Leadership Summit 2010 | Adam Hamilton – When Leaders Fall

Posted on August 5, 2010


“Every leader knows the power of temptation and every church faces the possibility of a leader who succumbs. We must help our people resist temptation and at the same time be prepared in the event a leader falls.”


RESOURCE: Adam Hamilton Amazon Page

[Hamilton faced a situation in which there was an affair between two pastors on his staff, both platform people. Here is the summation of the lessons learned, and the reminders for prevention.]

So, how do we deal with this with our congregation? Especially when they are of higher influence? There are essentially four options:

  1. Say nothing.
  2. Be evasive.
  3. The “Scarlet Letter” approach in which you brand and distance yourselves from the people.
  4. Approach this crisis with transparency, honesty, and compassion. Which means:
    • Acknowledge the affair
    • Make clear the consequences.
    • We would remind people that we are the church, and that the church is for broken people.

Navigate the two demands of integrity. When you’re in pastoral leadership in the church, there are expectations and demands on you. On the other hand, the people must demonstrate being the body of Christ.

They chose #4.

We have a staff covenant. Every year they sign it, and they know exactly what is expected. We have policies regarding where you go with members of the opposite sex. If it looks like a date and smells like a date, then we’ll count is as a date. Remember, these policies don’t prevent this from happening. They are guidelines.

Then, they get “The Sex Talk” with Pastor Adam:

  • Reminder that we’re wired for reproduction, for sexual intimacy. It’s a good thing.
  • We’re wired for a deep desire for intimacy and companionship.
  • When the intimacy drive is crossed with the sin drive, we find ourselves in troubled situations.
  • We are constantly giving, so, often times we find ourselves empty and vulnerable.
  • How does this happen? We never ask the question, “What if this ends unhappy?” We only think in the moment.
  • Walter Wangerin in As For Me And My House, talks about the moment of the maybe.
  • It’s a short distance from communicating the feelings you have to realizing them. You gain nothing by sharing your feelings with the person you’re attracted to.
  • Don’t let the Devil ride, ‘cause he’s gonnna want to drive.
  • God is a God of a second chance, but it’s really hard to figure out how to recover.
  • Recognize that I’m always susceptible, and I’m always afraid of that.

So, there are five basic things I do to resist temptation.

  1. Remember who you are. A child of God, a follower of Jesus Christ, a leader, someone’s father/mother/son/daughter. “Lord, I belong to you. Today I offer my life again to you.”
  2. Recognize the consequences of your actions. Will I feel better or worse after this? Will I feel more or less human. Will I be proud or ashamed, more free or more enslaved? Use your imagination to fantasize about the worst possible outcome. How does this end happy?
  3. Rededicate yourself to God. Stop, drop, and pray. Most of us when we play with “maybe” stop praying.
  4. Reveal your struggle to a trusted friend. (James 5:16) Part of the power of sin is secrecy.
  5. Remove ourselves from the situation.

BIG IDEA 1. The aim of the Christian life is sanctification. We’re held to higher standards as Christians. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7.)

BIG IDEA 2. All of us are tempted as human beings. The final word of the church must not be a word of judgment, but a word grace. “Shooting our wounded” cannot be the answer of the church.

— VIA —

Seven months ago our senior pastor stepped down due to “moral failure,” a phrase that still has visceral power in the ears of our staff and congregation. So, you can imagine the “nervous laughter and giggles” coming from our side of the room. It felt, in many ways, like reliving the past several months. There were many confirmations, a few “hmm, wish we had done that,” and plenty of really good reminders.

Perhaps the next segment needs to be, how to recover. How do you then move forward. And, how is this different from “staff” members, to the “senior leader” as it was in our case. We’re living that out, day by day, lots of prayer, and plenty of mistakes. Regardless, we were all thankful for this installment as it hit quite close to home for our church, and Lord willing, we will come out the other end with a stronger sense of healing and hope for the future of our congregation.