Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Overcoming Leadership Mistakes

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

Every so often we hear a sad story of another Christian leader exposed for doing something wrong. These are vivid reminders that even Christian leaders make mistakes. Such news is always disappointing. Such news has the potential to shake the faith of those who are trying to remain faithful to the Lord.

Should we really be surprised that human beings fail? Just because a person is in a leadership position does not make them immune to mistakes. If fact, if adequate accountability is not put into place, being a Christian leader can actually be a place of incredible temptation. One reason that we struggle so much when we hear one of those stories is because we have placed our faith in people instead of placing our faith in Jesus Christ. We must learn to separate our faith in God from our faith in people. The reality is that sometimes a pastor will lose his temper in a business meeting. He shouldn’t, but sometimes he will. Does that mean that all the work he has done as a pastor is suddenly null and void? Perhaps a missionary took more vacation time than he should have. Does that mean that all the churches he planted are suddenly invalid? Perhaps you learn that your favorite Christian professor has padded his resume by claiming to have written more scholarship articles than he actually did. Yes, that was wrong. However, it doesn’t mean that everything he ever taught in class or wrote in the articles that he did compose can now be tossed aside.

While I do think we should call out sin in leaders when it exists, we should also give people a lot of grace. After all, isn’t that what we would want if we were in their situation? Our goal should not be to destroy them or their ministries. Our goal should be to help them overcome their sinful weaknesses and serve the Lord even more effectively than they did in the past.

I remember years ago getting into an argument with a deacon. He and I wrote a series of escalating emails back-and-forth to each other. Finally, a different deacon came to see me. He was very loving, but also very firm. He helped me see my part in the problem. I learned to stop writing caustic emails, even if someone else wrote one to me. I also learned the value of offering a brother in Christ a genuine apology. The issue was resolved and I think I was a better pastor as a result.

The question is not “will we make a mistake.” The question is “we will learn from the mistakes that we do make.” Learning from our mistakes actually helps our error become a testimony to the power of God to change our lives. But when we ignore our mistakes, or when we hide our sin and refuse to make it right, it reveals a darker side of our lives that is still in need of God’s grace.

If we see someone in leadership who makes a mistake, instead of looking for a way to humiliate them, we should confront them in love and seek to help them overcome their mistake. And if we are the leader who makes a mistake, we should be quick to acknowledge it, readily confessing it as sin. Then we can grow from the mistake into better leaders.

Lord, help us see our own faults and help us overcome those faults through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New England. He has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:

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