One surefire way to destroy your church is to hang a placard around the neck of each person in leadership that says “Do Not Touch!” When you do so, the person becomes exempt from the tap of reproof, relieved from the hand of correction, unaccountable to any accountability.

Congregations sometimes grant these placards because they revere their leadership or because they are conditioned to obey those in authority. But many times, leaders themselves declare that they are “untouchable.” If they say it with enough authority – and wield enough power – chances are that no one will contest them. They then have an open field to do whatever they want in the church, including:

* Pushing through policies that are unpopular with the church as a whole.
* Directing the church as a dictator rather than as a shepherd.
* Hurting others through words and actions.

When questioned, they point to the placard and state, “You can’t touch me – I’m the leader! Because I am in the position of leadership, anything I do is de facto right and godly!”

But power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. By making a leader above reproof, you grant him or her license to sin … and all too often, people take that license and run with it. Pride swells. Judgmental attitudes prevail. Stubbornness sets in. Gossip abounds. Revenge is given free rein. And Satan destroys the church.

Paul knew the only answer to this situation. In Galatians 2:11-14, he reports,

But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Peter was the head of the young church: he held serious power and authority. But he fell into hypocrisy – and because of that same power and authority, he led everyone else into the same sin right after him.

Fortunately, Paul came on the scene. Paul didn’t believe in “Do Not Touch!” placards, even around the neck of the President and CEO of the infant church. He named Peter’s sin for what it was and called him to account not only for his sin, but for leading others astray as well and for damaging the message of the gospel.

We have to use the same boldness when confronting leaders of the church who have fallen into sin. We cannot risk leaving the “Do Not Touch!” placards around their necks, whether we gave them the signs in the first place, or whether they claimed them for their own. Instead, we have to courageously – yet with love – rebuke sin wherever it is found, and call the sinner to confession and repentance.

To do this well, we must be willing to:

* Think for ourselves. If we always take what our leaders say as “gospel truth” and never examine it for ourselves, we can be fed lies and never know it. We must each accept our personal responsibility to know the Bible thoroughly and apply its principles to our lives.
* Confront sin wherever it is found. Even if that means confronting the person in power, and even if that person decides to strike back and harm you. Courage is required to confront sin, but God will give that courage through his Word and Spirit.
* Love unconditionally. If we confront without love, we harm rather than help. To bring healing to a broken situation, we must go forward with love. This means seeking first and foremost the welfare and well-being of the other person through correction, confession, and repentance.

Leaders carry tremendous responsibility in the church. For that reason, they must be more accountable to others – not less – for their words, actions, and attitudes. Instead of “Do Not Touch!” placards, every person in the congregation, lay and leadership alike, needs to pick up signs that proclaim “United We Stand!”

© 2008 Paula Marolewski

Author's Bio: 

Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School classes at SinkYourRoots.com. Studies include such topics as Debunking the Myths about Knowing God's Will.