When Leaders Fall

Posted on March 4, 2024

By John E. Thomas

The International House of Prayer has been at the forefront of the prayer movement since 1999, when they began housing 24/7 prayer and worship. God visited them at different times, and they experienced what some would call seasons of revival. Hundreds of thousands of young people have been inspired to pray and fast, seeking God for nations to come to Jesus.

Before it was a house of prayer, it was a church that hosted the “Kansas City prophets” in the 1980s. Thousands of people, including hundreds of church leaders, visited to experience prophetic ministry. Mike Bickle was the pastor, and Paul Cain, Bob Jones, and John Paul Jackson were the prophetic voices. God did extraordinary things through these men, and His actions are well documented.

As I write this, new allegations concerning Mike Bickle have become public, including a police report. There are at least three valid accusations of sexual misconduct and clergy abuse, and many people are confused, hurt, and more than a little angry.

How are we supposed to respond when situations like this become public? When leaders we trusted fall?  

God Uses Broken People

As we read Scripture, we realize God doesn’t use only the people who “have it all together.” Noah got drunk. Abraham lied about his wife to protect himself. David had an affair and killed the woman’s husband. Samson couldn’t contain his sexual appetites.

But God also uses righteous people. No one could find fault with Daniel. Samuel led Israel well and with integrity, though it could be argued he didn’t father his sons well. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and other prophets experienced no moral controversy. Many of the apostles never had any accusations of misconduct against them.

God’s decision to use someone doesn’t remove the person’s humanity. It gives them an invitation to respond to His grace. We need to remember that someone’s character is always more important than their gifting, and no matter what others choose, we can choose holiness and move toward holiness in everything we do.

Because God uses broken people, when someone falls, it doesn’t negate all the good they did. It just proves it was never about them. Solomon had hundreds of wives, and he allowed them to lead him into idolatry, even to the point of sacrificing his children. Yet we still include the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon in the Holy Bible.

Yes, there is brokenness with Mike Bickle and how the leadership handled the situation, but that doesn’t mean nothing godly has ever come out of IHOPKC.

Follow God, Not Man

When people are trying to make sense of a leader who fell morally, they often ask, “How could I have followed this person? Do I need to question everything I believe?” Some of these people have good foundations and recover from the shock and pain, while others give up on their faith.

Fallen leaders provide an opportunity for us to look back on our life and ask our heart, “Are we following God or man?”

It doesn’t matter how charismatic a leader is—we should never follow a person unless we know God is leading us to follow them. When we follow leaders, it should be as Paul told the Corinthians, “Follow me as I follow Jesus” (1 Corinthians 11:1). When you see something of Jesus in a leader, follow that, and take all their other qualities (great speaking skills, engaging personality, etc.) with a grain of salt.

Did God lead you to that ministry or church? If so, trust Him, and don’t let go of your discernment. When the example doesn’t look like Jesus, don’t follow that. But when you can see biblical values and scriptural convictions, respond to God and what He is doing.

Guard Your Heart

How we respond to situations like these is important. Public failures can be an excuse to throw off restraint. “I knew Christian leaders couldn’t be trusted! Now it’s just me and Jesus.” God doesn’t give us that option. We are part of the Body of Christ; even when one part doesn’t portray Him well, we don’t neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).

All of us need to watch our responses during this season. If bitterness enters our heart or thought process, not only will it keep us from receiving all God has for us, but eventually it will spring up and defile many (Hebrews 12:15). Bitterness can cause us to step into unbelief instead of trust and develop a posture that requires God to prove He is in a church or movement before we engage again. Discernment is needed, and a critical spirit will corrupt discernment.

Many great leaders are humble, righteous, and honestly trying to please God with their work. We can’t lump everyone into the same group.

Stay Awake

Just as we don’t want to be critical and fixated on others’ sin, we also don’t want to ignore the signs when something is amiss.

Bad trees bear bad fruit. Good trees bear good fruit (Matthew 7:15–23). Don’t be impressed with someone’s spiritual gifts, prophetic experiences, or ability to communicate well. Instead, look for the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When you see those things, it is a good tree. But when you see defensiveness, belittling others, elitism, or boasting, it is a bad tree.

Father, keep our tongues from talking about things we don’t know! Keep our mouths away from gossip. Hold our hearts in the place of intercession, and may we be ones who represent You well, no matter what others do. We choose to focus on You!

Thank you for supporting Streams Ministries. We continue to teach that character is more important than gifting, that a gift calls you to serve—not be served, and that God does a lot more than most people expect. May hope come to all who are hurting.