When Leaders Fail Us…Or Hurt Us


I saw an ancient video of my mentor the other day.  While the hair and the sport coat brought a lot of laughs, it was a nostalgic moment as I recalled the good old days…when he was the rockstar, the 4th member of the Trinity, and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound.  I’ve learned since then.  We’ve had countless victories, things to clap and dance over.  But we’ve had our not so memorable moments as well.  Said things in frustration or under pressure, gotten crabby, and said the wrong thing at the absolutely wrong time.  But we work through it.  Our love and dedication to each other ensures that we make peace.  However, not all relationships are that strong; to the contrary, the majority are probably fragile.

I’ve heard countless horror stories of pastors or leaders:  insensitive, cruel, aloof, distant, uncaring, unkind, mean, bitter, critical, and so on. 

Complexity Of Spiritual Leadership
It’s difficult to explain the life of a pastor, especially the lead pastor.  I’ve never been the boss, but I see, to a degree, the burden he carries.  Pastors are expected to be counselors, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, movers, mechanics, babysitters, referees, CEO’s, janitors, financial advisors, theologians, surrogate family members…and to be available 24/7.

I was told that ministry is like swimming naked in a fishbowl.  People notice every detail about us.  A lady in our church pointed out a tie that she’d never seen before.  She was right because I’d never worn it.  They know when I have new shoes.  They notice everything:  when we’re ecstatic, moody, or out of sorts.  I tell our younger guys that it doesn’t take people long to realize that we don’t walk on water.  They expect us to be perfect but always remind us when we’re not.

Here’s some things to consider:  leaders are people too.  We have bills, car problems, family issues, sickness, lawns to take care of, financial worries…everyday problems.  Now add to that the stress of helping to bear the burden of the church or ministry.  The concern is not just over people’s lives but their very souls.  This is in no way an excuse for bad behavior, attitudes, or treatment.  The fruit of the Spirit applies to us also.  But in the midst of daily battles, leaders in a moment of weakness, just may be acting out on their stress.  90% of pastors are insecure and never feel they’re doing a good enough job.  Add to that difficult, unreasonable, demanding people who point out every flaw, misspeak, and misstep.

Great Justification.  Now, what about us?
I in no way want to minimize some of the situations people have endured.  People feel used, abused, manipulated, robbed, emotionally bankrupt, abandoned, etc.  There are some leaders who are just plain jerks.  Others are struggling and are trying.  While others are just mislabeled and misunderstood.  Just for a moment, consider the following questions:

  • Have you tried to see it from their point of view?  Within the context of their lives?
  • How often do you pray for your pastor/leader?
  • Have you sinned in your anger and hurt?  Have you involved a third party?
  • Is it possible you have unmet and unfair expectations that you’re projecting on them?
  • Have you tried talking it out?
  • Have you struck back?
  • What is your role in the conflict?
  • Have you tried to make peace?
  • How many times has this happened in the past?  Do you have a regular habit of being offended by leaders?

Then let’s make sure we go through these steps:

Make an effort to talk it through
Don’t just let feelings fester and turn into resentment.  Give your pastor a chance to explain and even apologize.  Chances are, they aren’t even aware of what they did.  When you do this, treat them with respect and dignity.  (1 Timothy 5:1).

As I have written about, and had to practice many times, forgive.  And then forgive again.  There is no alternative.  For your sake, your leader’s sake, and the sake of the ministry, don’t hold onto offense (Mark 11:25).

Recognize what God is trying to teach you
God, what are you trying to teach/show me?  Not my pastor but me?  How do you want to use this situation to mold and shape me?  How can I better serve my leaders?  (Philippians 1:6)

Be compassionate
Dare to give your pastor the benefit of the doubt, perhaps do what maybe he’s not willing to do.  Give him a break.  You could be a part of God’s plan for helping him if you remain humble and available before Him.  You might not even realize the time he’s been gracious with you (Ephesians 4:32).

Leave it in God’s hands
Don’t worry about the process God is taking them through.  If they’re leaving behind a trail of destruction, God will get ‘em.  He wants qualified people to oversee His children.  Leaders will be judged first, and on a higher standard (Proverbs 19:21).

Christ is the Head of the Church
God will not allow His Church to fall apart.  He will orchestrate whatever needs to happen whether people are responsive and obedient or not (Colossians 1:8).

Simply receive God’s grace to forgive and mend relationships, and pray the same grace on your leaders. Fight for your church/ministry, your leaders, and your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Do everything you can to make peace.  Don’t do what’s easiest and get in the habit of abandoning ship and church hopping.  Stay where God plants you and let Him use you (Colossians 1:11).


One thought on “When Leaders Fail Us…Or Hurt Us

  1. This made me weep and brought me to repentance. Thank you for unfolding such truth before us. We often take for granted the pastors we have, not realizing that our pastors are just as human as us; with much more responsibility. Thank you Terry for being such a great Pastor & friend.

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