One evening, in the midst of all the crap that was happening at church, I was driving to our elders meeting and thinking that if elder J wanted pre-eminence so badly that he was prepared to tear us all apart to achieve it, then I'd just quit and let him have what he wanted.
Imagine my surprise when, early on in the proceedings, J said that he wanted to apologise for 'overstepping his authority". I was dumbfounded. Was it possible that he was really acknowledging the damage he was doing in the name of his own ambition? Had he really repented?
No, apparently he was just doing what he'd been told to by board member M. There was no sincerity in his 'apology' at all, and it soon became apparent that neither of them thought J had done anything wrong - they were just hoping that if an apology was issued, it would shut us up.
Worse, they then played the, "we've apologised" card which meant that any further protest regarding J's behaviour simply showed how 'unforgiving' we were.
Some time later, after being told how much time J and his wife had had to spend dealing with the "words of iniquity" which he said had been spoken over them, I asked if he'd dealt with any of the 'words' he and his wife had spoken. He just yelled at me angrily about "praying mercy" for the elders. (Whatever that was supposed to mean.)
The same thing happened when board member D 'apologised' to me months later. In his book it was a done deal, so when I asked him how he was going to try and make amends for the consequences of his behaviour, he accused me of abusing him.
The tragedy is that this seems to be a standard play in the 'christian leaders' rulebook. Say some things that include the word 'sorry', maybe talk of 'lessons learned', and off you go - free to continue in exactly the same way you did before.
In the past few weeks alone, there have been ample opportunities to observe this phenomena at work in the western church. My question is, "How many times do we need to see this before we understand!?"
Saying sorry means nothing unless your behaviour changes. This goes for all of us, but for 'leaders', aren't they supposed to be... well... leading in this?
Yes, there is grace.
Yes, there is forgiveness.
But no, that doesn't mean abusive, controlling leaders should continue to be 'in ministry' when there is no evidence of actual repentance! (And it's highly inappropriate that they be given a standing ovation for saying they forgive the very people they've abused!)
I know I've written on this topic before, but when a reviled tax-collector knows more about what repentance looks like than those who claim to be in charge of God's church, then something is seriously wrong!