When Leaders Fall

Rarely do I write about politics or news events, but this week, my heart is burdened over the recent investigation into the life of a well-known Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias. For decades, he has been a defender of the faith, a person other pastors and teachers looked to and emulated. He helped spread the gospel to thousands, if not millions of people all over the world. When he died in May of 2020, we mourned the loss of a spiritual icon, but more recently his name is associated with perversion and shame.

Sexual abuse, misconduct, and even rape have been named as actions synonymous with Ravi Zacharias. At first, my heart broke. This man I revered and looked up to all these years was suddenly a fraud. But my second thought scared me a little-this could easily happen to any spiritual leader.

Teachers, pastors, evangelists-all of these roles require someone rising to the top and grabbing the reins of leadership. It can be quite lonely at the top. Spiritually speaking, it’s easy to believe lies that since you are a leader, you should have it all together; you shouldn’t stumble or fall anymore because you are expected to be more. The expectation to lead well, perform, and set the example creates pressure, but also a sense of isolation. If leaders admit a struggle, their leadership could be questioned. If leaders confess their darkest sins, then who would want them in charge?

Pride sneaks in. Arrogance hides the “small” sins. Self-protection and denial slink in the back door and we hold hands with justification. Preachers, teachers, evangelists, we all know the right things to say. We give advice and council as smoothly as we recite the pledge. Knowing truth is never the problem; but allowing that truth to permeate our hearts often is.

As I read the open letter presented by RZIM, the parent ministry for Ravi Zacharias, a phrase stood out to me: they “failed to love well.” Love isn’t just a mushy gushy feeling. Love isn’t always hugs and affirmation. Often loving someone well means meeting them in their choices and confronting them in their sin. It means checks and balances. Accountability. Opening their eyes to sin so close to them that they can no longer recognize it because of excuses.

And when that confrontation comes, we as leaders should embrace the other person in humility. There needs to be grief and sorrow over the hidden sins we carry. Integrity should manifest as we admit our shortcomings and repent wholeheartedly. When someone gets the courage to confront another person from a place of love and sincerity, that, my friend, is the definition of loving well. And when they follow up by holding our feet to the fire and asking us hard questions, requiring huge life changes-that’s real love.

But I don’t think this is just for leaders; this is for all followers who claim the name of Christ. Everyone will fall. Even Christians. Every one of us has secret struggles, baggage from our past, and junk we wade through daily, no matter how far down the path of following God we may be. NO ONE is immune to falling. NO ONE. Not me. Not you. Not Ravi.

The mark of maturity is in how we get up. Do we cover it up? Do we push it under the rug and write it off to a bad day? Are we sad people saw our weakness and vow to keep it hidden? Or are we humble? Do we admit our failures? Is there grief and repentance over our behavior? Do we seek out accountability and confess our struggles regularly to another person who will speak consistent truth into our lives?

Preachers, teachers, evangelists, we must be accountable to someone. No one should ever do it alone. And when we fail, because all of us will, we need to have surrounded ourselves with other like-minded individuals who will choose to love us well. Confession is not a weakness. Accountability isn’t just for new believers. And repentance is only an utterance away. Don’t let the position of leadership become a hindrance in the process of humility. Let us always choose to love well.

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4 thoughts on “When Leaders Fall

  1. Christy,
    A mutual friend of ours posted this on her Facebook page. My husband and I have followed Ravi for many , many years. It was devastating news to hear about the allegations against Ravi. My husband has been struggling with this news since he read about it. Your article is so timely, as we are going go discuss this subject in Sunday School today. Your article helped put in perspective that we are all human and everyone of us fall short.
    Thank you and my God richly bless you and your ministry.

    1. I’m so grateful that you took a moment to share this with me. I pray your discussion was fruitful. As I wrote this article, I looked at my own life, knowing there have been many times where I, too, fell. A friend confronted me in my sin and loved me well. We all need to do that for others and receive it as well. Blessings to you and your husband as you navigate this hard to swallow news of Ravi. It’s truly heartbreaking.

  2. This was beautifully written, and so true. Certainly we’ve all been judged, and been judgemental, especially as Christians, how sad. I just had to comment on where you wrote in the “white frame” that sometimes real love isn’t hugs and kisses but is confronting a loved one. That is a hard place to be and so hard to so, I experienced this myself with a gay daughter. I lost her for a while in her anger, but my love I told her coykd not be silent. Things are better between us now, but the prayers still going up everyday for the LIGHT to shine in her darkness. Thank you again for these words that comfort this Moms heart today. I just found your writings, website from “Christian Devotions” daily email and already love your work! Esp today’s on do it scared. Thank you for your real honesty, unfortunately so rare anymore.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to keep reading and seek out my writings! Confrontation is one of the hardest expressions of love we will ever exhibit, but it’s also one of the deepest, most loving gifts we can give when done from a pure heart and sincere motives-especially from a mama’s heart. Loving the sinner and hating the sin is a hard line to walk. I pray you let His light shine through you in your daughter’s life, loving her well and praying deeply, as I can already tell you are doing. Blessings to you as you walk out this life of faith, my new friend.

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