I am working with two gnarly church/ministry situations. One is a bitter battle between two pastors, both really good men. But there differences erupted a couple of weeks ago and I got the call. I’ve met with them and the other two pastors, who knew nothing of the dispute, amazingly. The second meeting included the four wives, which was a first for them. The wisdom of getting them involved was obvious throughout the meeting. They will tell the church about what is going on, including the lead pastor’s deep confession. I am praying that the church will rise to being trusted as the process goes on. I really believe Acts 15 is the way to do things. Everyone says their piece publicly and with the whole church hearing. It’s messy, but I actually believe it empowers the church to act in grace.

A while back (Oct. 16) I blogged on steps to reconciliation. I’ve been thinking more about it, so I want to revise what I wrote then.

1. Confession: talk about what happened, taking full responsibility for what I have done. The confession is as complete as possible. Other people will need to help the offender in getting his confession straight. When the problem involves deception, getting confirmation from other people or a polygraph may be essential. The confession cannot involve manipulative phrases like “I’m sorry” or “Please forgive me.” That comes later, but at this stage, the others are under heavy pressure to say “It’s OK.” Tiger Woods’ recent apology is an example of a good confession.

2. Compassion. the offender loves the one offended and hears his pain, sharing it as Christ does. He helps the offended one express his hurt and anger with true empathy and care. It is done without any explanations or corrections, no matter how outrageous the angry statements of the offended one may be. Like Job’s comforters, he weeps, shares the dust and agony.

3. Repentance: this is change of values, not just behavior, as we see in passages like Matt. 3:8 and Acts 26:20. For a counter example, think of Jimmy Swaggart weeping away in front of the world and then going right back to his trash. It will take time and perhaps expert help to get to the values behind the behavior.

4. Redemption: The offender comes out of the bad place. That place might be emotional, social, spiritual or physical. It may involve counselors or physicians or pastors to help with the movement.

5. Restitution: What ever was robbed from the offended is returned. It is easy if it is money. If it is honor that was taken, then honor will be returned. It may involve confession/apology to others who were impacted, clearing the name of someone who has been slandared, etc.

6. Reconciliation: clearing up the relational damage done by the sin. It takes time and experience together for this to happen. Hearts must be shared. Normal relationships with trust and openness cannot happen until this occurs.

7. Restoration: this will be through several levels with any kind of leadership occurring only after the trust has been restored. 1 Timothy 5:19-22 is a great passage. Don’t be too quick to entertain either accusation or restoration.

One must NEVER do step 6 before going through the other steps. So often the sinner is really only interested in what minimal steps need to be taken to get back into the place of leadership (see Saul in 1 Samuel 15). There is no basic change. Work through the steps deliberately and carefully.

There is a whole ‘nother blog about the steps of the offended and on forgiveness.