It seems we are always looking for heroes, someone to place upon a pedestal and inevitably they fall from the heights we have elevated them! Sometimes it is simply they don't live up to the unrealistic expectations we place upon them but sometimes they fall from the pedestal because of their actions. Recent history is littered with prominent Christian leaders who by their own moral failures have crashed and burned hurting those who follow them.
The first lesson for us is to realize that we should not place anyone on a pedestal. The truth is, anyone can fall from any level regardless of anointing, gifting or position. It does the person a disservice, and us as well, when we elevate mere human beings to Sainthood especially while they are still alive! After all, dead Saints don't sin! <wink>
But what happens when Christian leaders do fall? Is that it for them or is there a process for healing and restoration? Genuine care must be extended to all involved, not just the leader. Support of the community must be available to the spouse and family of the Christian leader, as well as any others involved, directly or indirectly - including the congregation in general. The impact of a fallen leader on a community can be profound and special care must be provided to help lead people through this season, process the emotions and move on towards healing.
These few steps will start you on the right road to healthy restoration and reconciliation of Christian leaders.
Confession by the Leader
It is important for the leader to confess the sinful behavior before the congregation. It is not necessary to get into the nitty-gritty of the situation but a public confession within the Church community serves at least two purposes: 1) Communicates what has occurred and the nature of the behavior - this reduces the false accusations which may be worse that what actually happened. 2) Allows for the community to be a part of the reconciliation, restoration and healing process of the leader, family, and community.
The leader to be repentant, must not withhold relevant, pertinent or related information from the core leadership. These details do not necessarily have to be made public but the leader must demonstrate his or her repentance by "coming clean". This needs to include the taking of responsibility for their actions and not attempting to blame others. You have to 'own it' before you can be healed from it! A demonstrated willingness to be open and honest is a good indicator the leader is truly repentant.
Cover-ups are always a bad idea. These kinds of situations are painful. It is unavoidable. As painful as it is, love, courage and integrity must direct each step as we address the situation. Cover-ups are not healthy; 1) They never stay covered up and are a place for festering community and liability issues. 2) Most importantly, a cover up is dishonest, not loving and the antithesis of the Kingdom message we exist to proclaim with our lives. It does nothing to help bring about healing in the lives of all involved. We must not let our fear of a tarnished Church reputation trump the healing needs of all the people involved.
How Christian Leadership Differs
Christian leadership is different than business leadership. Business leadership often focuses on the ability of a leader to be profitable. If they get into trouble, they take their lumps and generally are re-hired fairly quickly if they have proven their ability to make a profit.
Christian leadership is very different because the leader is in a sense the personification of the message. It is not the ability of the Christian leader to be profitable, dynamic and charismatic or what-they-know that makes them a good Christian leader. The quality of Christian leadership is a function of the character of the leader - more so than his / her gifting. When a Christian leader falls, this illumines an issue of character which must be addressed or we are destined to see the cycle repeat - if not in our community, the next one.
For this reason, restoration must not only address the remorse of the issue(s) but also address the root character issue of the leader. Restoration must be deliberate with one goal in mind; the healing of the leader, the healing of wounds and addressing any issues of character so they can be healthier human beings - healthy fathers, mothers regardless if they are ever to lead vocationally again. It is a mistake when we short circuit this process to get the leader back in the saddle for the benefit of their charisma, gifting, etc. Character is something that is forged and developed over time and is often best overseen by a mature mentor in conjunction with wider accountability.
This process cannot be rushed because it is not just a check list of steps but the healing of the heart and the cultivation of healthier character. Not only does there need to be a deliberate process, led by mature leaders of integrity but the process itself needs to be honoured remembering that the goal is a whole person not just to get the leader back in the pulpit. Please hear me on this - if we are truly communities of the Kingdom we cannot short cut on these kinds of issues. Healthy lives, love and integrity must trump the financial and or efficient operation of business as usual.