2. Genuine remorse (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)
When a leader who sinned holds it all together and demonstrates no sadness or grief, it's a sign that he or she has felt neither conviction nor godly guilt. Tears can be manufactured–we are looking for more than an outward expression. Remorse is humble, not proud. We cannot teach someone to be remorseful, but we can–and should–point out when the person seems cut off or unaffected by their actions.
3. A willingness to both apologize and work toward restitution (Matthew 5:23-24)
Our culture has perfected the non-apology apology. "I did not mean to hurt you" and "You misunderstood my intentions" are offered in the hope that no one notices how evasive they really are. An individual who can look the offended party in the eyes, own their mistakes, and ask for forgiveness is on the road to healing.
4. Time off
Fallen leaders need to step down from all responsibility and leadership for a minimum of one year and quite possibly two or more. As we guide fallen leaders through the process of healing and restoration, it is imperative for them to focus on their own needs. This is often where we get pushback. Leaders do not like giving up their positions. The higher they are in the leadership structure, the more difficult it is for them to willingly step down. It's humiliating and destabilizing, especially if they are on staff. Larger denominations sometimes offer to pay for therapy or continue paying the salary of a leader who has fallen, but this is the exception rather than the norm. We have found that when leaders lose their source of income because of moral failures, it gets their attention like nothing else. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
5. Clear evidence of growth
Breaking free from destructive patterns of behavior takes time–more time than most of us want to admit. We actually need to expect measurable metrics here. A year of physical sobriety from sexual or chemical addiction is mandatory before a person is released to lead. If someone has been involved in a long-term affair, he or she needs to not only cut off all contact with the other person, but work in therapy to determine what led to those choices in the first place. One pithy question worth asking from Andy Comiskey's Living Waters Manual asks, "Do you want real healing or just the appearance of it?"