The Crisis of Leadership

The Crisis of Leadership

© Rev Dr Gary Sweeten, Ed. D

This is an article I wrote several years ago and am updating because so many leaders are giving in to sexual and emotional temptations. The announcement today by Gov Sanford caused me to decide to replay it on my blog.

Gary Sweeten

Luke 6: 37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

39He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

43"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

46"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

We are in a crisis of Christian leadership. I just received a letter detailing the fall of a famous pastor in Asia. One of my closest friends in ministry has announced his impending divorce and the lay leader of the Norwegian Charismatic renewal has moved in with a young woman that is not his wife.

The leader of a large church nearby has gotten into habitual homosexual sin and the head of a Christian counseling agency in New York's Ground Zerohas divorced his well known wife and married his lover. An exciting new church planted among young people and growing rapidly was stunned to hear that their pastor was violent with a staff member and his own wife who had him arrested. To top it all off I received a frantic plea last week to help a church in the south that had gone through another sex scandal.

An old friend from Cincinnati started seeing a former parishioner and decided to explain it by adopting polygamy as a biblical reason. Catholic priests are falling one by one from sexual misconduct and the cover-ups that were designed to conceal them. Missionaries are leaving the field in large numbers due to depression, anxiety and relational conflicts and they may never return.

These are but a few of the men and women we know personally. There are many more and the church is doing little but shooting its wounded. At The Life Way Counseling Centers (http://www.lifewaycenters.com/) we counsel many leaders who have stumbled into deep trouble. Unfortunately, by the time someone calls for counseling it is too late to prevent the devastating effects of sin. We need more prevention and personal growth.

That has been my personal mission since I retired from Counseling and started Sweeten Life Systems (http://www.sweetenlife.com/ ). My team and I train leaders how to prevent these problems in the first place and consult with pastors and churches that are falling into temptation. We also help the churches and people who have been deeply wounded by these actions. We see many senseless and useless conflicts because we know that it is preventable.

Common Symptoms of a Leader's Coming Crisis

Luke 6: 37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

39He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

External religiousness rather than personal spiritual sensitivity. When a leader is caught up in constantly preaching, teaching, confronting others and preparing to preach or teach, he is in trouble. He rarely spends time with God in private personal prayer, worship and meditation and is rarely quiet.

  • Works more than 60 hours each week. Rarely takes time off. Is bored when he is not involved in activities. Makes sure everyone knows he is working harder than he or she. He moves quickly from one big event to another. Does not develop relationships or rest and relax but is always moving. Expects family and others to work hard to "support him".

  • Moves away from mutual submission to family and staff to an authoritarian position. Is not humble with staff, family and members. Will only "submit" to other preachers or equally busy leaders who cannot really know him. Reminds family and staff he is "important" SENIOR PASTOR, APOSTLE, or HEAD OF STAFF! Titles are key to identity to keep the master’s ego intact.

  • Preaches teaches and writes on the importance of submission and is easily offended when others disagree with him.

  • Becomes distant from family and staff and former friends who really know him. May use his power to threaten team to keep them from prying into his "private" affairs. Avoids people with insight and discernment. Surrounds self with "yes men." Is arrogant.

  • Irrational about his ideas and insists they are correct even if others disagree. Is hardheaded and claims to hear God about dubious things.

  • If caught in a compromising position will proudly proclaim instant "healing" and/or "deliverance." Usually by a famous healer from far away who will then come to the church and teach on his "Miraculous healing /deliverance ministry" and how the Senior Pastor-Apostle had been instantly and permanently cleansed of all sin. (For example, "The Jimmy Swaggart exorcism.")

  • Claims extraordinary spiritual wisdom, faith, and insights. Reveals that God has been speaking to him personally and accepts no accountability for confirmation.

  • Is away from his wife and family much of the time. The couple is rarely seen hugging, holding hands or kissing. She is very quiet about their relationship for she knows there is a problem and he avoids her. Has little intimacy and he stonewalls her concerns.

  • Anger. May lash out at sinners, men who judge and hypocrites. Often preaches about spiritual warfare and is under constant attack from the devil. Personal problems are seen as attacks.

  • May begin to wear dark clothing and seem very dark in mood. Performs religious acts but seems not to be spiritual.

  • Will usually not exercise or eat right to take care of himself.

The end of such a lifestyle is burn out, spiritual blindness and confusing sex with the Spirit. They cannot discern the difference between sex and spirituality. They stop being intimate with God and with their wives. The family is just one more place where the leader is boss; king; in authority.

There is a lack of honest intimacy with friends, staff and colleagues. Instead of light, spiritualjoy they develop a heavy religiousness. Works righteousness replaces living by faith. Sermons and talks on "doing more" replace "being and abiding." Anger replaces patience and the fruit of the Spirit disappear from his life. Fun is seen as dangerous and others who relax are condemned with scripture about the last days and God's call to work hard in the harvest.

This downward cycle of destruction will not stop until it hits bottom and many lives are destroyed. I am still picking up the pieces of a sin-cycle that occurred in the Jesus Movement in 1974. The pain and devastation will flow from generation to generation unless there is massive healing. Prevention is the only real cure and few of us know how to properly intervene before he hits bottom.

What can we do?

Luke 6: 43"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.


We know the things that will not work.

  • Knowing more passages of scripture does not work. In each instance noted here the players are Bible believing, conservative leaders who preach and teach the scripture.

  • Calling for repentance does not work. Each of these leaders was known for calling others to change. Heads of anti smut campaigns are failing as well as pastors.  
  • It doesn’t work to change venues and avoid the "tempting woman.” This simply covers up the real causes and cures of the problem.  

The issue is not sex. It is a lack of intimacy with God’s Spirit. No man would give up his wife, kids, extended family, legacy, reputation, career, finances, friends and future for a one night stand in the sack. Would Governor Sanford or Governor Spitzer give up their entire lives for a bit of sex if that were all they were after? A Psychiatrist today on Fox News said that the issue is a strong sex drive. I strongly disagree. 

This is much deeper than sex. To the person so tempted it is an obsession, a compulsion and seems like an avenue to eternal life. The object of the obsession seems like the answer to all our problems and will fulfill all our dreams. 

God created us to have intimacy with Him and then filled us with His Spirit. At first we who are young in Christ may express our intimacy through action, works and thinking about theology. After several years of following Christ we become unable to maintain our works oriented approach to faith and, in God’s developmental stages, we need to develop a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit within us. 

Unfortunately, few Evangelical Protestants learn how to relate with the Spirit in any way other than doing and what is needed in maturity is learning to relate with God as being not doing. Early in life our Personhood /Being comes primarily from Performing / Doing. As we age, we must change our approach but old habits die hard. 

If we do not learn how to become intimate with God we shall start looking for another way to get that "inner spiritual fix”. A member of the opposite sex has been the favorite source of false spiritual intimacy in history. Thus, the "love object” becomes larger than life and perfect as a "soul mate” and the "one man or woman in the world who can make me whole”. They are not seen as human with flaws and weaknesses but a life force that will fill the hole in my soul. 

The "love object thus is not a real person but someone who serves as a "screen for projecting my fantasies upon. We can rationally discuss Perceptions with a wayward soul but his Projections must be dealt with through intimacy with the Holy Spirit. 

Possible Positive Action Steps

Luke 6: 46"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."  

Spend time listening to the Spirit. Learn to listen with grace to the movement of the inner voices of the Holy Spirit through dreams, visions, words and scripture. Write your dreams down and ask God to reveal His meanings to you. 

Develop intimate, mutually submissive relationships with your wife. 

Start a Leadership Coaching Group for healing, growth and support with grace filled brothers who understand spiritual intimacy. Shared confession, spiritual practices of grace and a loving brotherhood are essential. 

Avoid anyone that takes a works righteous approach to Christianity. Have fun and develop friends. Our weekly golf game in Cincinnati allows Christian men and women to prevent burn out and the problems that crop up because of it. 

Develop mutually submissive sharing with staff and others. By allowing others to question us and our behavior we open ourselves to transparent fellowship that can help us foster healing the roots of Projection. 

Remember that vacations, time off, relaxation, fun, sleep, laughter and joy are the marks of maturity. When a pastor gets too serious he is ready for a fall. When he gets angry with the flock it is a danger sign. 

I would appreciate hearing from you to get your ideas about ways to develop healthier leaders. If we do not respond who will?

You can reach me at gary@sweetenlife.com.

 

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