Dear former church member,
“I’m sorry… I was wrong… Please forgive me, if you and I were close enough for me to hold your hand, I would be holding it now. If I could look you in the eyes, that’s where I’d be staring. On behalf of every pastor who has ever hurt you, I want to repent.
When it comes to convincing you of just how bad I feel for what I’ve done, I don’t know where to start. I feel like a blind man searching for a starting block.
So much needs to be said. So much needs to be forgiven. I was your pastor, and I hurt you. You trusted me, and I injured you. You saw me as a hero, and I disappointed you.
You thought I should be like Paul and Peter, and you were right. I should have been – but I wasn’t. Forgive me for trying to somehow win the lost while I was whipping the saved.
God has been talking with me about my lack of a shepherd’s heart and the absence of concern on my behalf. For the first time, I’m feeling grief over the loss of you from the church.
If this is you, by God’s amazing grace, allow me to stand as a pastor in the place of the pastor who hurt you and say these words to you; forgive me, I was wrong.”
Now let me help you understand where I went wrong. Leading a church is filled with tremendous pressures. When God called me into the ministry I saw only the souls that I would one day preach to.
I never saw in any vision the stacks of phone messages that seem to scream for my return call each day. I never saw the building-committee hassles. I never saw the mortgage-debt headaches. And I certainly never saw the staff disloyalties I would have to face. If I had, I probably would have rejected God’s call.
I feel at times so much like Moses. God revealed to him His wondrous plan on a mountain. But while “on the way” to Egypt to deliver Israel, God told him that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart. You see, like you, my life and ministry have been tougher than I planned.
And for that reason, I falsely began to feel I had a license to behave selfishly toward you. Forgive me. There were many days I let the fatigue of ministry rule my life as I placed servanthood at the bottom of my priorities. It seemed to be always on those days that we found ourselves interacting. Forgive me.
The power of pride, not the power of the Holy Spirit, has ruled many of my relationships. I was insecure and frustrated so I carried an air of superiority toward you. I can even remember trying to manipulate you from the pulpit with a power glare. How utterly wrong for a shepherd to have behaved that way.
As preachers, we are good with our words – it’s our life. I learned early on that I could control people with my words. I now realize this created a wall between us. On several occasions you tried to call me, and I avoided you because I was too prideful to hear what you had to say. You wrote me a letter, but I didn’t give it the time of day.
You would see me with my golf clubs and wonder how I had the time to play but not the time to respond to you. I knew exactly what you were thinking, but regretfully, I arrogantly chose to ignore it. Forgive me.
I also feel sorrow because I’ve created a new dilemma for you. The ball is now in your court. I’ve asked you for forgiveness, and you must decide if God is big enough to span years of hurt. A wound is actually a temptation – a painful apple offered by Satan to further appease his destructive intent for your life. Don’t give him a chance!