Why They Fall
The first week of November 2006 our nation was hit with a scandal in the headlines concerning the fall of a prominent Christian leader. I know this man’s work and was grieved deeply, as I have visited his church. Many participants and friends of our ministry have asked “why?” Since the scandal involved homosexuality, the questions started coming our way. While I was in Mexico City the scandal was made public. My first thought was for his devastated wife and children, then my thoughts went to the Church. Understanding it will take years to recover, I hit the floor! Broken, weeping and praying for this family, I realized that I, or any of my colleagues in Christian leadership, could be a fallen leader if it were not for the grace of God. I understand you may be shocked to read that statement so let me elaborate. The harsh truth is that many leaders are unwilling to admit their potential weakness and vulnerability to a specific sin outside the grace of God. Therefore, I write this article in the fear of God not criticizing Ted Haggard; but on the contrary, I write weeping with those who are broken. Any criticism that I might have is for the broken belief system that is pervasive in the Church at large.
Very simply, I desire to answer the question, “Why?” A book could be written in response; however, I believe the Lord has revealed some very concise reasons to share. There are three areas that must be in place for anyone desiring change. Additionally, there are three principles that must be practiced to REALIZE “freedom.”
First: You must REALLY WANT the freedom you are seeking. Freedom, or the desire for it, cannot come by manipulation or the influence of parents, other authority figures or other relationships. The desire for freedom must be tenacious and a willingness to do whatever is necessary. Second: You must begin the pursuit of gaining UNDERSTANDING to your own struggle. This can take time. It is a course of action that looks at one's life, processes the loss, the pain and the grief of one’s history. This activity is usually handled in counseling, therapy or in discipleship and includes several layers. Trauma, abuse and shame can cause one's brain to creatively compartmentalize ending in total denial. This process leads one into the pursuit of exposing false belief systems. They begin confessing all of the broken places and sin strongholds. Third: You must realize and embrace a process or journey of healing ending in a good purpose. Many come to counseling or to the Church for a "quick fix". It is unreasonable to believe that a life riddled with contradictions, lies, abuse, pain, grief, loss, abandonment, rejection etc. can be handled with a "quick fix". The amount and intensity of abuse or brokenness often defines the length of the journey. A life affected by a couple of years of pain will involve a briefer journey than that of one with over 20 years of brokenness. Furthermore, for those with a lifetime of sexual brokenness, it is unreasonable to assume an absence from struggle and temptation. However, there is absolutely a path to experiencing God’s grace and freedom. Yet, we must answer the question, “WHY DO LEADERS FALL?" or "Why does anyone fall?” Very simply the process above and the principles below are not embraced as a new lifestyle in realizing freedom, especially the Biblical principle of power in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
In preface to this section, I would like to partially define "freedom realized". Freedom realized is not the absence of struggle or temptation, but the ability to rise above life-controlling sin patterns. Therefore, three principles exist that one must practice to realize freedom. Violation of these principles brings disillusionment and certain relapse. In my opinion, the following principles are absolutely needed for realized freedom. I know of no man or woman who walks in freedom without these practices; yet it seems these principles are consistently violated to the relapse of many. To remember these principles I amusingly call them “ABS for Freedom.”
First Principle: You MUST have Accountability – a new lifestyle of openness, honesty, integrity, transparency, and confession while enjoying life with a selected group of safe relationships within your community. Accountability should not merely be a time of confession. However, if that is all you have, better to clear your conscience with confession in accountability than to have no accountability at all. Accountability works best face to face with prayer. Healthy accountability partners learn how to help in processing shame and rejection and understand the power of encouragement to build faith in the heart of another. Are you a good accountability partner? Second Principle: You MUST have proper Boundaries in place – ensuring that Satan’s snares, temptations of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life are thwarted (to the best of your ability). The word "boundary", for many, reveals a mindset of restriction rather than safety. The word "authority" also makes people feel oppressed, yet boundaries and authority in our lives is the Father’s way of protecting us. We do ourselves a tremendous favor if we can renew our minds with proper boundaries. The entrance of evil is prevented, protecting us rather than restricting us when we embrace boundaries. Third Principle: You must practice Spiritual Warfare –Although taking authority over demonic entities plays a large role in the pulling down of strongholds, Spiritual Warfare involves more. You must have a prayer life where you humbly expose your weaknesses. The Lord gives His grace to the humble. Therefore, most of the time, He will require praying with others over strongholds and places of weakness. This is a walk of humility. Those who fear rejection because of sins such as homosexuality and sexual addiction need a safe environment of believers where the stronghold of shame can be torn down. The fellowship of believers is then willing to go to the cross of Jesus Christ with one another’s sin in prayer. We approach the cross of Jesus Christ in prayer exposing the lies of Satan while leaving the pain, the sin and the brokenness at His feet. As Christ Himself practiced, we must take rightful authority using the sword of the Word of God in overcoming temptation and shame. Yet many with whom I meet are defeated and do not really believe Ephesians 6:12. Saint Paul told us that our battle is spiritual. There really is a demonic host of beings without physical bodies who desire to destroy God’s children, especially leaders. WE are targets; when alone, in bondage and in shame – WE are capable of falling. So beloved, are you bringing your demonic attacks into the light? Are you revealing where you are weak? Are you practicing Spiritual Warfare? The test is, and always will be, discovering if we will believe God. It is the testing of our faith.
POWER IN WEAKNESS?
At our 30 year Celebration I tried to address, "Why They Fall…" I simply mentioned that a root problem of “Why They Fall” is we, the Church of Jesus Christ, do not believe that there is “power in weakness.” If we could just bring ourselves to stop judging one another and provide a safe-enough environment for confession of our weaknesses before we sin sexually, or before it becomes a stronghold; the Church would rise up in POWER. Sexual appetite is the second greatest human appetite, yet the Church continues to be weak in admitting that MOST struggle at varying levels. Those who refuse to talk about it end up in the most bondage. We have an unspoken rule that states, "Leaders may not struggle with sexuality, lest they be disqualified." Wouldn’t this contribute to "WHY THEY FALL..."?
The idea that Church is a holy place can become a stronghold within itself. Fearing judgment, the Christian walk becomes the self-righteous pursuit of perfection or appearing "okay". This is true of MANY leaders. We cover up shame in fear believing "we should be better". In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 we see the principle that God's power or grace is made perfect in weakness. This reveals that GOD desires to show Himself strong through the weaknesses in the Apostle Paul’s life. Paul declared that a messenger of Satan, some demonic angel, pressed him like a thorn in his flesh causing great pain and affliction in his life. Paul asked the Lord to remove it three times, yet the Lord declared that in this weakness power would be demonstrated. Contextually this weakness confronted Paul’s propensity towards pride over his great revelations. How many great men of God have struggled with pride and their sexual appetite? The answer is MANY, some of the greatest men of God have struggled with sexual sin like King David, his son Solomon and many sons after him. This is no secret to God, many men of God struggle with sexual sin. We must want freedom tenaciously, gain understanding diligently while embracing the process. Realizing that if we do not practice the principles of ABS for Freedom – being Accountable, having Boundaries and practicing Spiritual Warfare WE will also fall. The fear of God is near me as I write this, for I realize that I could fall as well. “He who thinks he stands, take heed because you can fall.” “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.” 1 Cor. 10:12. Pray for those who have fallen and pray for their families! It is the hope in God’s loving kindness and in His tender mercies that keeps me from evil (Romans 2:4). I hope this brings clarity to “Why They Fall.”