Dr. Eric Geiger of LifeWay Christian Resources talks about leadership implosion
Many believers have the sense in the wake of the #metoo and #churchtoo movements that more pastors than ever are getting caught in sexual sin, although no one can prove it.
For many in the church, the bigger question is what leads to personal implosion and what can be done in the aftermath?
It's why Dr. Eric Geiger, senior vice president at LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote: "How to Ruin your Life."
Geiger says after watching leaders who have fallen he's identified three "explosive devices" that often lead to their personal implosion: isolation, boredom, and pride.
Geiger takes many of his insights from the life of King David. "This guy found his meaning and his identity in the Lord and if he can fall I know I can fall," Geiger told CBN News, "if he can implode I know that anybody can."
Geiger says the biblical narrative of David's life shows his isolation leading to his affair with Bathsheba and his boredom as he strolled the palace rooftop at night. His pride led to a sense of entitlement that resulted in his scheme to kill her husband.
Today, Geiger says he's observed many pastors that are isolated. "Sometimes a ministry leader can feel as 'if no one understands me, no one understands the pressure I feel,'" he explained.
A Christian celebrity culture can also contribute to the problem. "It can cause people to feel the need to be isolated," Geiger said as well as feeding the ego and leading to pride.
Dr. Jim Wilhoit, the Scripture Press Chair of Spiritual Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College, spoke about what can steer ministry leaders into sexual sin on a recent Christianity Today podcast. He says that pastors can easily neglect their own relationship with Christ and that can, in turn, increase their vulnerability to sexual sin.
"No one that I've talked with who has had an affair has had what I would say at that time a vital and well-developed relationship with Christ," he explained.
Wilhoit also sees small church pastors struggling with burn-out and needing intimacy and validation. "What is occurring with pastors that are on a large stage and where they're traveling with an entourage," he said, "it's very different than what is happening to a pastor with a small church who is discouraged and feels like he is just wrung out and feels in a counseling session someone who is deeply affirming of his wisdom and ministry and things just click."
Geiger encourages ministry leaders to be attentive to a lack of accountability in their life as well as to any sense of boredom or pride. For believers learning of someone who has fallen, he warns against thinking that they're better. "Another response is to be grieved for them and for ourselves," he said, "it's a reminder of our own fragility because all of us are capable of falling."
Wilhoit says churches should prioritize their pastor's spiritual growth. "Free up the pastor from some of these things that he or she is probably not as good at," he said, "so that they can maintain a vital spiritual life. Do all you can to safeguard that."
When there's a situation that needs to be investigated, Wilhoit advises that the process be independent, thorough and open to information from church members and attendees. "It is such a gift to a pastor to do a thorough review so that people in the church 'buy it'" he said, "give them a review that's credible."