Why Christians Ministries and Pastors Fail or Fall into Disgrace

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Too often we hear of another pastor or large ministry involved in another sexual or financial scandal, sometimes destroying many lives in the process. How can this be prevented?

Pride and the Fall

Too often we hear of another pastor or large ministry falling into scandal, sometimes financial or sometimes by sexual immorality. In the process, many lives are shipwrecked. How does this happen? Your ministry could be in danger right now…even as you read this. The clear and ever-present danger is pride. One pastor was told by someone in the church, “Wow pastor…you’re one of the best speakers I’ve heard.” After the pastor told his wife about that comment he asked his wife, “I wonder how many great preachers there are out there.” The pastor’s wife said, “One less than you think.” When we start believing our own stuff and we crave and soak up the attention and praises of people, we’re headed for a fall. Either we humble or ourselves, or God will do it for us. And you know which one is more painful.

Abuse of Resources

The stories of pastors owning a fleet of cars, private jets, and large expensive houses is true, but the truth is, these are not pastors at all. Most pastors I know are bi-vocational like me. Many others are struggling just like everyone else, but these “rich pastors” are false shepherds who are only interested in fleecing the flock. They care not for the flock except for their possessions. Asking for “seeds of faith,” they make God out to be a quid pro quo God, or “I do this for You God, so you must do this for me.” That is pure evil. We should never give in order to get, but in order to bless. Otherwise, we’re just using the old barter system.

Unrealistic Expectations

Dr. John MacArthur brought up the point of ministries (pastors) having unrealistic expectations. He says that “If you think you deserve better than you get, if you think you deserve a bigger church, more faithful people, less criticism, if you think you’re not being treated the way you should be treated…,” then your expectations are too high. Your ministry might not be able to have a program on the radio, or have mass mailings, but the danger for most ministries having a radio program is their wanting a radio program for the wrong reason (pride!). We have to trust God to direct and expand the ministry, but it must be in His time and in His way. God might just want you to bloom where you’re planted for right now. Only then might He open up another door. If we’re faithful or content with the smaller things right now, God knows we’ll be faithful with much later on (Luke 16:10).

Lack of Vision

Hosea the Prophet wrote, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge” (Hosea 4:6), and Solomon added, “fools die for lack of sense” (Prov 10:21b). To not have a plan or a vision for a ministry is to fly by the seat of your pants, and that’s a precarious place to run a ministry. Ministries need to plan for emergencies…for the unexpected to happen. There is one who actually “dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray” (Prov 5:23), but there’s safety in the multitude of counselors (Prov 11:14).


Many cults have one thing in common. They have one strong leader who is over everyone and makes nearly all the decisions. One who is the leader of a nation is called a dictator. When there is only one person in charge, there is less accountability and sometimes less visibility. It makes it easier to abuse ministry funds when no one knows what’s in the account. The more people that are involved in decision making, the less likely there’ll be abuse of power or abuse of ministry funds.

Sexual Immorality

Being in the pastorate is unlike any other office in the church. When sexual immorality occurs from someone behind the pulpit, it’s over. It’s not like three strikes and you’re out. Once someone falls into sexual immorality, especially a pastor, their effectiveness in teaching and preaching is irreparably damaged. Can you imagine a pastor caught in adultery trying to teach on the subject of marriage and adultery, or this same pastor performing a wedding ceremony and telling the bride and groom to be faithful, when he hasn’t? Ground rules should include no married pastor every being alone in the company of another female, without at least another male or female being present.

Sadly, far too many pastors on TV and radio have fallen into sexual immorality and were allowed back behind the pulpit. Such a thing should never happen. The pastor, or “overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). Once the reproach of sexual immorality comes to light, they are not really able to teach anymore, at least from behind the pulpit. I was told this same thing by every seminary professor I had. Fall into sexual misconduct, and the pastor’s lost the faith of the church…and certainly respect. Living above reproach is the solution to avoiding sexual immorality.

How To Glorify Jesus Christ

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31)

The Purpose

If a ministry doesn’t have a purpose, then it will not prosper. The true purpose of all of our ministries should be to bring glory to God and to share the gospel with the lost, all the while helping those whom Jesus sees as helping Him (Matt 25:35-36, 40). If a ministry is not focusing on the glory of God (Psalm 115:1), then it will all come to nothing. A work of man may look good, but unless it glorifies God, then the ministry is not a ministry from God. It is the work of man. And we all know where that ends up. In the hay, wood and stubble pile.


If your ministry does grow, it is only by the grace of God. God alone gives the increase (Acts 2:47), so give Him the glory for it, because what do we really have that we did not receive from God (1 Cor 4:7)? The answer is we’d have nothing without Him (John 15:5). If your ministry have a few godly Christian men and women in it, you’re already better off. It’s hard to have any serious ministry with only a one-man or one-woman show. It takes brothers and sisters joining hands in prayer and resources, and serving those we come in contact with, but above all, sharing the gospel of repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). If we’re not in the mission field and if we’re not entering into the harvest, it’s all for nothing…vanity. It may look good on the outside, but the fruit is not of the Spirit, but of the flesh. So at best, it’s wax fruit. That will surely doom any ministry.

Here is some related reading for you: What Does the Bible Say About Pride? A Christian Study

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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