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When Our Leaders Disappoint Us

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The topic of leadership has always been central to the church. Jesus Christ, the ultimate leader was described as the ‘good shepherd’ (John 10:11) and as Christians, we are tasked with emulating Jesus Christ and becoming ‘good shepherds’ within our own communities. Throughout the Bible we see Jesus Christ lead the disciples by example, through service and in love. In Jeremiah 3:15 God promises us ‘shepherds’ who will ‘lead with knowledge and understanding’. The word for pastors in the Greek is ‘poimen’ meaning a shepherd: one who takes care of the sheep and tends to them. Our pastors are highly important in our spiritual journey. For many of us, our pastors are the ones we seek advice from, they inspire us to go deeper in our relationship with Christ, live holy lives and feed us with the Word of God on a weekly basis. The question is what happens when our leaders disappoints us in their actions.

The nature of man

For I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 51:5

“Not many [of you] should become teachers [serving in an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will be judged by a higher standard” James 3:1. The Word of God already points to the expectation that is put on those who are in ‘official teaching capacities’ be that as a pastor, bishop etc. When people are on a pedestal in whatever capacity there is a pressure for them to remain faultless as they preach on (the word of a) faultless God. This, however, is unrealistic and condemnation of those who fall is unbiblical.

James continues from His acknowledgement of the pressure on leaders in James 3:2 where he says: ‘we all stumble in many ways.’ The reality is we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Any man that says he has not sinned is a liar. (1 John 1:10) As humans, we are all under the temptations of the flesh and a title does not absolve any man from this. The failings of a church leader should humble us into seeing our own frailties and our great need for God’s strength in striving for a holy life in a fallen world. Resist the temptation of pride to enter your hearts and gossip to form on your lips about those we are called to honour (1 Pet 5:5).

Facing Disappointment

Don’t let your faith be wounded, God is not limited by the actions of man. If our faith was rooted in the actions of man and how they portrayed the Gospel and carried themselves, then our faith would be fruitless. Satan is well aware of the impact of a leader on a congregation and when said leader falls into sin especially publicly, it can have a humongous knock-on effect on the church members and leave many feeling confused and broken.

After the Lord withdrew his favour from King Saul because of his disobedience, He had Samuel the prophet anoint David as king. During a time of war and Philistine intimidation towards Israel, David killed the giant Goliath, Philistine’s most prized warrior, and the Jewish women sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7, NIV). This caused Saul to become increasingly envious of David and plot to kill him. David, however, despite several opportunities, refused to harm Saul. In the midst of pain and hurt, we can take an example from David’s own experience of disappointment:

  • He believed God was the ultimate judge and feared the Lord: “May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. (1 Samuel 24:12)
  • Tarried in prayer: Throughout David’s journey, we see him constantly communicate with God and seek His help for his next steps. “Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him” (1 Samuel 23:4)
  • Humility to accept an apology: After Saul was confronted by David, Saul “wept aloud” (1 Samuel 24:16 and said “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.” (24:17) David did not reply with arrogance but instead gave his oath to Saul not to harm his descendants. (1 Samuel 24:22) 

Communicate

Having open communication with your leader is important. When your leader disappoints
you, you can often be left feeling confused and insecure in your relationship. This feeling
needs to be confronted. You can only pretend for so long and if you are not fully convinced
of your leader’s integrity, you will leave said leader at some point. Let your love be honest
(Romans 12:9) and your speech gracious (Ephesians 4:24,29). You should be able to speak to your leader or other church leaders when you feel troubled, not forgetting their past labors of love .

Grace

Intercession refers to prayer that goes far beyond a person’s needs or burden. The first response to any form of disappointment should be prayer, not condemnation. We should all endeavour to have relationships with our pastors/ leaders that are strong enough that they are in our prayers even before a fault is expressed but it should be reflexive when we see our spiritual leader in trouble.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed…

James 5:16

Further denouncing leaders is not the way Jesus taught us to live, He, himself is the epitome of grace so what ground as Christians do we stand on to further condemn? Our ultimate leader, Christ, was crucified for our sins, showing grace to all humans despite our continuous shortcomings. He loved us even though we could never deserve it.

“If you are a Christian, you are automatically a leader” – Bishop Dag Heward Mills. We are
all called to lead in some way whether that be in the home, church, work or as we lead people
to Christ. Within these roles and in our personal lives we all fall short, some privately, others
publicly. It is only God’s grace that sustains us and allows us to continue to press towards the
mark. Giving grace whilst being open and honest with your leader as well as seeking God
even in the midst of confusion are all necessary steps to overcoming disappointment.

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Tobi Oludipe
A daughter of Christ and a candle maker. Tobi is a recent graduate of Politics and International Relations. When she is not working and enjoys reading and drinking fennel tea. She joined the writing team because she is passionate about readers knowing the gospel and the never ending love of Jesus Christ.