Are You a Leader Worth Following?


My first memory of a leader falling was when I was in seventh grade. I remember looking out my bedroom window to see two of the pastors from our church walking up to our house. They didn’t look happy. I found out later they were visiting all the families who had students in Mr. Jackson’s sixth-grade class. He had molested some of my friends, and my favorite teacher was suddenly gone.

A few years later another teacher at my school was found to be in an inappropriate relationship with a high school student. During that same year, there were two national Christian leaders who fell quite publicly. I don’t know whether it started becoming an epidemic in the mid-80s or if I was just coming of age and aware of it for the first time. But it seems as if it has snowballed since then.

In recent years, several of my good friends have been taken out of the game because of personal choices. Each time it breaks my heart. I hate losing friends. I hated having to be involved in a decision to end their employment because they didn’t live up to the standard of a church leader. I hate having to console others through their pain while dealing with my own. I hate thinking back over my time with one of those friends and realizing some of it was built on deception. The pain of betrayal is real, and it happens way too often.

In my world, everyone enjoys a good talk about leadership. We love to go to conferences to hear about a church that is being innovative or listen to a leader who has built an organization from nothing, seemingly overnight. We pay money to learn how to grow our youth ministries, put on more effective services, or get more people in small groups. In your world, it might be workshops on improving sales, increasing profits, or doing a better job with guest relations. The bottom line is often the driving concern.

And yet just about every week we hear of another leader who has fallen. It might be having an affair, stealing money, lying to a client, participating in sexual deviance, or something else that takes him or her out of the game. But the person is sidelined, even if for a season, because of personal choices.

When witnessing the falls of some of these leaders, people around me sometimes have responded with haughty shock or judgmental anger. I typically become quiet because I realize I am not immune. I am just a few bad choices away from being in the same boat.

It’s exactly for that reason I write this blog. Not because I am the poster child for perfection and morality, but because the opposite is true. I am just as susceptible to a hard fall as anyone who has gone before me.

That is why I want to build guardrails into my life; Mark Beeson, my friend and former pastor, calls them “rumble strips.” Those are the bumpy grooves on the shoulder of a road that keep you from going into the ditch. Without rumble strips, you could be in the ditch before you know it.

No one is going to put rumble strips in your life for you. That is up to you. Your rumble strips may not be the same as mine, and mine may not be the same as yours. But everyone needs rumble strips. It all begins with self-leadership; before we lead a church or a business, we must become a leader worth following.

Preorder my newest book: Marked by Love: A Dare to Walk Away from Judgment and Hypocrisy

Tim Stevens1 Comment