In recent days, I have been counseling a pastor, who has recently fallen into a moral sin and left his church and family. He shared with me some of the correspondence he has received regarding his fall. My first thought was, as to how people could know so quickly. Let’s face it, we are pretty much all gossips. Word spreads because we tell someone who tells someone, who tells someone, who tells someone, and on and on it goes, but I digress. The question is, what should we say to the one who has committed the sin, and made such a terrible decision? Let me begin by saying, what not to say.
Don’t tell them how you feel about it. Some of the correspondence this man has received said such things as, “I am hurt,” “I am saddened,” “I am disappointed,” “I am ashamed,” etc. These people have an “I” problem. It’s not about you. The moment you make it about you, you forfeit your ability to minister to the one who has fallen.
Don’t give advice. A pastor who has fallen into this sin, is like a person who has a disease. Everyone he knows, has a cure. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone thinks they know what he should do. Do not interfere with those who are “treating” him.
Don’t preach to him, the consequences for his sins. Don’t play the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit convict him. It is dangerous to try and “convict” the man into getting right. Let the Holy Spirit do that.
Don’t ignore him. Silence is often the worst thing that you can give to someone in this situation. It is good to hear from others.
So what should your message say? Let me give you a few suggestions.
If you are a church member you should say something like, “Pastor I love you and I’m praying for you and for your family.” That’s it. Enough said. Don’t praise him for all the good he did. Just let him know you care.
If you are a fellow preacher, you should say, “My brother, I love you and I’m here for you. If there’s anything I can do to help, please call me and I will do all that I can. God is not through with you yet.” Do not try and pastor him. Let him reach out to you, if he wishes, after you have reached out to him in this manner.
If you are friend, you can say something like, “I love you and no matter what, I will always be your friend. I’m praying for you.” They need to know you are a true friend, not a fairweather one. They will have plenty of those.
If you are a family member you can say, “You are my brother, my son, my nephew… Nothing will ever change my feelings of love for you. We are family and we will get through this situation.” Family needs to come together at this time.
Now, before you send the correspondence, spend a few moments in prayer for the one to whom it is going. Pray that if there is anything you should change, that the Holy Spirit would show you. Pray that it will be received in the same spirit in which it is being written. Pray that God will work in the heart, of the one who has fallen.
The secret is not to react. The worst things we say, are when we reacted emotionally, rather than acted spiritually. Sometimes as a restorer, I find myself having to disarm the fallen one from the hurts and anger they feel, from things Christians have said to them. Sometimes, a life could have been salvaged, had it not been for a careless word.