9 Reasons Long-term Pastors Still Fall

We all know stories of long-term pastors – leaders who’ve been in the ministry for years – who still fall morally. We grieve when we hear the stories, and we wonder how it can happen to ministry veterans. Based on my studies of how Satan attacks leaders, here are some reasons even long-term pastors fall.

  1. “Success” leads them to letting their guard down. The more “successful” pastors are, the easier it is to assume, “That will never happen to me.” Their thinking sounds like this: “After all, God has always blessed my ministry, hasn’t He? He won’t let this happen to me.”
  2. Longer ministry = more opportunities to fall. This reason’s really simple. The more time pastors spend with more people, the more opportunity they have to get wrongly connected with someone. Longer ministries demand more awareness of falling—not less.
  3. They’ve learned to hide in the ministry. Busyness and excellent speaking skills can cover a lot of private sin. Public ministry does not always include private accountability. What looks great on the outside isn’t always so pure on the inside.
  4. They never really developed spiritual disciplines. I speak to a lot of pastors who candidly admit that Bible study and prayer have always been struggles. They’ve searched for a deep relationship with God and have never really found it.
  5. Ministry has worn down their defenses. I’ve not met any pastors who started ministry defeated and discouraged. I have met many, though, who are now in that state. Sometimes emotional and spiritual fatigue drives them to wrong solutions.
  6. Their own marriages have been strained. Sometimes their spouses feel second (or worse) in the line of the pastor’s priorities, and they’ve felt that way for a long time. Marital neglect has led to long-term emotional and physical separation – and the pastor wrongly looks elsewhere for comfort.
  7. Mid-life crises happen. They really do. Leaders who figure out they haven’t reached their dreams battle their own emotions. Some feel hurt, alone, disrespected, and tired. Others have had success, but they thought they’d see more by now. Weakness leads to disaster.
  8. They’ve seen others restored. I tread softly here, recognizing that views differ on whether fallen pastors can be restored. I also affirm ministries that walk alongside fallen leaders to bring them through the defeat. My point is simply this: the enemy is so evil that he convinces some folks to go astray with these words: “Well, you can be restored, too, so this action won’t cost you much.”
  9. They have no real concept of the reality of spiritual warfare. They may preach about the devil, but they don't see him lurking in the shadows of their own life. That's really dangerous. 

Take time now to pray for some long-term pastors you know.

What other reasons would you add?


  • Ken says:

    I often tell my people that the most dangerous thing a Christian can say is, “That will never happen to me.” I firmly believe when you start thinking like that, the devil has your right where he wants you.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Good word, Ken. Thanks.

  • Largest reason for failure is they cease to press into harder areas of ministry and remain in the complacency of the routine. Thus looking at their success in maintaining and no longer stepping into endeavors of greater risk, greater faith, greater sacrifice. Then everything listed in this article becomes reality. God always calls us to a harder path. Don’t avoid the call keep straining and pressing to obtain what lies ahead in Christ Jesus.

    Jami the Preachers wife

  • Starla says:

    True and Honest Accountability is lacking in ministry. A very important question to ask yourself is “who am I truly submitted to?”

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Starla.

  • Justin says:

    Good word Dr. Lawless!

  • It’s worse than “they’ve seen others restored.” We actually seen others rise to new heights – become “stars” because of their fall! I don’t want to be unkind, but there’s something wrong with this px!

  • I know that vulnerable people dont realize they are vulnerable. Recognizing signs of your personal situation must become part of your maturing process to protect the integrity of the message and your witness.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    True, Robert. Thanks.

  • Brent Raitz says:

    I can attest to truth in these as I am a pastor who fell as well. I think besides my pride, I also believed I was not attractive enough for someone to ever desire me. That set me up not to have a game plan in place. How I wish I could change those choices now. I am thankful God restored me but never expected God to do so. It has taken a lot of painful work to dig deep into the broken parts of myself to heal well and not blame others for my failure.

  • I see three things happening in our churches today relating to our dear Pastors…

    #1 (I believe this was addresssed above) The increase in busyness and demands on our Pastors and the decrease in our Pastors strong daily prayer lives. We are no match for the enemy and without daily alone time with God, we leave ourselves incredibly vulnerable.

    #2 The church must recognize and encourage the preciousness of our Pastor’s immediate family units – encouraging regular breaks for their pastors to get away with their spouses on a regular basis, to recharge and reconnect. Most Pastors I know feel guilty missing a meeting let alone leaving for a vacation or taking regular breaks to be with their spouse and families. Even if they do get away, there is a tendency to feel guilty, which can hamper the time he’s away with his wife – which leads to more distance between them.

    Also, Pastors do receive a fair amount of praise “on the job” – but if that’s where he’s spending all his time, it will be a different story at home. The church must understand and respect that the Pastor’s marriage must be healthy, vibrant and growing if the congregation is to do the same under his leadership. This leads me to my third observation…

    #3 “The fall” of a Pastor can typically happen while doing his daily “Godly church duties.” The modern church set-up can actually work against his family and pro-affair because the Pastor is so committed to being available to the members and staff that it barely hits the radar when a dangerous marriage-threatening relationship is brewing.

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