I’ve heard it said that the best leaders are the one’s who have learned how to lead themselves. I agree with that notion wholeheartedly and yet I find it to be the hardest thing to do on a consistant basis. One of the things I am convinced that leaders must do is occasionally take themselves out of the game. If you’re a sports fan it essentially amounts to “benching yourself”. As a leader you know when you aren’t healthy and at your best. You know that in ministry it isn’t just about showing up. It’s about being effective and allowing God to use us in service of His kingdom. That doesn’t always happen when we’re tired, stressed out, or distracted by ongoing private sin. Don’t get me wrong. I believe we all “lead with a limp” but sometimes the limp is too much and we need time to address it and get healthy before we can be effective again.
Got a note recently asking if I thought a lay leader should step down because they’ve been struggling with porn and masturbation. This is my response:
Here’s the thing, your friend has a sin problem for sure. But are we to think that there are others in lay leadership who don’t have some private sin issues too? Should they all resign?
That is why my answer is really not so much about the fact that she is a leader with a sin problem as much as it is about how she should deal with the fact that she is a leader with a sin problem. I would add that just because it is of a sexual nature doesn’t mean that it is special either. Rather than be punitive and automatically say they should just quit because they aren’t living up to all that a leader should (to some extent being busy probably helps keep them from acting out all the time!) I would say she does need to step down for a specific period of time not just because she is struggling but because she understands that in order for her to be a better leader she needs to address what is out of whack in her private world and specifically address the sexual sin.
In other words to be called, chosen, and to serve as a leader is no small thing. I’m not down playing that at all. But the fact is every leader both lay and vocational ministry leaders such as pastors have their private struggles. I don’t think the answer is to simply dismiss people. Nor is it for the leader to resign (although there are exceptions for sure!) I believe the best thing is for the leader to first “lead” themselves and take themselves out of the “game” so to speak. That may mean resigning for a brief time in order for the leader to focus on getting healthy.
Time away from the weight of ministry is a restorative thing. It allows the leader to remember just why they got involved in the first place. It allows for unhealthy patterns to be broken, sin to be confessed, and spiritual disciplines to become practiced again. It isn’t uncommon for a leader whether lay or other wise to drift into an unhealthy way of doing ministry and then feel pressured to remain in it because of the potential embarrassment of taking a break.
So in short, YES a break, a “Sabbatical” if you will, from leadership will likely do this leader good. Again, not because she feels guilty, but because she understands that leading with such a chaotic private life is going to render her ministry ineffective and driven by human power rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember Zechariah 4:6 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
The goal is always to be grace-oriented, and restorative in these situations. YES there are times when there needs to be outside disciplinary actions but that is typically with an unrepentant, knuckle head who doesn’t really want to submit. That doesn’t sound like your friend.
Courage, Pastor Bernie