What To Do When A Leader Falls

It seems like almost every day we read about a fallen leader. Some are in the corporate world and others are in the church world. Most of the time it is because of an abuse of power. More often than not the wounding is sexual in nature.  

What do we do when a leader falls? What do we do with the disruption of trust? What do we do with the shadow that is cast over everyone in authority? What do we do with our sense of betrayal?


One, remember that our faith is not ultimately in human leaders.  All human leaders are fallen leaders. Jesus alone is the only leader we can trust without reservation. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you...do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27.

Two, don’t beat yourself up for trusting the fallen leader. Nothing happens without trust. Trust is what builds relationships and organizational momentum. I often tell people they don’t have to earn my trust, but they can lose it. 1 Corinthians 13:6 says that love, “Always trusts.” We are to give people the benefit of the doubt and only start putting up boundaries when that trust is violated.

Three, remember we all need grace. When we feel betrayed by a leader it is easy to “zero-sum” them. We can easily put them in the all bad category. They are just like us. Maybe we don’t have any scandals on our record, but we have all sinned against a holy God. We all need to receive God’s grace and give it. Our fallen leaders need grace from us.  

Four, remember that restoration is a process. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul tells the church in Corinth to discipline a man for sexual sin. In 2 Corinthians 2 the man is restored. This is the hope of the church, that everyone who falls is eventually restored. Leaders are held to a higher account (James 3:1). While they may be admitted back into community fairly quickly after they fall, much more time is needed to determine if they are fit to be spiritual leaders again.

Five, don’t let your heart get hard. Ephesians 4:18 says, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Whenever we choose to stop trusting, whenever we harden our hearts because they have been hurt one too many times, we become separated from the life of God and we lose our spiritual sensitivity. Don't’ let your heart grow hard.

Six, do let your disappointment drive you to God. Pain can lead us towards God or away from him. He grants us this choice. Jesus in his moment of deepest disappointment with God, prayed, “My God why have you forsaken me?” In the end, he stayed faithful and he let his disappointment drive him to deeper intimacy with his Father. The same can be true of us!

Ron JohnsonComment