When a Spiritual Leader Lets You Down

🌺  Written by Brittany Ann

When a Spiritual Leader Lets You Down | Equipping Godly Women

It’s a sad but unfortunate fact–people let us down sometimes. And as hard as it is when a friend disappoints you, having a pastor or other spiritual leader disappoint you is even worse. These are the people we look up to to guide us in the right direction. Yet, because they are human, they still stumble and fall.


When this happens, you have several options. You can wallow in grief, get mad at the person or even leave the church. Or you can process your emotions appropriately and move on. Here’s how to do so.


1. Realize that They are Only Human


No matter how wise, good or wonderful you thought your spiritual leader was, the truth is that they are only human. They will fall and make mistakes sometimes, just like you do. They needs grace, just like you do. In fact, they probably need it even more so since their faults are often displayed publicly.


2. Pray for Them


The most important thing you can do when your spiritual leader disappoints you is to pray. Pray that they will turn from their sin and be restored into a right relationship with the Lord. Pray that the Lord would bring about the people and circumstances that your spiritual leader needs for the journey. Pray for all of the people who are affected by the leader’s sin, both directly and indirectly.


3. Forgive Them


No matter what your spiritual leader did or where they failed, our response is to be the same: we must forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t say that what they did was okay or that they won’t have any consequences. Instead, it says that it is God’s place to judge, and that we will move forward without rehashing the same old arguments or hanging onto the same old hurts.


4. Grieve Over Your Loss


When a spiritual leader disappoints you, it hurts. It really does. You really looked up to them for guidance, you trusted them, and they let you down.  It is perfectly acceptable–and even beneficial–to grieve over your loss. Just make sure you channel your grief in an acceptable way. Good ways to deal with grief include: going for a run, venting to a friend, crying, writing a letter (even if you don’t send it), or listening to music.


5. Find a New Role Model


Hopefully the sin was a one-time error that your spiritual leader can recover from. If not, however, you may need to find a new leader–someone who is committed to walking in truth, who will set a good example for you to follow. Finding a new role model can be a very difficult process. Take your time, pray a lot and choose wisely.


Spiritual leaders aren’t perfect. Nobody is. This is why your spiritual leaders need your prayers and encouragement every single day, as well as your grace, love and forgiveness if ever they should fall.


Have you ever had a spiritual leader disappoint you? How were you able to deal with the situation?


About the author

Brittany Ann is an author, speaker, and founder of EquippingGodlyWomen.com, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping women be “all in” in faith and family.

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  1. I have been let down by my Pastor before. What I did was actually everything you listed above. It took time to heal, but it works!

  2. I, too, have been betrayed by my pastor. Unfortunately, he is still unrepentant so I had to move on. I have found two wonderful people who are anointed teachers, leaders and fantastic examples of living a Godly life. Best of all though, they are wonderful friends too. It was time for me to leave my old church and God orchestrated the whole situation to place me into the lives of my spiritual family now. To Him all the Glory!

    1. I’m very sorry to hear that 🙁 Leaving a church is really rough. So glad that everything worked out well though! God always has a plan, even when we don’t know what it is.

  3. I just went through this recently. Followed all the steps as well. He really should step down from the pulpit, but unfortunately some churches are more loyal to a man than God’s word. They pushed horrible acts under the carpet. I am now attending a wonderful church.

    1. Oh, no! I’m sorry. That can be even worse, bc I’m sure it feels as though the entire church has hurt you–not just the one person. 🙁 I’m glad you have a wonderful church family now though!

  4. My situation is a bit different and I am not sure as to how to begin to explain it. After I graduated from university I moved to a new city and I decided to join well-known well established church. It’s quite a large church but I felt it was a fit for me at the time. The praise and worship was amazing, the sermons always touched me and whenever the Pastor used to preach I often felt as if God was speaking to me and whatever situation I was dealing with at the time. Now, I wasn’t involved in the church in any other way except for attending the services on Sunday. I didn’t volunteer, nor was I part of the cell groups either. I didn’t volunteer as I was settling into a new city, new and first job, and a new church. I tried joining a cell group once but I stopped going as I felt that the cell group leader was fake, bossy and generally wasn’t very welcoming. It didn’t stop me from attending church though. Anyway, fast-forward two years later, I had grown spiritually and I then made a decision to further my growth as a Christian and to participate in church life. I joined a volunteer team, joined a new (different cell group) and even signed up for bible college. In that process I met these two ladies who were part of the pastoral care at church. They were regarded as spiritual leaders at the church and we struck up a friendship. I felt that I was on track. I was happy, on a path to spiritual growth and had finally found a church family. A few months down the line these two women started exhibiting odd behaviour under the guise spiritual leadership. They claimed to have prophetic gifts (although none of their prophecies actually came to pass), they claimed to be able to “see” into the spiritual world-angels,demons etc. They would perform these “rituals” and would ask me to do these which supposedly served as a way of supposed spiritual growth and “protection” from evil. It was all scary for me and to be quite honest didn’t sound all that Godly but who was I to question it. I was still “young” in my walk with Christ and they on the other hand were spiritual leaders. I mean, I have been a Christian for a long time but before I had never really invested in my spiritual growth as I had done when I moved to this new city. As a result I ended up having a breakdown because of all this and suffered from PTSD. The scary part about it all was that these two ladies were spiritual LEADERS and were in pastoral care and no-one (including our pastors) picked up on this somewhat odd behaviour. This was the first time the church disappointed me. Anyway, because of what happened my parents were very upset and actually banned me from attending that church ever again. I didn’t attend that church or any other church for awhile. I prayed at home, read my bible, and was isolated from people for awhile. I was actually afraid of going to church and encountering “Christians” like those two ladies. I then got to a point where I decided I was ready to start attending church. I started attending a different church in my area but for some reason I wasn’t feeling a connection to the church as I did with my previous church. The praise and worship wasn’t as dynamic and the sermons didn’t really move me. So after a few failed attempts I once again stopped attending church and was going solo. And then I heard through the grapevine that one of those ladies from my old church had relocated to the UK and was part of the UK branch of my old church, I then decided (but didn’t tell my parents) to go back to my old church. But this time around I made sure to stay in the background, I didn’t speak to anyone, didn’t try to get involved in church or be part of a cell group because of what happened the last time I did that. So I attended on Sundays and that was it. I was there for the praise and worship and the Word of God alone. I didn’t trust (and still don’t trust) anyone from church or even refers to themselves as Christian anymore. Anyway, fast forward I started going through a really dark time in my life, I was depressed, suicidal, feeling hopeless, questioning my faith, questioning Christianity in general and whether God truly cared for me etc. So I tried to reach out to our pastor because I didn’t trust anyone else in church because of what happened in the past. And lo and behold the pastor was not accessible to his congregation. I was so upset. Every Sunday he preached a message about the church being a family and that he and everyone in pastoral care was there for the church if they ever needed to talk and then when I needed to talk to him he was inaccessible. He was like a “celebrity” whom you couldn’t “touch”. And that was when I started seeing the church in a different light. and that was the second time I was disappointed by the church. So I am in a bit of a weird situation. I want to leave the church but at the same time I don’t want to. I want to leave the church because of how it has disappointed me TWICE in the past. Yet I am reluctant to leave it because of the praise and worship and sermons. At the same time I don’t trust the people who work at church anymore, if I was going through something, I wouldn’t have anyone at church to turn to. So it begs the question, what’s the point of staying? And then I think maybe God allowed me to meet those ladies and to have that breakdown because he wanted me to finally break ties with my church. Maybe it was God’s way of opening my eyes to the church and was giving me a reason and opportunity to leave. I don’t know. I am so confused right now. Finding a new church is difficult. Anyway that is my story and experience.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so sorry that this has happened to you. Let me assure you that good churches are NOT like that. I promise you. To give an example–that’s kind of how I used to feel about men. I had been hurt too many times and thought that they were all the same. Before I met my husband, I wouldn’t even use the word “men.” at all. Then, I met him, and everything was different. It’s the same with the church. Yes, there are some crazy people out there! Tons of them. But there are also plenty of great, Godly people out there as well.

      I have a couple of posts that I hope will help you out. The most appropriate one isn’t published yet, but I will make sure to publish it soon. I’ll let you know when I do. Another one you might find somewhat helpful is: https://equippinggodlywomen.com/community/is-going-to-church-really-necessary/ Please keep in mind that I am writing this in light of a GOOD church, where the Word of God is both preached and practiced. I pray that you will be able to find a church like that. In the meantime, I hope you will find good community here. I am accessible anytime (really), and there are a lot of wonderful ladies that visit this site (and especially my facebook page: https://facebook.com/equippinggodlywomen) regularly as well.

      I understand your hurt–I really do. But know that you don’t have to live like that forever. You’re welcome here, and we’ll help you find a good home 🙂

  5. All of this is a great place to start. My current issues are when someone in a Christian leadership position who has hurt a number of people and rejects any attempt to reconcile with them. I don’t know all the details because I don’t want to be a party to gossip, but I see growth in this leader and yet, no attempt to heal those broken relationships. I can’t reconcile the two parts of this person in my heart. I just keep praying for direction. Until I get some, I’m standing still focusing on being the best witness I can. If nothing else, I can make sure everyone I interact with gets the best impression of our church.

    1. Yeah, that’s a very tricky situation. Because that behavior is definitely not Biblical, and it needs to be addressed. Although whether or not YOU are the person to address it…. obviously I don’t know. But it sounds like you’re doing the best you can for now.

  6. Yes, i have been disappointed several times! A cell leader who would sleep with one of our cell members was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. We lead by example. How would i face her and listen to her talk about God when she was busy fornicating with another member? It really broke me. The pastor got to know about it but this was one of those churches that don’t insist on purity and holiness so I left. And I am so glad I left. God has been with me all the way. Leaders, lead by example!

  7. Yes, unfortunately my pastor has recently let me down. Problem is, if I leave this church we have attended for 12 years my husband will follow me and be miserable. We will most likely attend a satellite campus when it opens in early 2018, but in the meantime I struggle to figure out out how to get through church next week.

      1. No. It’s a big church and I have only spoken to one of the ministers. (They are staff members who do the same as what deacons would do in a smaller church. My minister is paying for three counseling sessions to help me deal with it but feels my pastor has done nothing wrong.

  8. Is there somewhere in the bible or even a biblical story where it’s stated it’s okay to vent with a friend and pray over the situation and leadership?

    1. I don’t know about “venting” just to complain and get your feelings out, but the concept of taking your concerns to others with the intention of getting Godly advice and help can be found in Matthew 18:15-17. Does that help?

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