1. The Misuse of Money – Many leaders are careless in the handling of finances. Greed can sway sound judgment, leading to sin and eventual downfall. Too often God’s resources have been diverted to personal use. Clothes donated to the poor have been taken by those handling them. Pastor’s salaries have been supplemented from funds for evangelism.
2. The Abuse of Power – There is a tendency for leaders to wield power over followers beyond its intended use and to view special privileges as their personal right. Their leadership style is more reflective of a “chief” than a “shepherd.” Rather than empowering followers for service, they lead for their own personal benefit. Usually these leaders have no accountability system. They stand at great risk.
3. Pride – Success in ministry can pave the way for inappropriate pride to develop within a leader. Self-centeredness can set in, leading to poor decisions and ungodly behavior. We do well to heed James’ counsel, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (Jas. 4:l0)
4. Sexual Misconduct – Illicit sexual relationships have been a powerful tool in the enemy’s hands against God’s leaders. David’s sin with Bathsheba has been repeated countless times in our generation, with no less devastating effects.
5. Family Dissention – Unresolved conflicts between husband and wife or between parents and children can have repercussions on leadership effectiveness. Leaders such as Eli and David, paid a dear price in leadership due to family problems.
6. Complacency – As a leader becomes complacent in ministry there is often a tendency to relax and rely on the successes of the past. Johannes Mazibuko, pastor with the Alliance Church in Swaziland, comments, “There are many repercussions when a leader ceases to grow also. One is that the followers do not grow also. You cannot lead people father than you have gone yourself. Also, vision is no longer there. Instead fights begin. When people are no longer developing, they start to quarrel.”
It is important to note that each barrier is deeply rooted in character issues, rather than in lack of ministry skills. Personal integrity lies at the heart of the matter. A Zimbabwean leadership trainer observes, “Some leaders look strong publicly, and yet they are finished in their private life. When there is a crack in your character, one day it will be opened. Many have long fallen down inwardly only to have it surface later. A good leader is a good leader in his own personal life with God.”
Moss Ntlha, General Secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of Sooth Africa makes the following assessment, “I find that there is a tendency for Christian leaders to want to want to be served rather than serve, to be out for glory rather than sacrifice. It’s very clear that without providing a leadership that has integrity, where what we preach and what we do is one, it’s going to be very difficult to convince anyone that we mean business.”
In light of these barriers, what can be done to ensure a good finish? The Apostle Paul realized that there is much that can be learned by studying the lives of other leaders. He wrote in Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.” Referring to the stories of God’s people in the Old Testament, he says, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” The wise leader will learn from the mistakes of others and train himself to avoid them. In the words of an African proverb, “The person who is ever ready for war is never defeated.”
Dean Carlson (Dean Carlson is Director of Africa Ministry Resources, Southern Africa Region. He lives in Johannesburg with his wife Kathie and three children.)
Clinton, J. Robert, THE MAKING OF A LEADER, Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress. 1988
Clinton, J. Robert, “The Mantle of the Mentor”, Barnabas Publishers. 1993
Clinton, Richard and Paul Leavenworth, STARTING WELL: BUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION FOR A LIFETIME OF MINISTRY, Altadena, CA, Barnabas Publishers. 1994