Leadership Lessons


It is heartbreaking and sobering to see pastors and churches struggle. Over the past month I have been processing some particularly painful examples. Here are some of the lessons and takeaways I have from watching it all unfold. These come in no particular order, and are not close to exhaustive. It’s just some processing out loud.

  1. No one is exempt from sin and pride. In fact success may be harder to deal with than suffering, particularly as it concerns personal holiness. That someone is a gifted communicator and has been used powerfully for the good of the gospel of Jesus Christ does not make him exempt from sin.
  2. Structures matter. The consolidation of power to the point that not even the Elders can discipline their pastor is clearly unhealthy and unbiblical. The principle of “First among Equals” must maintain that Elders are equals, and certainly that the Elders together can constitute a voice to out-vote even the one who stands first.
  3. Membership is critical. Related to the concerns above, for a church to stand as an autonomous body and yet have no voice from members means that it stands as a local episcopate. Members must have a voice and leaders need to work to build in mechanisms for transparency and feedback.
  4. Transparency is critical. A lack of transparency breeds suspicion and fear. We ought to work to continue to communicate consistently and transparently at every level. This must begin among the Elders, extend to the leaders, and include the members.
  5. The grace that we preach and treasure must also characterize our church and the culture of our leaders.
  6. We must function in accordance with our bylaws and ensure that the systems and checks that we have in place are not a dead document.
  7. Right theology and sound biblical teaching cannot guarantee the right application of biblical and theological truth in our lives or in the church. We must strive for right practice and a gospel-shaped culture to match our gospel proclamation.
  8. We must give our pastors rest. It is too often the story, after a fall, that a pastor has never taken an extended time to work on his own soul. Pastoral ministry’s unique challenges and toll require that time be taken. Churches ought to have good, generous policies for rest and sabbatical, and then be diligent in pursuing and applying them.
  9. Leaders, pursue health. If our character is out of alignment, if we are unrepentantly pursuing sin, if we are over-fatigued and lack the discipline to prioritize properly, we are all subject to fall into sin.
  10. The church must not be reduced to simply be a business.
  11. The church must not be reduced to a personal platform.
  12. The stewardship and responsibility that comes with greater numerical growth is wonderful and terrifying.
  13. Every single day I feel like I’m in over my head and that God has already done more through me and us than we could possibly deserve. If we ever feel like we’ve earned it, or like we can leverage and look past His grace, we have already begun a quick descent.
  14. We need to check our own hearts when we feel the need to criticize and demonize leaders who make mistakes, especially when those leaders are not in our local church, not accountable to us.
  15. If we find ourselves leveraging the fall of prominent leaders to justify our own complacency or argue for maintaining the status quo, we may actually be revealing our own ministry idolatry and unwillingness to engage, and even suffer, for the sake of the gospel.