart and Orle Roberts men who preached to thousands and thousands in great crusades around the world and their own fall from grace.
I suppose the difference was no 24 hour news coverage or social media? No I think that I saw a humility and true repentance of their deeds and how God used them despite their fall from grace. JS was eventually jailed and a prison ministry was birthed….OR went on to live a long life of service mentoring many to go on to make good leaders.
When we take our eyes off the creature and focus on the the Creator are hearts will not fail or be broken.
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