I just got a number of encouraging notes from a man whose church just announced their pastor’s fall. He told me he had found this site by searching Google and that my odyssey really helped him. I am so blessed to know that! To hear that God is working through these difficult posts and that churches going through these same things are helped by knowing they are not alone is good news to me.
One of the things I haven’t talked about here are the stages of recovery for a church. I’m not sure it’s ever been worked through, but it’s important to know the process you will go through. This is not refined to be sure, but here are the stages of recovery as I have watched our church.
1. SHOCK. When this sin is revealed in a pastor’s life shock is the first response of the church. It’s often because the pastor was much loved and respected. It’s the one thing we never dreamed HE would do.
2. GRIEF. Of course this is next. Grief over the loss. Grief for the pastor’s family, for your family, for yourself. Grief is good and will lead to the next part of recovery. But, realize that grief will take longer for some than for others. What I have seen is that the women in our church have grieved much longer than the men. Men understand this temptation and are quick to say, “Ok, I understand, let’s move on.” But the women need time to grieve. It may take several years for some, but grief must happen.
3. LOSS. There is a tremendous sense of loss in this sin. Loss of trust. Loss of faith. Loss of direction. Loss of trust in your own husband, your own wife. If he can sin like this am I safe? The loss is much more than I realized.
4. ANGER. After loss comes anger, it will come in different ways. Anger that he would do that to us. He didn’t do it to us but it feels like a direct assault on the body of the church and we become angry at the pastor for what he did.
5. LOSS OF FAITH. Some, not all but some, will simply abandon the faith. It might be for a short time, but there will be some that will simply walk away. Disillusionment and loss of trust are big and affect some dramatically in their walk with God.
6. HEALING AND RESURRECTION. The church will go through a time of healing. It will take time, but you will find your church family drawing closer together and becoming more committed to each other than ever before. It will be a resurrection as well. A resurrection of a new church family. It will look different, but it will be even stronger than it was before.
Now, I know I have left a lot out. You might have other items to add. I welcome that. What I hoped to do is simply outline the process briefly. Like the stages of grief there is a process of healing and restoration for a church. It will take time, but you will find that your church is stronger, healthier and more alive than it had ever been before.
Pray, be patient, trust God and be faithful to his word. It will be worth the struggle. God will redeem the evil days. God will be glorified. You see, the church is the bride of Christ. In spite of what the devil tries to do God will be glorified in his bride.