Carl Lentz, Fallen Leaders, Worshipping People, and Making It to Your Finish Line

Over the past few years, I’ve seen so many leaders fall and resign.

That breaks my heart.

A few weeks ago, I read an article by Jeremy Pryor entitled “How to Predict if a Christian Leader Will Fall.

In it, he said, “I once had a Bible College professor vow to begin every class with the name of a new celebrity Christian who fell that week at every class for the entire semester…Would it surprise you that he made good on this promise?”

As I was discussing this with a few of my ministry friends, one of them said, “Does that have to be the way all of our stories end?”

I don’t believe it does, but it can sure seem like that with the amount of people whose stories turn out that way.

I also started listening to Carl and Laura Lentz’s new podcast, discussing his fall while he was at Hillsong NYC.

Regardless of what you think of their situation, listening to people working through the other side of what they’ve gone through can provide us with so much wisdom and insight if we let it.

In processing all of this, I had to write my thoughts about fallen leaders, affairs, and how we can make it to our finish lines. Here we go:

1.) Let’s Stop Worshipping People

A huge issue in our culture is putting people in positions of influence in our lives that only God should hold.

No human being is meant to be worshiped or idolized.

There is nothing wrong with having people you admire, but don’t make them a god in your life.

If we are mature, when someone we look up to falls, it shouldn’t impact our relationship with God at all.

It should give us empathy, compassion, and a heart to see that person restored.

As leaders, we also have to be careful not to get pulled into the seduction that comes with having influence. If you have influence, it is for one reason and one reason only: to serve others.

We must constantly keep our hearts on guard against buying into any form of pride or ego.

2.) Let’s Recognize that “It” Will Never be Worth It

I once had a conversation with someone that I know who had an affair. He told me, “If you ever get in a position where you think it would be worth it, it’s not.”

Carl Lentz said one of the main reasons he and Laura are doing their podcast is to prevent people from doing what he did. I admire and appreciate that.

I’ve never heard a fallen leader say that it (whatever they did) was worth it.

It’s usually the exact opposite. So many of them talk about how they lost everything they loved, and they often cause a wreckage of pain in people’s lives behind them.

I pray that as we’re all tempted in life, those words will be seared in our conscience: IT IS NEVER WORTH IT!

3.) Let’s All Stop Judging People

Jesus said, “Judge not, lest YOU be judged.”

Do you want to be judged? I don’t.

Is what they did wrong? Yes.

Are there going to be consequences for their actions? Yes.

Do you have anything to do with them or the people around them? Likely not.

Our response to someone falling should be:

  • Except by the grace and mercy of God, that could be me. I’m only one or two decisions away from being in the same boat.
  • I hope and pray they get the help they need and are restored one day.
  • Is there anything I can learn from what happened to them in order to prevent the same thing from happening to me or those I influence?

Outside of that, unless you’re involved in the situation (as a Board Member of an organization, a family member, etc.), keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself.

This is one of the best series I’ve ever heard on not judging others. I try to listen to it once a year to keep myself in check.

4.) Let’s be about Restoration

Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness [not with a sense of superiority or self-righteousness], keeping a watchful eye on yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.

Restoring our brothers and sisters is a sign of spiritual maturity, but judging and tearing them down is not.

Why is it that so often, we abandon people in the moments when they need us the most?

Let’s do everything we can to restore those who have fallen. Wouldn’t you want them to do the same thing for you if you fall?

What does restoration look like? (This is a much bigger subject than I can cover here):

  • Loving people unconditionally. That does NOT mean you love or approve of what they did.
  • Help the person get the help they need. Connect them to resources that can help.
  • Pray for them.
  • Be there for them. Be a good friend.

5.) How the Fallen Respond Matters

While we should be all about restoration, how leaders respond to failure plays a huge role in their restoration journey.

Have they owned what they did?

Have they repented?

Have they and/or are they doing the work necessary to recover from whatever issues got them where they are in the first place?

Are they teachable?

Are they willing to sit on the sidelines for as long as restoration takes place?

If someone can’t answer these questions with a yes, they likely won’t recover and will drive the people they need most out of their lives.

When I listen to Carl Lentz talk about his work over the past four years, I am filled with joy. It sounds like he has done a lot of work (and admittedly, he still has much more to do) on himself.

How to Make It to Your Finish Line

With so many fallen leaders, must we assume our stories will somehow end up the same?

I don’t think so. There are millions of faithful leaders we never hear about who make it to their finish lines intact. The problem is that we don’t hear about them or celebrate them.

So, how can we make it to our finish lines?

1.) Determine to Make it to Your Finish Line

This is one of my major goals in life. I want to reach the finish line by doing everything that God called me to do and keeping my family, friendships, and ministries intact.

Keeping that vision as one of the main priorities in your life will help you stay the course!

2.) Judge Yourself

We should have more than a full-time job trying to judge ourselves and ensure we stay on course.

We are all one decision or moment away from being in the exact same position that those who have fallen are in.

Don’t be so prideful that you don’t think that could ever happen to you.

Let’s be vigilant about our character development.

What areas in your life need to be addressed before they become a big issue?

3.) Get Help Before You Need To

We all have issues that we need to work on. Do the hard work now! Don’t wait until you are forced to. Go to therapy. Join support groups.

4.) You need a Community in Which You are Fully Known, Loved, and Challenged.

No leader should ever do life alone but in a community. If you want to prevent yourself from falling, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a group of friends with whom you are fully known, fully loved, and fully challenged?
  • Who do you have in your life that can tell you no that you’ll listen to?
  • Who can you share anything with?

If you can’t answer yes to these questions, do everything you can in the next few months to find your community.

5.) Confess Temptation: You Don’t Have to Tell Everyone, but You Have to Tell Someone.

If you are struggling with temptation, don’t hide it! Confess it! Tell somebody!

One of my mentors, Matt Keller, once told me and a group of friends, “When you’re going through a tough time…You don’t have to tell everyone, but you do have to tell someone… and the people you should tell are right here (a group in which you are fully known, loved, and challenged).

Why? Because they couldn’t care less, but that’s because they couldn’t care more.

You need a group like that with which you can be transparent. They could save your life, your marriage, and your ministry.

6.) Let’s Celebrate the Faithful the same Way People Celebrate the Fallen

Unfortunately, when leaders fall, it gets a crazy amount of attention.

When leaders are faithful for decades, they get no attention.

Let’s start celebrating and honoring those faithful leaders who have been faithful for decades. Every single one of them is proof that it’s possible and serves as an example of how to do it!

7.) Make Character Development the Most Important Development in Your Life.

If we commit to a life of discipleship, accountability, transparency, and community, then I am convinced we can have a generation of leaders that can and will make it to our finish lines.

I’m cheering you on to yours, even if you’ve fallen. After all, the Bible is pretty clear that we have all fallen short of God’s standard. That’s why we need Him.

Don’t quit. Keep leading. The world desperately needs YOUR leadership.

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