Spiritual Leadership and Deceit

  Deceit and Duplicity

I’m going to address something that’s been on my mind.

I have a burden for spiritual leaders, particularly since I am one. And I personally know of many places of ministry over my seventy-year lifetime (fifty of it in ministry and counseling) where deceitful leaders have left people deeply wounded. And something needs to be said about it.

Let me cut to the chase, would you?

I’m seeing that spiritual leadership can be a part of the greatest problem we have in the Church worldwide. How? Before John Stott went home to be with the Lord, he identified this problem as Growth Without Depth.

From a pathological point of view, there are leaders who keep God’s people as dependents in what they learn and believe. And if someone wants to mature in the faith and begins to question them, these types of leaders will betray you by trading you in for something or someone they think is better and can meet their agendas.

In our book Beyond Betrayal, I talk with Tom Roy, a good friend and spiritual leader about the pain of betrayal. In one part of the book, we talked about Jesus being betrayed by Judas and how he knows the suffering first hand that came out of that.

The twelve walked with him for three years! As you know, these men were in training to spiritually lead others, but one man had a deceitful heart. Yes, every disciple had problems. They were human. But the deceit coming out of Judas disqualified him from the twelve and from serving the Lord.

My bias is the deceitfulness of Judas went on during the three years he was with the group, but Jesus waited until the one moment before the cross to undo him for it.

Because deceitful spiritual leaders fail to be open and honest with those they serve, I agree with John Stott’s viewpoint of the problem with the Church worldwide. Frankly this issue identifies that leadership style as a respecter of persons who will use people for their own benefit alone. We’ve been seeing it for quite a while, years in fact.

Remember John Stott’s comment of “Growth without Depth” would you?

Is that not fertile ground for a spiritual leader with deceit in their heart to control others and every situation? To say one thing to your face and hide their heart about what they really think or believe, so they can HAVE?

The Bible’s Principle of Human Depravity 

Jeremiah 17:9,10 ESV  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;  who can understand it?  “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” 

Spiritual leadership that uses deceit to manage/control others and imply they represent God by doing so, reinforce a toxic belief that results in growth with no depth.

THE TOXIC BELIEF: All spiritual leaders are men and women of God and can be trusted.

Example: But in Jeremiah 23, God holds accountable the spiritual leadership of Israel for their lies/deceit. Listen to the warning from the Lord of hosts.

Jeremiah 23:16,17 ESV Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

Jeremiah 23:32, 33 ESV Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord. 33 “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the Lord?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the Lord.’

In the book of Psalms, listen to the Lord’s thinking and attitude toward those who use deceit.

Psalm 5:6 ESV You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

Psalm 50:16-22 ESV 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? 17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. 18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. 19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit20 You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. 21 These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. 22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!

This “what you see isn’t what you get” charade is a tool of the twisted mind.

As we see in the above references (particularly in the case of spiritual leadership), these are people who have a compelling need to be in control of others and that person will use manipulation and deceit to be in and take control of situations.

May I say to the spiritual leadership worldwide, that there will be no growth with depth in our lives and in those we serve, unless deceit is removed from our hearts first.

Let me challenge leaders of Truth to pursue open and honest hearts that trust HIM. Growth with depth in the Church worldwide will have a leadership that understands our depravity and the repentance accountability process. Without this, the pain of betrayal among the brethren will continue to accelerate and the perpetrators of deceit will continue to be spiritual leaders wrecking havoc in the ranks of God’s people.

Strong words I know but the days are short, and I believe Jesus is coming soon.

But look at how much the Lord values a heart without deceitfulness when truth-tellers care for and love his people.

Psalm 32:2 ESV Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 50:23 ESV The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”


3 thoughts on “Spiritual Leadership and Deceit

  1. I like that term, “growth without depth.” There cannot be any depth if a person isn’t anchored in Jesus Christ. There’s nothing but an empty shell that needs to rely on a false narrative and view of themselves provided by the people they cultivate to provide the desired feedback. A position of power & prestige sets the stage for followers who don’t dare to question, will worship the leader, and faithfully support the false narrative and image. All of that is sufficient to keep the leader from any self introspection. Little by little the leader is turned over to his/her own delusions. They can’t risk honesty because there is no “depth” to fall back on.

  2. Jerry thanks so much for great open honesty and insight.Yea there’s going to be plenty of people disillusioned about church leadership. It seems we are combining Holy Jesus, ego, personal power & fame to be the life style of choice, rather than a humble and depressing open look at our personal fallenness & and the life style after that view is lived out. Mike S.