• tonyllewellyn@hotsermons.com


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5 Reasons Christian Leaders Fail


In a perfect world, pastors and Christian leaders would hear the call of God, respond with enthusiasm, then grow from strength to strength in an increasingly fruitful ministry. Having achieved this and reached retirement age, they would then pass on the baton to someone younger to continue the excellent work while they pursued other ministry.

Sadly, this is not always the case.

In 2008, citing statistics by George Barna, Victor Parachini and the Fuller Institute, Willow magazine stated that 80% of seminary and Bible college graduates will leave ministry within the first five years, 34% of pastors’ marriages end up in divorce, and 37% of pastors confessed to having been involved in inappropriate sexual behaviour with someone in the church.

These are just some of the appalling statistics. I read somewhere that only 10% of pastors are still in leadership ministry when they retire.

So why do so many drop out of leadership ministry and fail to last the full distance? Here are five reasons.

1. Moral failure

Unfortunately, there is a dishearteningly long list of Christian leaders who have been involved in adultery, pornography, or have pushed the sexual boundaries. Of course, the most famous would have to be King David who was at a place he shouldn’t have been, saw something he shouldn’t have seen, and then followed up by doing something he shouldn’t have done.

As in David’s case, sexual impropriety is usually accompanied by deception as the offender tries to cover up what they know to be wrong. What people often don’t consider before yielding to temptation is that it’s a long road to recovery.

Hard-earned reputations are lost, relationships are broken, ministries are forfeited. And all for a few moments of pleasure. David himself reaped years of turmoil as a result of his adultery.

The best strategy is to protect your marriage and your sexual purity. It will reap massive dividends in the long term.

2. Developmental failure

Leaders should be committed to a program of continued education throughout their lives. If you’re not still learning, you’re standing still. And if you’re standing still, you’re really losing ground. You’ll be left behind as the culture around you changes, new information comes to light, and old methodologies become obsolete.

How many Christian leaders fail to continually grow in their ministry just because they have no plan to do so? So how can you make sure you are developing throughout your life? Here are some options:

  • Attending conferences. Everyone loves listening to a great speaker. But don’t make the common mistake of going to a conference, learning lots of great things, then doing absolutely nothing about it. This is apparently what the vast majority of pastors do. And it’s a big mistake. Choose one or two things, then work out a plan of implementation. In other words, don’t just hear it; do it!
  • Reading. Conferences can be very expensive and therefore out of reach for many. Plus you can’t spend every week at a conference. Books, on the other hand, can give you far more content than a conference and are much more reasonably priced. And as they say, leaders are readers. If you don’t read – and not just your Bible – you’re not really serious about leadership.
  • Videos and podcasts. This is a great way to learn and each has its advantages. The upside of video clips is that you can learn a new skill by actually watching someone do it. Very often, when it comes to practical skills, this is a much better way to learn. On the other hand, you can’t watch a video while you’re out walking or jogging, so this is where podcasts are the better option.
  • Workshops. Sometimes you may be able to find workshops in your area that are either reasonably priced or free. Take the opportunity to expand your training by attending them.

3. Motivational failure

Every leader will at some time face a loss of motivation. We call it discouragement. This can be because things aren’t happening exactly the way you were hoping. Maybe there’s opposition to the vision you are casting, or you’re just plain tired.

Here are some ways to deal with this problem:

  • It might be time to take a break. Rest is good for the soul. Don’t think you’re indispensable. If you burn out, your church won’t need to get a temporary fill-in. They’ll need to replace you permanently!
  • Get some godly counsel. Don’t be too proud to admit to someone you can trust that you’re floundering. If you need help, get it.
  • Delegate. How many Christian leaders reach the point of exasperation just because they are overloaded? Make a list of all the things you do and see who in your church can take over some of the things that you aren’t so well suited to. Your workload will plummet and the person you delegated to will be released into ministry. Assuming, of course, that you select someone whose strength it is to do the task in question. If there’s no one willing to take responsibility for the tasks that are overloading you, it’s time to teach on serving the church. Remember: you get what you teach.

4. Spiritual failure

This relates to a failure to continue in the unique disciplines of the Christian life. When we fail to do these, we may succeed for a time, but eventually, the fact that we are getting by on self-effort will become apparent and we’ll pay the price. Spiritual disciplines will help keep you on track.

Here are important disciplines leaders should never neglect:

  • Bible reading. That’s the basic level, of course. But also there’s Bible study, memorisation and meditation. These are important for continued growth.
  • Fasting. Very unpopular today, but any leader who doesn’t fast regularly isn’t serious about leadership or their walk with God. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what I mean by regular. But a couple of times a year probably won’t do a lot unless you’re fasting for extended periods of time.
  • Worship. Spend time regularly worshiping the Lord. This doesn’t have to be for long. But when was the last time you spontaneously told the Lord how much you love Him, or how grateful you are to Him, or how great He is? And I don’t just mean during your church services.
  • Prayer. This is the foundation of everything. Without prayer you will accomplish nothing because prayer is your basic recognition that you agree with what Jesus said that without Him you can do nothing. Skipping this discipline would be disastrous.
  • Church attendance. I’m assuming that if you’re in Christian leadership, you actually do attend a church regularly. If you don’t, then your credibility is going to be pretty low. However, when you take your annual leave, don’t take the opportunity to have a spiritual holiday. You don’t need to attend your own church at that time, but it’s a great opportunity to receive fresh input in another church.

5. Strategic failure

It’s easy to have a goal and yet do nothing to reach it.

If you have a vision from the Lord, then make the effort to work out some steps that will actually head you in the right direction. As they say, to fail to plan is to plan to fail.

If you want to see more people reached for Christ, what are you going to do to make it happen? If you want your church to relate better to the community so that people aren’t turned off when they come to your services, what are you going to change to bring this about?

Write down where you believe God wants you or your church to be and then figure out the steps you need to take to get there.

Now, I'd love to know...

What's the biggest challenge you've found in keeping yourself on track and avoiding failure? How did you deal with it?

Please leave a comment below!

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