Private Pain, Public Trust: Why Leaders Must Be Open About Failure

by | Feb 23, 2010 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

Christians were
shocked last week after learning that Benny and Suzanne Hinn are divorcing. Do
ministers owe us an explanation for their failures?

Judging by the calls and e-mails I received last week, charismatic
Christians were confused and dismayed when the Los Angeles Times broke
the news that healing evangelist Benny Hinn and his wife, Suzanne, are getting
divorced. The comments I heard were mostly sympathetic: “I am so grieved.”
“This is a wake-up call.” “This is heartbreaking.” “I’m praying for the Hinns.”

And a few people were angry: “What is happening?” “Here we go
again.” “This is why the secular world looks at us and laughs!”

“Every Christian
has access
to God’s mercy when he makes mistakes. But a leader is held to a higher
standard of accountability and disclosure.”

Hinn’s ministry, based in Texas, eventually posted an official
statement online to quell the public outcry. It says:

Pastor Benny Hinn and his immediate family were
shocked and saddened to learn of this news on February 17 without any previous
notice. The couple has been married for more than 30 years, and although Pastor
Hinn has faithfully endeavored to bring healing to their relationship, those
efforts failed and were met with the petition for divorce that was filed
without notice.

Both Pastor Hinn and the board of directors of the church ask for the
prayers of ministry partners and friends as the Hinn family walks through this
difficult season. Pastor Hinn also wants everyone to know that he remains
firmly and unquestionably committed to God’s calling—as he continues in his
thirty-sixth year of ministry—to take the life-saving and miracle-working Gospel
of Jesus Christ to the nations through crusades, broadcasts, and mission

I’m grateful that
Hinn released this statement, but I hope he plans to say more soon. He has
influenced far too many people around the world to keep us wondering why his
marriage is ending.

The charismatic
segment of the church has endured a long string of divorces, moral failures and
embarrassing scandals among high-profile ministers. The most recent wave began
in 2006 with Ted Haggard’s fall (which did not end in divorce, thanks to Gayle
Haggard’s tough decision to forgive Ted). Megachurch pastors Randy and Paula
White of Tampa, Fla., announced their break-up in 2007; then came similar
news from Juanita Bynum and Thomas Weeks III in Atlanta, followed by Jamal Bryant
and his wife, Gizelle, of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore. And on and on it

Part of the fallout
of these scandals was the widespread disillusionment among people who follow
these leaders. We naturally expect ministers to be models of Christ-like behavior,
and they have a solemn charge to do so. When shepherds fail, the sheep often

We’ve even seen
this in the secular world. When politicians or celebrity athletes experience
personal failure, the public wants an explanation. Tiger Woods, for example,
waited three long months before finally hosting a press conference last week to
admit what he called “irresponsible
and selfish behavior.”

Of course no
minister is perfect, and every Christian has access to God’s mercy when he
makes mistakes. But a spiritual leader is held to a higher standard of
accountability and disclosure. Those who assume a public ministerial role incur
a “stricter judgment,” according to James 3:1. That means a leader can’t have a
moral or ethical breakdown and then just hide it, ignore it or laugh it off.

It also means he
can’t spin the statement to his advantage. The church, of all places, should be
a No Spin Zone. We must take full responsibility, and that includes publicly
owning up to our failures—and stepping down from the pulpit, if necessary, for
however long it takes to find healing.

Please understand
that I am not attacking a brother in Christ. I honor Benny Hinn for the fact
that many people have come to the Lord in his evangelistic events around the
world. I also know that leaders often are hit with the worst spiritual attacks
because they are on the front lines. I believe we owe it to Benny and Suzanne
to pray that their marriage can be restored.

Yet in this season
of moral and spiritual crisis we must appeal to all those in public ministry to
handle their charge with care. Of all people on earth, those who preach the
Gospel of Truth must tell the truth.

Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years and is now serving as
contributing editor. You can find him on Twitter at leegrady.


Three days after this column was posted, Benny Hinn released this statement to his supporters.


Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


Have We Departed From the  Simplicity of Christ?

Have We Departed From the Simplicity of Christ?

Recently I heard a pastor say the following: "When I was pastoring and saw little fruit, I began to call those with potential to reach others for Christ to our home and to mentor them one on one. That's where massive growth happened in the people." Local pastors and...

Take the Fight to the Enemy, Before He Strikes at You

Take the Fight to the Enemy, Before He Strikes at You

Read Time: 3 Minutes 7 Seconds “When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to the stronghold,” (2 Sam. 5:17). When David heard that he was under...

Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Read Time: 3 Minutes 56 Seconds God is good. And He has a good plan for each of our lives. No matter what may be going on right now, God’s plan is unfolding. In the meantime, Romans 12:12 tells us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,”...

Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Read Time: 2 minutes 26 seconds The term "gaslighting" has gone viral across social media this year and Merriam-Webster chose it as their word-of-the-year, saying searches for the word spiked 1,740% in 2022 alone. We're breaking down what the Bible has to say about...


WATCH: Vlad Savchuck: Life, Health and the Bible During a recent visit to @HungryGeneration, Pastor Vlad Savchuk asked Bill Wiese to comment on his personal experience applying the Word of God to his own...
Miraculous Divine Intervention Birthed by Thanksgiving and Praise

Miraculous Divine Intervention Birthed by Thanksgiving and Praise

Read Time: 4 Minutes 2 Seconds When I first became a believer in 1970, my mother was one of my first “converts," giving her heart to Jesus as soon as I shared with her the beauty, the power and the opportunity of making Jesus the Lord of her life. However, my father...

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

Read Time: 1 Minute 32 Seconds The last six years have been the best of times and the worst of times. I’ve seen more death, destruction, disease and devastation than I care to remember. I’ve also seen the hand of God move in extraordinary ways. Indeed, sometimes I...

Prophetic Vision: ‘Now is the Time of Your Healing’

Prophetic Vision: ‘Now is the Time of Your Healing’

Read Time: 3 Minutes 41 Seconds I was remembering a time when my husband and I were praying over friends who had been in a situation for many years that had caused deep trauma to their souls. As we were praying for them, I became aware of an angel standing over them...

5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional and Spiritual Health

5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional and Spiritual Health

Read Time: 4 Minutes 50 Seconds Do you believe the Lord is concerned about your emotional and spiritual health? He is. He wants you to know how to improve your emotional and spiritual health to be resilient in turbulent times. One of the most powerful things you can...

Pin It on Pinterest