Bill Hybels And Moral Failure In A Leader

What lessons can we learn from the moral failure of another leader?

The news from Willow Creek over the past few months has been ugly and distressing. An icon of a church leader (Bill Hybels) resigned amidst a growing number of accusations. The elder board who defended him has resigned because of lost credibility. The senior leader and preaching pastor put in place by Bill Hybels have also resigned because of the fallout. What was a model of ministry for decades is now reeling in pain, and it will take a long time before healing can take place. So, what can we learn from the Bill Hybels story?


THIRTY VIRTUES THAT BUILD A MAN. It’s an uncomplicated spiritual growth and mentorship guide to becoming more Christ-like. And it’s backed by the research of over 1,500 men we surveyed. Use it solo or in a group to build better men.

One | You are vulnerable to sin.
If we take anything away from this, it needs to include our vulnerability to sin. We are sinners saved by grace, but we are always vulnerable in our areas of weakness to allow sin a foothold in our lives. Peter writes that "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." 1 Peter 5:8-9. We cannot take him lightly or our propensity to sin. And Satan will tempt us in our area of greatest vulnerability.

I'm sad that Bill Hybels fell into what looks like a long pattern of sexual sin. I'm sad for the victims, and I'm sad for the church and the reputation of Jesus. At the same time, I am fully aware that it could have been you or me. All of us are vulnerable to sin if we do not observe our lives.

Two | Get some buds; they're called brothers.
One of the most important practices we can have is to cultivate a few close friendships where we are able and willing to talk honestly about our struggles. Too many men try to struggle alone, especially with sexual sin because of our shame. Pornography, lustful thoughts, unfaithfulness to our spouse are often the result. We all know it doesn't work! What does make all the difference is a group of trusted men we can talk with candidly in a place of grace and safety to encourage us in our Christian walk and moral purity.

Safeguarding our hearts is another key to dealing with our sinful tendencies. Unless we are proactively seeking God we will remain vulnerable, The apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." What are you doing on a daily basis to become more transformed by the renewing of your mind? It certainly starts with time in the Word of God and prayer.

Three | God is in the redemption business.
David is called "a man after God's own heart," and yet he was guilty of murder, lying, trying to cover up his sin and duplicity in the adultery he committed with Bathsheba. How can that be? It is because the grace of God is always greater than our sin and God is a God of redemption, mercy, and forgiveness when we come to him in humility, truth, and repentance. Failure need not be final even when our sin is great. But first, we need to come clean, speak the truth, take responsibility and live with a repentant heart as David did in Psalm 51. I hope Bill Hybels will take this route. And I hope each of us will when dealing with our sin.

Vince Miller Founder of ResoluteVince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.