Too often pastors leave congregations in adverse circumstances. Congregational leaders are always convinced they did the right thing in pressuring him to resign (NOTE: It is possible to do the right thing in the wrong way). The pastor is always sure he was misunderstood and mistreated by the congregational leaders (NOTE: Pastors tend to be blind to their faults and need to humble themselves). Sadly, the majority of the congregation is left in the dark about what actually happened. Then, inevitably, there are rumors… half-truths… embellishments… and sometimes lies about what took place (From both sides). As a result, the name of Christ is tarnished in the community (Ro 2:24), the congregation gets a bad reputation, the minister gets a “Scarlet T” (Terminated) and his future ministry is doubtful to over. HOWEVER... every now and then a congregation does the right thing!
A friend recently told me of a congregation that had a service of reconciliation with a previous pastor who left under adverse circumstances! The current pastor came to the conclusion that until the congregation and the previous minister had begun… and continued… a process of reconciliation and healing the congregation would not be able to fulfill their call faithfully. From my understanding, the service included worship… confession… repentance… and forgiveness among those in attendance. The current pastor told me it was one of the most God filled services he’d ever experienced. Now…
I’m of the opinion there are many congregations (And ministers) in our nation that will limp ineffectively until there is reconciliation with previous situations where events transpired in a less than Christian manner. Along with this there are ministers who need to apologize to congregations for their failures. The knife cuts both ways… there are two sides to every pancake. Why do I write this?
Because hallmarks of the Christian faith are: Love, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, and unity. If God’s men and God’s people do not model this then there is no reason for the lost to believe the message of Christ (I don’t write that lightly). However, were God’s men and God’s people to model this among themselves there is no telling what God might do in believer’s lives… in congregations… communities… denominations… and the nation!
Think about this. After Peter denied Jesus three times, Christ made him the leader of the early church! No minister has been wounded to the extent Jesus was, yet He forgave Peter AND gave him great responsibility. So if God’s man (A Pastor) has been forgiven, he must forgive also (A congregation). By the same token, how awesome would it be if a congregation… regardless of the events or circumstances… forgave a minister who failed when he was their minister? Imagine if pastors and congregations reconciled? What might God do in the lives of others? Unless we all start taking the processes of repentance, confession, and forgiveness seriously we will never know.
Q: What would be the impact in the community if this happened more often? I wonder… how many would have a burden lifted by participating in such an event? I don’t know, but in my rose colored world I think it would be a wonderful testimony to the glory and forgiveness of God for a community and nation that is mostly incapable of understanding forgiveness, reconciliation, love, and forgiveness……… We will have to wait and see.