Why Successful Ministry Leaders Are Rarely Challenged

I hate when a ministry leader has a moral failing.

It provides so much ammo for those antagonistic to the faith, and it creates such confusion for the followers of that leader.

After the fall and the dust settles, many people question if the person in ministry shows any signs of legitimate spirituality after all. Whether it is a pastor, president, chair, director, teacher, or leader, the fall can be devastating for people near and far.

Why does it happen?

  1. Leaders fail because no one is immune to temptation.
  2. Leaders fail because no one kept them accountable.

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 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 any 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’m sure she knows what she is doing.
  • I wouldn’t probably do that if I was in that position.

Why do we stay silent?

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

I have noticed this phenomenon 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 directionless before that leader.
  • The ministry was in financial trouble before that leader.

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

When they become concerned, 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.

It is literally like those surrounding the organization are drunk off the success of the leader that they turn a blind eye to the warning signs.

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.

The problem occurs when the accountability structure who has been quiet for too long eventually sees something that crosses a line that they try to step in and confront. Oftentimes, too much power has been given to the leader that it is a shock to the system when someone dares to challenge him or her. What transpires is a nasty fight for control.

What could have been addressed reasonably at an earlier 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.

What should we do?

“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)?