A recurring dilemma these days is what to do when your hero stops acting like one.  How should you respond when that person up close or far off who has obtained a legendary status due to previous accomplishments starts to operate in an unexpected way?  The words they choose and the actions they take are uncharacteristic of their reputation and unacceptable for their cause.

Due to past successes, supporters often give leaders a free pass for current suspicious direction.

It might be an unholy principle or an unwise practice, but followers often find themselves tongue-tied and hand-tied to say or do anything to challenge the leader in such high-standing.

  • Sure, it’s questionable.
  • No, it’s not the way you would handle it.
  • Yeah, I don’t know if that is the best way to do that.
  • Well, I don’t think most people should do that, but since it’s him…
  • I wouldn’t probably do that if I was in that position.

Even among such doubt, concern, and frustration, we sit back and say nothing.  Refusing to challenge the giant, the organization watches as he continues to do unholy or unwise things and no one even attempts to hinder it.

I have noticed this phenomena in many organizations, but faith organizations are repeatedly guilty of it.  Pastors, presidents, chairs, directors, and leaders of different churches, institutions, and ministries are enshrined to a point in which they are incapable of being challenged.  How could they not be?

  • The church was lifeless before that leader.
  • The institution was going under before that leader.
  • The ministry was in financial trouble before that leader.

Due to where they brought it to, no one will challenge where they are taking it to.

Concerned presently, those supporters are unable to shake off the awe-inspired lenses to gain a proper perspective.  They were so amazed at what their leader did previously that they can’t accept he could do something unwise presently.  Those leaders received a golden pass to do whatever they wanted.  The free pass gave them access to make unwise decisions as those who admired them most watched it all from a front row seat.

Without accountability, those leaders keep spiraling downward and the mess often gets messier.  What could have been addressed reasonably at a time is now a divisive plot line  spiraling out of control.

I sure hope my life is full of moments where God uses me in mighty ways, but I pray that my previous triumphs would never silence those who love me and the organizations I represent if I am leading them towards potential tragedies.  A purifying process is hard but worth it compared to a tarnished legacy.

“Shouldn’t we show grace?”  Absolutely.  But we also need consequences to wake us up sometime.  Some of the early church’s best givers were prideful liars.  Did God overlook their present sin due to past contributions?  I don’t think so.  The only free trip that Ananias and Sapphira received for their past leadership in light of their current sin was to the graveyard (Acts 5:1-11).

Allowing past successes to overlook present mistakes will lead to future calamities.   

If someone offers you the free pass of past leadership, the golden ticket to do whatever you want whenever you want, give it back.  We aren’t that trustworthy with such a thing.

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it (1 Cor. 4:7)?

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.