THE DEEPER CONCERN IN RESTORING FALLEN LEADERS

With ongoing revelations of major ministers having hidden sins and unresolved pasts, believers are speaking out about the consequences to these exposures. Should we seek to restore these fallen leaders or prohibit any type of ministry in the future? Those who believe a leader has dealt appropriately with their past are asking for restoration to ministry. Those who are concerned about the deception and hypocrisy uncovered are crying out for real-time consequences, regardless of time passed. It is an issue that is emotionally volatile and the righteous anger is certainly justified.

What I don’t hear in many online commentaries are the realities of what happens, long term, to a leader who has fallen into sin. This is not simply an argument to uphold the biblical standard for pastors and overseers, but a reality check concerning the soul cracks that are created when a leader crosses the line into immorality and especially crimes against others. Regardless of any repentance, deliverance, or transformation they might go through, the broken covenants and promises, the compromise and deceit, and broken trust with family and friends, creates scars that will last a lifetime, regardless of any gifting or anointing.

In our thirty years of pastoral ministry, my husband and I have seen numerous leaders go through sincere and authentic repentance and deliverance following exposure of sexual sins. We have seen the power of God at work to restore fallen leaders back to their relationship with God, as well as to their spouse and family. It is always the chief priority in any restoration process and is a beautiful work to behold. But we have also seen the pitfalls.

Depending on the kinds of sins committed and how long they continued, the soul is forever altered. Perceptions and perspectives are forever changed and impartiality to the plight of others now goes through a filter. The ability to perceive and judge rightly has been impaired. Though a certain amount of empathy may be heightened, so is the potential for reacting in the flesh when put under pressure. Having once been compromised, the enemy stands at their door just waiting for another opportunity to defile and destroy. It is simply the reality of the work required to maintain a life of integrity after having fallen. They can still be fully loved, appreciated, and celebrated for their contributions. They can still find a viable place within the family of God that becomes mutually beneficial. But wisdom must be exercised in recognizing the increased risks that go along with any future public ministry. Especially if illegal activity or crimes against children were involved. 

This is why many of these fallen leaders should not be placed back into positions of spiritual oversight. This is not just a matter of forgiveness or freedom from sin. This is not just about God’s ability to redeem or restore. This has to do with the health and well-being of the entire family of God. It has to do with the collective witness of the Bride and God’s intention to have godly shepherds that are free of reproach and compromise.  

For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach.

There is a reason why the biblical passages that outline the qualifications for a pastor or overseer (one who gives spiritual oversight) are so specific (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). Theirs is not simply a call to teach, preach, or evangelize. It is a call to provide a place of protection, safety, and godly counsel backed by heaven’s authority. The bottom line is this: it is imperative that believers trust their leaders. This is why our leaders must be above reproach. This means there cannot be any doubt within the minds of their followers that they can be trusted. There cannot be any question concerning their integrity or ability to avoid compromise. It is why recent converts should not be given ongoing pulpit authority and why the reputation among “outsiders” is mentioned. Those who are given spiritual authority to guard, guide, and protect others must demonstrate lives of complete honesty, integrity, and spiritual maturity. Without that established trust, the foundation will be cracked and it will only be a matter of time before the cracks widen and eventually give way.

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a growing collective angst against church leaders. In the last number of years there has been a ground-swell of distrust towards pastors and those behind the pulpit. Unfortunately, our corporate track record in acknowledging and dealing with sin in the camp has been sorely lacking. Thus, there is a huge trust deficit that must be filled. At the same time, it is clear that the Lord is directing this clean-up process. He is purifying His Bride. We may have gotten away with some things in the past due to collective apathy and ignorance, but times have changed. The world is watching and we cannot respond as before. We must change our perspectives and practices if we are to have any legitimate spiritual authority, not only in heaven, but on the earth.

My point in sharing this is to simply call attention to the deeper issues at stake. Regardless of the cases currently being examined, we must look at our principles and protocols. We must start with the clear scriptural foundation for those called to lead the church and settle why this standard is needed. We must purpose to extend healing grace to any fallen leader and full restoration to their marriage and family. But we must also dig deeper into the practical and psychological ramifications of sin upon the human soul and the impact on the larger family. 

In the end, this isn’t about restoring fallen leaders as much as restoring the witness of the Church. This is not about individual gifts or anointings, but about the collective testimony of the Ekklesia. We are the God-ordained ambassadors of a higher Kingdom commissioned to change the world. But we must demonstrate the right to do so. It is our love for the Bride of Christ, and not personal attachments to favorite leaders, that should ultimately determine the path forward. I pray we make the right decisions – for the right reasons.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Picture of Wanda Alger

Wanda Alger

Wanda has been in ministry for over 35 years as a worship leader, teacher, author, deliverance counselor, and speaker.

Comments

13 Responses

  1. I would like to suggest that we move away from “trust” in anyone except God. There’s no Biblical command to “trust one another” – the only time the word “trust” is used it relates to God.
    I can love people I don’t trust.
    I can forgive people I don’t trust. I can pray for people I don’t trust. I can bear burdens for people I don’t trust.

    And, no, I haven’t been hurt by someone that I’m holding offense or unforgiveness toward. I’m just looking at a building with a roof and a door and windows, all complete…except one entire side wall has been blown out. The roof is hanging over the place where the wall was… there’s insulation and wires just randomly hanging in space…but no wall anymore.
    We need a new wall built without “trust” in a person or personality or program. Father God, restore the house! We trust You to rebuild it as it should be.

  2. We have the words of Nathan’s confrontation of David’s sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, but not the tone of voice. After Nathan told the parable of the one lamb slaughtered by the rich man, David charges from his throne shouting, “that man deserves to die!…” (maybe David really said, “I’ll kill that man!”). Did Nathan then point a prophetic finger at David and shout back with greater anger, “You are the man!” or humbly standing with his arms at his side, palms forward, tears streaming down his face, with a broken heart sob, “you are the man.” I believe it was the latter.
    When we confront anyone in sin, I believe we must do it with a broken heart. I believe God’s heart breaks when we break covenant with Him. God’s heart breaks when His children are harmed. Restoration is always possible, but oft times, restoration needs to be by degrees and total restoration may never be achieved.
    David’s reign was never the same.

    1. I think that it’s a case by case basis. When Jesus confronted sin in the temple with a whip, he went in with authority. When Moses confronted the Israelites dancing around their golden calves, he furiously confronted them. Some people and situations will respond better to a humble grieving pointing out of sin. And some people and situations require a firmer response, because of the ongoing danger and damage that they’re causing to other people.

  3. I have worked in mental health as a counselor for over 30 years. My first job was to lead an aftercare group for inmates who were sex offenders. They already had done the 2yr intense program. I can tell you they admitted their guilt and told their stories every time there was a new counselor. The last 20 years I’ve worked in outpatient therapy. I’ve had several sex offenders who have had to be on the registry and have lifetime supervision. This is all a part of consequences. Every minister whether pastor prophet etc. Needs to face the same legal consequences as anyone else. Sex offenders are not allowed to live anywhere within 500 yards of places where children will be nor work anywhere children are frequently present even if with their parents are with them. That makes job hunting hard but its for everyone’s safety. Also they are not allowed to have any social media accounts. They are under parole/probation for life. It’s only fair for those who are guilty to pay the price. Yes rehabilitation is possible and has happened. However, consequences are rarely removed. This is a perspective from someone who sees the average person and is an average person not a ministry person. I wanted to help people see there is accountability available.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience and observations. Yes. Spiritual leaders are not above the law. And they should face the legal consequences of crimes against other people, the same as anyone else.

  4. Wanda, I just want you to know how helpful this article and comments have been to me. As a former ministers wife whose husband was secretly involved in sexual sin and it wasn’t dealt with, I have suffered much shame and for him there was restoration but it was devastating to my marriage. But thanks be to God as I turned to Him he has healed me completely and I’m moving on in my calling. Please pray for him. He isn’t in a leadership position but is seeking to be and he’s not healed. The body of Christ needs our prayer protection from these unhealed and unqualified brothers and sisters. Thanks again! Blessings!

  5. Thank you for your perspective on the recent exposures of pastors. Very well said and I have heard many opinions on the subject but none as biblical as yours. Thanks again for setting a biblical standard for dealing with this issue because it’s not over yet.

  6. Elyce Mouskondis
    I believe once a pastor or minister repents from his sin he should receive healing and reconciliation from the body of Christ. But never put back into the ministry again. It would be too much a temptation that the enemy would use.
    But know one seems to speak about the victim’s that have been abused. Are they being healed and reconciled in the church?

    1. Exactly. What about the Bathsheba’s? I also think that there needs to be fruit of repentance, not just verbal repentance, before evaluating whether or not restoration is wise or possible. And if there is a victim, their safety is the first priority.

      And Wanda, I really, really appreciated your article.

  7. I loved Melinda’s response very good, I also liked Elyse response regarding the children or adults who have been affected by this great deception of people in their lives. They may have forgiven but they never forget what has happened whether someone in ministry or elsewhere as my case was. Pray for both sides.

  8. The exposure of Catholic priests and their sins against children, etc. decades ago is now the rest of Christianity’s issue. In so many cases priests were merely moved to different locations to wreck havoc elsewhere. The higher scriptural standard of being beyond approach without any coverup or appearance of coverup is what His Church deserves.

  9. Wanda, thank you for sharing this Biblical wisdom! Balanced & over-looked areas of concern you’ve addressed. The Bible is clear about sin toward another. The spiritual aspect & restoration is often the only that is focused. And often this is out-of balance equating forgiveness and restoration then to the leadership position & ministry rather than restoration to relationship/first to the Most High & then family & the faith fellowship. Greatly misunderstood the need to separate personal restoration from leadership restoration. The Bible clarifies also the two distinct areas of accountability — the spiritual as addressed above & the civil which is overlooked. The nation of Israel established ‘safe cities’ where the individual could go & live until the trial & judgment was rendered for the action of the individual. This would today in the USA be parallel & comparable to our criminal & civil court systems … with trial & judgment rendered after guilt established by witnesses.

    Would you please, Wanda, consider having your article published in Charisma magazine & any others – as your address of these much over-looked areas need be understood by the body of Messiah. Thank you! Carol

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