As usual, my musings here are primarily about the larger evangelical community. Catholics and so-called “mainline Protestants” can listen in and exchange ideas, but my thoughts here are primarily about how we evangelicals should handle fallen leaders.
It seems every year another well-known evangelical personality is exposed as having clay feet (or worse). I’m going to avoid naming names here because I have no interest in participating in the feeding frenzy that follows such exposures–and often lasts for years.
Most recently rumors have begun to swirl around a well-known and influential mega-church pastor and evangelical author who has been controversial. The rumors say that he plagiarized some of his writings.
I have no knowledge of the truth of the matter and I don’t know anyone who does. I choose to believe that IF something happened it was an honest mistake–perhaps made by an assistant without the pastor’s knowledge. However, time will tell. There are people determined to expose the truth of the matter especially (so it seems) if the pastor is guilty of knowingly plagiarizing.
But I think it would be good for evangelicals to stop, stand back, and think about how we handle these events. Here are my suggestions:
First, refuse to believe the worst until all the facts are known.
Second, be not surprised when a spiritual leader falls. They are all “broken vessels.” Nobody is perfect. And leaders should not be held to a “higher standard” than other Christians.
Third, resist putting anyone on a pedestal. See “second” above.
Fourth, encourage all spiritual leaders to be accountable to some group outside their own ministry.
Fifth, expect spiritual leaders who fall into sin to repent and go through a process of rehabilitation and restoration.
Sixth, be open to them returning to leadership once they have successfully gone through the process.
Seventh, evangelicals need to have teams to work with fallen leaders of independent ministries to decide when they have been successfully rehabilitated.
Eighth, remember that these fallen leaders have families; have compassion on them.