Why are there so many evangelical Christian scandals? Why are so many evangelical leaders caught in scandal?
Today's headlines make it appear as if numerous church leaders are falling to scandals. While each scandal is difficult and painful, to say "many church leaders" are caught in scandals is not an accurate description. Unfortunately, it is the case that when a church leader is involved in a scandal, it makes for a sensationalized news story and becomes promoted, giving the impression that it happens more frequently than it actually does.
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Regardless, what is behind the church leader scandals that we do see today? There are many factors, but a few key motives typically can be found in such scandals. First, some church leaders caught in scandals can be defined as what Scripture calls false prophets. Matthew 7:15 warns, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." These leaders appear godly and effective; yet inwardly do not know Christ.
Second, a major problem involved in church leader scandals is pride. It is no surprise that many church scandals seem to take place at churches that have grown large and successful from a worldly standpoint. When a minister's church becomes very successful, there is a temptation to think it was due to one's own abilities. This pride then leads to choosing one's own sinful desires rather than doing what is right.
Third, some scandals occur due to a lack of accountability in the life of the church leader. Church leadership can be lonely and stressful, leading to poor choices that hurt the individual, his family, and the entire church. Add to this stress a situation where a minister feels he can get away with doing wrong and it makes it more likely that something will go wrong. In other words, if a person could get away with taking money or having an illicit relationship and not get caught, the chances are higher that it will occur.
Fourth, many church leaders are living an unhealthy lifestyle that sets them up for a fall. Work and family demands, combined with the pressures of dealing with the relational problems of church members, can lead toward making unhealthy choices in one's own life.
Fifth, spiritual warfare is a real issue that is involved in all of the above scenarios. Satan knows that taking down a church leader hurts many others in the process and brings ill repute to the name of Jesus (Ephesians 6:12).
To help our church leaders, we can provide certain safeguards. These include praying for your minister, providing adequate accountability, helping ministers maintain a healthy personal life, and choosing church leaders wisely. In addition, we are to help our leaders by not gossiping about them, to forgive leaders when needed, and to encourage our leaders.
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