I want churches to want to reconcile with their former fallen pastors. For the glory of our King. So that we might be reconciled to one another. So that no one is left behind, forgotten, or isolated in their sin.
So how do you approach a pastor who hurt you long ago? It's not easy. There's no easy way to do it and the path I'm suggesting is not fool proof.
1. Have your church leadership pray. There is no substitute for prayer, especially among the church leadership. And typically, where the church leadership go, the membership will follow. Typically.
2. Know that you're going for the right reasons. I've mentioned it before but don't go to fight old battles, settle old scores or make you feel better about yourself. This is about coming together with another child of God, fallen as we are, recognizing that we all sin, and loving each other as God loves us.
Christ left the heavenly realm, lowered Himself and gave Himself for us. How can we ever esteem ourselves better than any other person on this earth when the most perfect being in the universe made Himself worse than us?
4. Find him and go. Should you call? Probably not. Listen, most people in the church don't ever give a passing thought to what this man has done. But he thinks about it every day. Guarantee it. Church members forget until it gets brought up in conversation once a year. But he will never forget it. Every day he will be reminded of his transgression. It was his calling, his life. And he needs closure. Forgiveness. Just go. Show up.
5. This may sound awful, but lower your expectations. That doesn't mean expect the worst. It means put it in God's hands. Don't expect a Disney ending. Or Fireproof. Or any of those ridiculous low-budget Christian movies with unrealistic endings.
Instead, expect a man to be at the door who has been changed and challenged by a long life of unforgiveness. Don't expect an immediate miracle. Just be ready to love. And be humble.
There's a great line in the movie "Fight Club." The main character is speaking to another character about how people don't ever listen to you. He says, "When people think you're dying, they really, really listen to you instead of just . . ." and she finishes his line by saying, "instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?"
Hopefully this will open the lines of communication so you may listen to one another and heal.
7. Make your church ready to openly and publicly forgive. Your current pastor may not know the whole story. Tell him from whatever angle he needs to know. I took a class at the SBC headquarters once - it's called the Transitional Pastor course. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to be an effective interim.
Anyway, one of the roles of the transitional pastor is to help the church get over past hurts, even the hurt of a recent pastor. The class I took recommended making a timeline of the events of the church and putting blue post-it notes for bad events and yellow post-it notes for positive events.
Church members could all put as many post-its on the timeline for as many events as they could remember in the life of the church. However, only the positive events were shared out loud. At the end of the sharing time, all of the events were taken off and the transitional pastor said, "What is the future Christ has for us?"
8. Don't give up after one try. You may get a teary eyed former pastor your first visit who embraces you. Good for you. You may get resistance. Don't give up. Let me ask you this - if it were you who were in trouble, would you want people giving up on you? Even if you go again, keep praying. It is God who will work on his soul and heart. And don't gossip. It's between you and him.
I write this blog and these things to you so that you and your former pastor may have the hope of reconciliation. I write these things hoping that Angel Falls will one day have a relationship with me. The same relationship we had before? No. But one at least of Christian love, brotherhood, and of struggle side by side, and not against one another, in this world.