5 Deadly States Of Mind That Can Lead To Moral Failure


Probably the most heart-wrenching aspect of our work here at Vanderbloemen Search Group is occasionally having to hear the stories of churches and candidates who have had to deal with a significant moral failure. We love the Kingdom and work to help churches maximize their impact by finding them high-capacity candidates. But working for the Kingdom means working with broken people. We’re all sinners saved by grace.

We were reminded again of the awesomeness of God’s redemptive grace when watching our friend Greg Surratt’s video panel discussion, “What Happens When You Fail?” In the video, several pastors shared what brought them to a moral failure and how they reached restoration and healing.

Through listening to what these stories had in common with the stories we hear of churches who have experienced a moral failure in their leadership, we’ve compiled a list of 5 deadly states of mind that can lead to moral failure.

1. The Slippery Slope

“Slippery slope” may be a cliché phrase, but it’s cliché because it contains so much truth.  No one who has experienced a moral failure had it happen all of a sudden, with no warning and nothing leading up to it.  Big mistakes are always preceded by tiny compromises.  It’s easy to rationalize “small sins” or think that our unseen fractures of our principles as inconsequential, but everyone who had been through a moral failure can point to these as the stepping stones that led to the giant problem.

Heart check:  Have you noticed any areas in your life where you have begun to make small compromises? Can you see how these might have a ripple effect or grow larger if brushed off as not a big deal?

2. Going It Alone

It’d be pretty difficult to experience a significant moral failure if you have people in your life who are close to you and who can and will ask you what’s up when they see questionable patterns in your life. Everyone needs people in their life like that, but it can be especially difficult to attain for those in a high position of spiritual leadership. Everyone confides in you, but do you have someone to confide in? You can “speak the truth in love” to others, but are you so high up or so isolated that no one feels like they can tell you if they see anything in your life that worries them? Don’t settle for inauthentic, shallow friendships and accountability.

Heart check:  Do you have anyone if your life that can be dead honest with you?  Has anyone ever told you of a boundary they think you should establish?  Have you ever knowingly isolated yourself from others?

3. Living Out Of A Place Of Brokenness

Here’s another cliché we’ve all heard but nobody can deny the truth of: “Hurt people hurt people.” We’re all imperfect and flawed instruments, and everyone has scars; but people in ministry with unhealed wounds could wound the people around them. If you’re living out of a place of brokenness and scarcity, you might not have the emotional health to give of yourself in ministry, and you’re more susceptible to trying to hide or salve your brokenness in unhealthy ways.

Heart check:  Do you have any unhealed wounds that you’re aware of?  Would you benefit from counseling and/or time off from ministry to heal?

4. Living Out Of A Place Of Exhaustion

Almost everyone who has had a moral failure attributes it in part to the fact that they were living at an unsustainable pace of life.  There’s a reason that people joke that you should never make important decisions when you’re hungry or tired.  No one is at their best when they’re tired, and exhaustion can lead to making choices you wouldn’t make if you were thinking clearly.  If you do not have any time in your life for rest, if you pack your life so full that you are constantly overwhelmed and exhausted, you open the door for poor decisions.

Heart check:  Are you living out of a place of exhaustion?  Do you need to build rest into your rhythm of life?

5. [        ] Goes Before A Fall

Pride.  What some people consider the chief of sins, pride makes it easy to see ourselves as mini gods, in control of our lives and able to do what we please.  Pride says, “I would never fall in that way.”  But what we should be thinking is, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

In our materialistic world, it’s very easy to forget about the reality of spiritual warfare, and that there is a tempter who seeks to see us fall.  But those of us in ministry should be even more aware of our weaknesses and praying daily for God to equip us with the full armor of God.

Heart check:  Do you see yourself as “untouchable” and in control of your life? Do you view others who have experienced moral failure with self-pride? Do you pray for God to guard your mind and heart and actively take steps to guard them?

Our God is a God of redemption and restoration, and no one who has experienced a moral failure has fallen beyond the scope of God’s grace and healing.  It’s our prayer that being on guard for these 5 deadly states of mind and performing these heart checks regularly can help you as you seek to serve His Kingdom.

If you liked this, then you'll also like What To Do When Church Leaders Disappoint You.