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It is going to happen.  Take it to the bank.  You can count on it.  It is inevitable.  It is absolutely certain.  As sure as the sun will come up in the morning, if you stay in ministry, someone on your team or in your organization will have a disastrous moral failure.  When I talk about moral failure, I’m not only referring to sexual sin.  It could be related to finances or some other breach of ethical behavior.  

We’ve seen it so much in recent years that it shouldn’t surprise us any longer… But it still does.  I think part of the reason we are surprised is because we are usually blindsided by it.  We don’t usually get any advance notice.  Most often there isn’t a gradual awareness.  We are just rocking along, focusing on our ministry and then BOOM.  An unexpected hurricane hits and we never saw it coming.  

Because we don’t see what happens in secret, we can be lulled into a false sense of security that no one is in the midst of an impending disaster.  But when it becomes known, it is a wake-up call.  It is a sobering reminder that all of us are very human and very flawed.  Every single one of us are catastrophically vulnerable to temptation and sin.  And our power to self-deceive is incredibly strong.  I am susceptible… and you are susceptible.  Don’t be naïve or arrogant about what you are capable of.  Spiritual warfare is real and one of the most common battlegrounds is the battleground of moral compromise.  

It will be a devastating storm for the person and potentially for your church or organization.  

So, if you know a disaster is headed your way it is foolish and potentially disastrous not to prepare.  On October 4th, 2016, Matthew, a category 4 hurricane pounded Haiti with 130 mph winds.  Crawling at 8mph it then headed for Cuba and set its target for the southeast coast of the United States.  While the hurricane was slamming Haiti, I saw some video of a popular beach in Florida.  Everything looked normal.  No wind, beautiful palm trees, majestic sunset, calm seas.  But in spite of everything feeling normal on that Tuesday, everyone was diligently making preparation for the disaster that was headed their way.

People were boarding up their windows, gassing up their cars, buying extra water and groceries, purchasing generators, and making sure their family had a safe place to ride out the storm.

So, if we are wise, we will look down the road and see that moral failure will at some point impact our team.  The hurricane is on the way.  And, we will proactively make the necessary preparation.

One of the ways that we prepare is to own our leadership responsibility when a hurricane hits.  We don’t get to outsource this.  We don’t get to leave town and let somebody else worry about the hurricane.  No, we ride out the storm and then dig in to help with the cleanup.

The apostle Paul was very clear that we have a responsibility to deal appropriately with people in the church who fall into sin.  And that would most certainly include someone who has a leadership role and has fallen into sin.

Paul said It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 1 Corinthians 5:12 (NLT)

That phrase “it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning” can make us more than a little uncomfortable.  

In this age of extreme tolerance, the thought of judging anyone makes us squirm.  It is helpful to distinguish between judging and being judgmental.  To be judgmental is to have an attitude of condemnation, contempt, and derision.  To be judgmental is to look down your nose at someone.  It is the feeling that we are “more than” and the other person is “less than”.

That is very different than having to carry out the function of a judge.  When I think of a judge, I think of someone who has been granted authority and whose job it is to uphold the law and hold people accountable.

The best judges carry out their duties without being judgmental.

Many of the young leaders on our teams have grown up in a time when we haven’t talked much about these hard issues.  Therefore, when the inevitable hurricane of moral failure hits a team, there is often devastation, confusion, misunderstanding, and anger.

One of the ways you can prepare your team for the hurricane is to teach on this subject.  

  • What are the moral and character qualifications of spiritual leadership in the church?

  • What does the Bible say about dealing with leaders who fall?

  • What is the difference between how we treat someone as a person and how we deal with their position as a leader?

  • How do we support those who are walking through a moral failure?  And, how do we help them rebuild?

By the way, the worst time to teach on this is in the middle of the hurricane.

No matter how much teaching you do, and no matter how gently you deal with the person and the situation, you can expect people to think you are being harsh and condemning.  In this Age of Tolerance, any kind of discipline or removal from leadership will be misunderstood.  You will certainly have someone say “I thought we were a church of grace.”

Just like an actual hurricane, no amount of preparation will eliminate the damage, but good preparation can minimize the damage.  You need a plan.  It is my hope that these couple of articles will help you and your team create a well-defined plan for dealing with a moral failure on your team.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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