Signs of a Restorable Spirit
What are the tangible evidences of repentance?

In the wake of serious moral failure, church leaders are quickly asked about "restoration." What does a person have to do to be deemed worthy of reinstatement as a church leader?

In many ways, the question is premature, like asking a toddler to decide on a college major. Too much has to happen, too many decisions along the way have to be made, a new direction of life has to be established before it's even appropriate to weigh the possibilities of restoration.

And yet, the process is important. A direction does need to be pointed toward.

Author Chris Maxwell quotes one fallen minister:

"When a pastor commits a moral sin, the magnitude of that sin is so great that is has the capabilities of destroying the calling itself, the ministry, the man, his marriage, his family, his legacy and the community where that moral failure took place. In disgrace, humiliation, heartbreak and nearly being tarred and feathered, one man did that and was thrown out of town. I was that man.

"I needed to lay aside ministry and regroup. In reality I was a man without a ministry, a church and an income. Not a nice place to be. The transition from the religious/spiritual world to the secular/non-religious world was not difficult. It was the secular world that brought out innate skills that ultimately would make me a better man ? if only I could survive the eight-year ordeal of getting my life back on track. It's called Restoration.

"During this eight-year wilderness journey, there were six individuals who were used by God to be part of His restoration process. My life now of 69 years is a valid example of the concept that even though we humans ?miss the mark': God uses people, not the religious institution to restore us back into His favor. This process is called God's grace" (from Changing My Mind by Chris Maxwell).

This man's test, the apt root of the word testimony, prompts some key questions. During this hiatus from ministry, what are the issues that need to be dealt with by the group that oversees the fallen brother? What are the evidences that repentance is taking place and that grace is having its intended effect? Here are five evidences I'd look for before ever considering any restoration to ministry leadership:

1. Is he rebuilding the broken trust with his wife and children? His marriage vows and his relationships at home were clearly damaged. What progress has he made to restore the damage at home that his actions caused?

2. Has the sin been confessed in a way that shows he understands the deeper issues involved? Confession is not simply "I've done something wrong." It's an awareness of both the depth of the damage done AND the depth of the sin embedded in his soul. Any healing will involve a sharper clarity of the motivations, drives, and character issues at work.

November 08, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 41 comments

dominic thomas

October 19, 2010  11:54am

DID you recive my mail

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dominic thomas

October 19, 2010  11:44am

dear sir please help me as i am suffering from strongholds. the stronghold started when i was 15 years kid . when i hit an old lady who must be more than 80 years in a bicycle the old lady suffered sufferd broken bones suffered many months later died

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Scott Ranck

June 10, 2007  11:51am

I've recently written a brief book describing all I've learned about the process that leads to pastoral moral failure. It is my own story. I've had many pastors proof it and agree I hit the nail on the head and expanded their understanding. Every person's story is different but the same issues that lead a pastor to moral failure lead a congregant to eat emotionally or drink irresponsibly. We are all plagued with the same issues. Unfortunately, his gifts put the pastor on stage, usually too soon. As Erwin McManus says, his gifts exceed his character. The pressure of ministry reveals the cracks.

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Rob Ferguson

November 19, 2006  3:41am

It has been good to scroll through your comments. The forgiveness and reinstatement of Peter has got me thinking along with the question of how long restoration should take. Concerning 'all sins are not equal' I think that is true esp. in regard to sexual sin - act not thought. (1 Cor. 6:18-20). And the bar is even higher for a teacher /leader knowing that life and teaching go together for good or evil (1 Tim.4:12-16; James 3:1) which probably sheds light on God's dealings with Moses. One way of looking at the question of restoration and reinstatement to go back to 'start' and begin again. That is to commend those who aspire to care for the flock of God and test their character first and then let them serve AFTER they have shown consistency in the characteristics listed in 1 Tim.3:1-13. Character cannot be assessed overnight. It is observed over a period of time as people are given opportunity to show their colours, esp when no one is looking, and assessed in the little and the menial. It is not punishment or humiliation it is testing for their sake and especially the sake of the flock of God, long term.

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D H Smith

November 17, 2006  10:55am

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE, from a Pastor and family–One week ago we found out that our now 10 yr old son was "taken advantage of" in very perverted ways by his older male cousin (by 2 1/2 yrs)when our son was in 2nd grade–he recalls that the activity occured several times over 2 summers. There's no quick fix, it might actually be a life long journey...would we expect our son to jump into forgiveness, jump into trust, and be reconciled? I don't think so...he'll need some time to process the shame, his own guilt and embarassment, the anger, the fears, the lies. He has a lot to process. Will we forgive this cousin–absolutely, we don't want that bondage of resentment for us or our son and by forgiving him(though he hasn't asked for it yet) we embrace hope for this cousin. At the same time, the cousin forfeited his relationship with our son when he chose his actions. It was a costly decision for him. We have no reason to entrust our son into relationship with this cousin without a lot of time and proof that he is trustworthy with something that is of highest value to us. At this point we have full faith that as our son keeps his heart open to God and His truth, he will not only survive this, but he will conquer the shame, guilt, anger, fears, and lies that have been placed on his soul and we pray to this end for the cousin and our families.

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Viktor F.V.

November 17, 2006  1:28am

Despite the stunning sadness of discussing subject I feel exceedingly blessed by the spirit of this honest conversation as I read through all the messages with the tears. Still pray for the guy mentioned here most often. However, some of the statements seem to me at least quite questionable. Because when we are talking about the responsibility or, in this case, accountability of the poor fallen brother so great, that it brought immeasurable damage to the Kingdom of God itself, then the question is lawful – what do we mean the Kingdom? Forgive my Ukrainian old-fashioned Christian mind, but with respect - do we really consider that these pompously established mega- and giga- personal kingdoms, filled with the common purpose of more greatness, unstoppable Sunday shows and thousands in many ways unsaved people attending them, as the most impressive advances of the Lord's true Kingdom? And many, fortunately not all of them, always looking over your head, heavily guarded by their gatekeepers, eagerly rebuilding those ancient Hebrew-type monarchies mega-pastors, are examples of selfless servanthood? Those are, I must confess, bitter words that come, however, from very close personal experience. That experience kind of gives me some courage to speak with sorrow that somebody behind this unshakable system is really interested in producing spiritual consumers only, able to pay for what they listen, not to be strong Christian warriors. Many of those mega could easily solve a lot of problems of the Kingdom worldwide by simply refusing of flying the privet jets or by selling their fancy Bentleys. Or simply making themselves able to listen to the cry of the real people of the Kingdom. Until that'll happen, I will cry in my pillow for my Ukrainian brothers throughout this night again. I asked my 16-year-old daughter a question – where is that Kingdom? The answer was as expected that it is inside of us. Who can damage it there?

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Revival Revolutionist

November 15, 2006  1:02pm

"Bottom line: the Church in America is sick. We need a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all of us and on all of our churches if that's going to change, and if we're going to change." Amen Brian, this is so true!

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November 15, 2006  10:15am

Chen, I appreciate what you shared, but in reality leaders are only lonely because they choose to be lonely. We've all bought into the saying "It's lonely at the top" as if it were a biblical standard. Leaders don't have to be lonely. Church leaders who conform to the standards of American Christian culture are doomed to loneliness. It's much easier for us to get sucked into that culture instead of creating a more biblical one. Bottom line: the Church in America is sick. We need a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all of us and on all of our churches if that's going to change, and if we're going to change.

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November 14, 2006  9:53pm

Please do not use loneliness to justify the moral decay of a pastor. Yes, a pastor is also a human being. But is not that when a pastor accepts the call from a church, he is willing to sacrifice himself for a higher purpose? The higher purpose, however, should be to serve your brothers and sisters, not God! Jesus says "the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many!" Therefore, in all discussion, perhaps, we need to rethink the meaning of being a Christian leader! The consequence of being a leader is loneness! It is irony that many so called Christian leaders do not accept the consequence of been a leader! It is human experience that one earns friendship through serving others, not through been a leader. Want to be a pastor cared by your congregations? Being not a leader but a friend! Being a servant not a leader to your brothers and sisters! And you will be a leader befriended by your brothers and sisters! Then, your brothers and sisters will not be that critical to you because you are their friend; not their leader!

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amen bundred

November 14, 2006  6:30pm

The church office calls for good reputation in the community. If you do not have it you are not to lead. God never wavers in His love for sinners, but sin has consequences. If I drive and crash because I am speeding the injuries are permanent even after the accident is history. This is a hard subject because a thought is as bad as the deed and we know only forgiven sinners go to heaven. However we need examples of Christ like life and a recognition that the Church while accepting everyone has standards every one is expected to follow. The Vineyard church in Bournemouth UK has the motto " a place where the imperfect are perfectly welcome" Let us aspire to make that so, while maintaining boundaries let us be known for loving kindness.

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