Because I have witnessed so many failures and church closings, there was a time when I thought I was the church's version of "Typhoid Mary"--I joined a church, began serving, sometimes got involved in leadership and then the church would--in time--close! But, after much time in God's Word, seeking God and having many dreams, I realize God has given me a front row seat at these tragedies to objectively see the root cause of these failures, to speak out and to hopefully avert future closings and to heal and restore ministries that are on the verge.
Of course, in it's simplest form, it all comes down to sin in some form. When we say "there's sin in the church" the response is "of course there is, it is full of people". But I am not talking about the people in the pews. I am talking about leadership. When things aren't going well, when the congregation is dwindling, when the offerings are shrinking, when "sin" seems to be rampant in the congregation; leadership must do a brutally honest self-evaluation. No one else can do it. Only those in leadership can honestly assess themselves. Many years ago, my pastor once preached a message, saying "It's not my fault, but it IS my responsibility". Truer words were never spoken in terms of leadership! Every leader should have that plaque on their desk to remind them!
Sin is a cancer on the soul. It goes unnoticed for a long time, but by the time that cancer is manifested on our outward appearance (or in the church) it is often too far gone. When a ministry leader has a moral failure creating an atomic bomb level scandal, that is the terminal ending of the cancer. It started with a thought, it started with pride, it started with lust, it started with lies (to themselves and to others). When a ministry leader embezzles money from the ministry, it starts with a thought, with pride, with a feeling of entitlement, with lies. Those little "cancer cells" of pride, arrogance, lies, lust CAN be removed from the mind and emotions IF the leader will honestly self-evaluate, using God's Word as their standard. Only the leader can do this. No one else can truly know what goes on in their mind and heart. The problem comes when they become deceived. They succumb to pride and tell themselves they are above those standards God has given us. They are deceived and feel entitled to bend those standards to fit their desires. They twist scripture. They blur the lines of right and wrong.
Here is an example of blurring the lines of God's standard that doesn't involve a catastrophic scandal but still ended with a ministry ending: I worked closely with a ministry leader concerning the finances. This was a good man with many good Biblical qualities. But after awhile I realized he did not have integrity concerning money. He didn't embezzle money or anything, but he would use offerings taken for specific causes and use the money for whatever was needed the most. This happened many times and it greatly disturbed me. He was blurring lines of spiritual integrity with money. I'm sure he had the best intentions but when money given for building projects (for example) is used to pay the power bill without telling the people, that is a lie--a deception; and it is breaking a spiritual law. They say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and that is so true. He also tended to be very prideful and arrogant and usually favored and pursued the most affluent and influential members more than those who could do nothing for him. I would never publicly "out" my pastor. I prayed about it often. And I watched cause and effect play out over the years. The ministry always struggled in poverty and lack. Eventually it succumbed to that lack because he never self-evaluated and made the changes within himself to heal the ministry.
Ministry leaders don't need to focus on changing their congregation. They must focus on being the men and women of God they were created to be. They must be the walking, talking example of God's Word. Their people will follow their lead. Only when all of leadership self-evaluates and makes changes within, will they begin to see the changes manifest in their people. Every church closing, ministry failure, moral failure I have ever seen was rooted in some form of sin in leadership. That is not a judgement, I am not pointing fingers. I have had a front row seat and this is what I have seen and experienced. Those experiences have--at times--broken my heart, made me angry, made me cynical and frustrated. If you are a ministry leader, you are held to a higher standard because what you do effects more people than just yourself and your family. Because I was a PK I have always been very protective of ministry leaders. I have kept the secrets and covered them. Now I see the purpose in all of my ministry experiences.
Ministry leaders--pastors, teachers, worship leaders, evangelists, missionaries, singers, etc..... SELF-EVALUATE and make the necessary changes. Do the hard thing and bring yourself into submission to God's Word. Do not allow yourself to be deceived. Do not think you are "an exception" to God's Word. You are subject to the same spiritual truths as everyone else. As gravity is an unchangeable scientific law, so are the spiritual laws of reaping and sowing--of cause and effect.
Before a spiritual revolution and revival can come to the world, it must come to God's leaders. It starts with our leaders and flows down. If His current leaders don't step up, God will raise up new leaders to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
~~~Be blessed, Arlene