Paul Utnage, an executive pastor, stood at a podium in a large conference room in Dallas this past February with an expression even more serious than the indictment he'd just hurled at the crowd of nearly 200 church leaders. He had told the gathering that more than 50 in the room were currently committing a serious moral failure.
He had been speaking statistically, of course; Utnage, whose church was 1,100 miles away in Bozeman, Montana, didn't know most of these leaders. He had meant that according to estimates, the number of church leaders currently committing a moral failure was a little more than one in four.
Utnage's history in ministry includes walking some 15 churches through crises. Of those, 10 involved a serious moral failure, including financial crimes.
Moral failures for church leaders include what often come to mind, like embezzlement and fraud, marital affairs, or pornography use. But the definition also covers areas of increasing scrutiny in churches, such as lying, manipulation, bullying, and narcissism. These can occur as easily in the area of church finance as anywhere else.