“I would like to invite Jake and his wife, Sally, to join us in prayer. For those of you know them, please feel free to come forward and place your hands on them in prayerful agreement.”
The middle-aged man and his wife were seated in the front row, directly facing the senior pastor. As they stood, a crowd gathered around and proceeded to embrace them. “This is the last step in the restoration process. Jake is on a journey, the same one that all of us are on. Some of you may look at a leader like Jake and lionize him for what he is doing, others may still harbor resentment for what he has done. We are all sinners, saved only by the mercy and grace of God through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
This was a public restoration for a pastor who resigned his position as the senior pastor of the church I had been attending for the past year and a half. While I was unfamiliar with the exact details, it was a scandal that occurred five years earlier that tore the church apart, leading many in the congregation to leave, resulting in a succession of temporary pastors as a search for a permanent senior pastor ensued. At the same time, this man and his wife attended another church under the direct supervision of the pastors and elders of that church, who oversaw his rehabilitation. During this time, this former pastor repented of his sins and after several months of meetings between the leadership of both churches, it was agreed the former pastor was ready to be restored to fellowship with his former church. He and his wife would be allowed to attend all worship services and any event that occurred at the church but he would not be allowed to teach or have any leadership position.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV)
Discipline in the Bible is very clearly stated, but very seldom enforced. It is a divisive topic and all Christians must guard against casually calling for the church to intervene in any small disagreement. This former pastor’s actions still evoked a wide range of emotions and responses from the congregation that had endured the past five years. Uneasiness. Joy. Confusion. Anger. As if he were anticipating this, the current senior pastor wrote the following in a church email sent out the next day, “We hope this may serve as an illustration of hope. The specific situation our church experienced over the last five years may not apply to you directly, but God’s power to restore is available in the same way. We are praying that this journey will help those who are wounded by the sin of others to believe healing is possible and to encourage those who have caused wounds to trust God’s mercy.”
Sensitive, direct, and completely centered upon God and His Word.
God asks us to trust and obey Him. Whether the task is easy, convenient, or upsetting-God’s commandments are given to be followed. His grace, love, and mercy are sufficient for us in every situation we encounter. His power continues to restore our lives.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.