Few things are as taxing in an Elder’s life as when a fellow Leader falls into a sin which demands he step down from ministry and go through reconciliation and restoration. These areas include certain levels of moral failure, dishonesty and doctrinal error. A lot can be said on the qualifications of ‘certain levels,’ but that can be a post in and of itself.
There are many areas which we can discuss, but let’s look at two essential ones. One involves the fallen brother and the other the congregation or local body.
THE FALLEN BROTHER
Purpose is to Restore – Should be obvious, but is easy to overlook and lose sight of this. The purpose is not punitive, but restorative. If our motive ever leaves this, we may perform the steps, but they will not produce life and liberty.
Open confession – Leader must be willing to go to any extinct, within the Scriptural mandate, to confess and repent to those harmed.
Accountability – Leader must submit to accountability to other Elders who are monitoring and tracking his healing and restoration process.
Counseling/Deliverance – Leader submits to periodic counseling meetings with Elders to work through to see and understand the root cause of the transgression and the path of victory.
Time of Restoration – Leader must submit to an undetermined time for restoration. This time, through much prayer and involvement, is defined by those working through and observing the Leader’s progress and freedom.
Thorough teaching on Restorative Church Discipline (RCD) – This is the source of most of the damage. Most congregations are very ignorant to the common NT practice of RCD. Then when it becomes necessary, they are overwhelmed at the process and take on a secular motive of punitive action, rather than restoration.
The Local Church’s Responsibility in RCD – In order for the congregation to stand within it’s responsibility, it must understand the forgiveness and healing of Christ to redeem lost men and to restore a fallen brother. Many times, the church has been guilty of ‘shooting the wounded.’
Focus of RCD – The focus must be upon the attempt to restore, not only the leader, but those damaged by his fall. This includes his friends, parishioners and more importantly, his family. Many times the family gets shunned or forgotten through the process and this is tragic.
Unity of RCD – The disciplinarian process is a work of spiritual unity among the local body. It is not just something the Elders do. Restoration must be a confirming, healing and restorative process for all involved. We are our brother’s keeper.
When properly exercised and performed, RCD will end with a wonderful celebration of rescuing a fallen brother to confident and liberating fellowship among the local church body. Because of the power of the Cross, we can participate in seeing and rejoicing with those restored and healed as wounded soldiers. Instead of shooting the wounded with the judgmental spirit of our times, let those of us who are believers display the loving and restoring hand of Jesus for all the world to see. The Lord has always used wounded men in ministry… and hallelujah, He still does!
People in the community may take note of all the decisions being made for Christ in our fellowship. However, they see the genuine spiritual maturity of our church when they observe how we respond to one who has fallen into sin. And when we rise above the hurt and pain of a fallen leader, through the grace and mercy of Christ, to seek his restoration, then we demonstrate the love of Jesus to all men. And, according to Jesus, this is how others know we are His disciples. (John 13:35)
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1, ESV)