Very few things hurt so much, and are so damaging, than when a spiritual leader fails us in a big way. I am reminded of that a lot this week as I follow the fallout at my previous church in Chicago, Harvest Bible Chapel, and as I follow what is going on in the Southern Baptist Convention regarding sex offenders, and Willow Creek Church, and Gospel for Asia (and the list goes on). Sometimes, leaders fail us when they make mistakes. Other times, they fail us by their sin. It can be direct or it can be obscure. It might be the pastor himself, a deacon, an elder, or a teacher. Whoever it is, whatever they’ve done, when our leaders fail us spiritually, it is devastating.
So what do we do?
The first thing we do is to not give up on God or on the church. Remember, God is bigger than any person and He is bigger than any church. Just like this meme states, we never let a bad experience at a restaurant keep us from eating out. We may switch restaurants or we may take action with a manager at that restaurant, but we don’t quit eating out altogether. Likewise, a bad experience shouldn’t keep us away from God or the church.
Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The Bible tells us to always be meeting with other believers. This is so important to our spiritual walk.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
1 Corinthians 14:26
But it is so hard to continue meeting with Christians when Christians are the ones who have hurt us. When those Christians are our leaders, we start to doubt what we have learned and we resent where we are at. How do we move forward in a Biblical manner?
We’ve already discussed #1. You don’t give up on God and you don’t give up on church, no matter what your feelings say. #2 is to remember that the actions of one person are not the actions of every person. The other Christians in your church may be hurting as well. Be careful to not blame others for things they did not do. #3 is this, you forgive. This sounds easy, right? But I think we all know that forgiveness is hard to come by when our leader has sinned egregiously and isn’t even repentant about it. But we are instructed to forgive anyway.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
There’s no wiggle room here. You don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven. Most likely, you are unable to forgive on your own, and that is ok. Reach out to God, pray to Him, and let Him lead you to forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness does not mean that you condone the actions. It means that you are releasing the hurt, anger, resentfulness, and more, and giving it to God.
It is important here to remember that everyone is a sinner. Everyone. God can forgive anyone. Forgiveness does not mean that there aren’t consequences. Certain sins, and certain actions, need to have consequences.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Once you’ve set your mind on forgiveness (and remember, you may have to continually ask for help in that area), you can move on to #4. This is usually where we want to start, but we cannot start here. Your mind must first be set on staying in church, not giving up on God, and forgiveness. #4 is where you start to make decisions.
Was this a one-person sin or a sin committed by the whole church? Is this a one-time sin or a habitual one? Is the church handling the situation Biblically? Is the sin being covered up? Should I stay and help fix the problem? Do I need to leave and go to another church?
These are hard questions. You won’t be able to properly answer them without God’s guidance. And the answer God gives you may not be the answer God gives someone else. There is so much to be written on this topic. Too much for one devotional. But I pray that this gives you a starting point.
How has your leader failed you? Was this hurt deliberate or by accident?
If it was an accident, write down your hurts. Then, write down scripture to show how it was wrong. Find a way to work through the issue with the leader.
If it was deliberate, is the leader repentant? Remember, repentant means to turn away. It’s not just being sorry.
Have you forgiven this person? If not, what is keeping you from forgiving?
Pray, pray, pray. Only God can lead you to the right decisions/actions. Lay out your heart, then take time to listen.
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