The Send Network Church Planting Blog

Restoration of the fallen: How?

January 9, 2018 by Milton Campbell

Sin is such an ugly thing. One preacher accurately described it this way: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” The devastating ripple effects of the Fall still continue to rip apart families, divide nations, and too often churches. There is no place out of the reach of sin. As pastors we have this unique burden to lead people through the devastation, while we at the same time are in the midst of our very own sanctification. The same grace and mercy we offer to them is often something we struggle to realize that we also desperately need. We live within this tug of war.

I have been in ministry now for much of my adult life. The unfortunate reality is that, in this short amount of time, I can readily count well over 20 trusted pastors and leaders who have experienced public moral failures. I presently pastor a church that has had to walk through this difficulty. I would like to focus much of this post on how to restore the fallen.

Let me dispel the myth: There is no "one size fits all" process. However, God has graciously provided insight on how we can walk with our brothers and sisters who are overtaken by sin. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul instructs us how to respond to those buried by sin. Hidden in these instructions are two beautiful implications we discover about our own sanctification when walking alongside others (notice, I said "alongside").

First, we experience a true examination of our maturity. Leader, perhaps you are wired like me and can too easily assume you are in a place that you are not. We can easily create a backstory for others' sin while at the same time neglecting our own. I too easily forget my need for this very gospel, until I experience a personal crisis. However, when we heed this invitation Paul provides in Galatians, we are confronted with our own vulnerability as we minister to others. I rather enjoy counseling brothers and sisters in crisis for often- selfish reasons. While I do enjoy reminding them of the power of the gospel in the midst of their crisis, I also benefit because this same gospel preaches in a fresh way to me. Do not miss these opportunities to have a fresh encounter with the gospel as you walk with those recovering from a moral failure.

Second, we get a new perspective on long-suffering. Paul tells us to do with gentleness. Addressing sin is messy and at times miserable. The things you hear as you walk with those who have experienced a moral crisis can taint your view of them. This is spiritual warfare at its peak. I have found myself wanting for them at times what they did not want for themselves. Yet, through their sin, I had a front row seat to how God is long-suffering toward me. He is gracious and gentle. Gentleness is not passiveness but confronting sin with the right motives and right timing. It is establishing healthy boundaries and sometimes discipline. It is grace and truth. Ministering to others provides space for God to minister grace back to us.

As you consider those God has brought into your life who need restoration, do not miss this opportunity to unravel mysteries about your own sanctification. I know it will be tempting to walk away, but in doing so you may miss a tremendous spiritual growth opportunity. Many claim to be spiritual, but how we respond to those in crisis proves that we are.

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