A repentant heart is essential for a recovering pastor. But the hearts of those involved in the restoration process must be right as well.
Paul said that the attitude overseers should have in the process of restoration is one of meekness (see Gal. 6:1). Leadership failure is a tragedy and a disaster. No one should delight in or be gleeful about a leader’s demise.
The leader’s wife and children will suffer intense shame for the leader’s actions. His name will be a byword for many years. The church will suffer from controversy in the community. The lost will have a reason to blaspheme the Lord’s name. A proud, high-minded, flippant attitude on the part of those doing the restoration is spiritually immature and deadly to the entire process.
Paul said that we should look to ourselves so that we too would not be tempted (see Gal. 6:1). Here are a few attitudes a leader must maintain while overseeing a restoration process:
1. Impartiality. One aspect of meekness is humble fear before God in undertaking church discipline. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality” (1 Tim. 5:19-21).
These responsibilities are holy responsibilities. The Father, Christ Jesus and the “elect angels” are overseeing the order and operation of the local church. It is a mistake to allow ourselves to become simply “relational” in our discipline and restoration of leaders. Our love for them does not override our love for Christ’s church or the example we must set in ministry.
Open communication with a congregation about the discipline of a leader is critical. The overseeing body must select interim leadership and begin a search for new leadership if necessary.
2. Vision. Those involved in restoration must maintain a vision of a fully restored leader, marriage and ministry. Though a leader’s influence may be limited by his past, there will be opportunities for him to release his gift first as a layman and perhaps later as a five-fold leader. He must, however, maintain submission to the process so that the future testimony of those restoring him can be one of complete submission and restoration.
Some confuse the terms “forgiveness” and “restoration” with regard to a leader who has experienced a failure. A line must be drawn between forgiveness and restoration. Forgiveness is always instant! However, the Greek word for restoration means “the setting of a broken bone.” We know that restoring a bone requires a cast, a period of immobility and therapy.
Those restoring a leader must prepare themselves to be patient with the fallen leader in his depression, anger, hurt, confusion, misunderstanding and cycles of despair.
What is the end vision for a restoration team? To stand with a leader publicly, testify of his submission to a process and declare that he is fully restored to fellowship, fully functional in his family, and fully released to pursue the call of God on his life.
Larry Stockstill is senior pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, La.