Last week’s blog was about church discipline – what should churches do when someone is found to be engaged in a serious sin?
The “decision-making tree” begins with this question; Does the person recognize their sin and want healing and forgiveness. If they do not, then church discipline may be in order after many meetings to help them understand the consequences of their sin.
However, for those who admit their sin and desire repentance, healing and wholeness, the following is one idea for restoring them which we use at our church.
Guidelines for Churches Restoring a Christian Who Has Sinned and Repented of It
1. If and when a person in the church has had a moral default, has admitted it and asked for help, the Elders ought to form a Restoration Team. We call it a Restoration Team because it’s always the goal no matter what the sin to restore a brother or sister in Christ to spiritual, relational, emotional, and financial health. This team should be made up of at least one person who is particularly spiritually mature. It would also help if a second team member were someone with some business or legal background. All of these people need to be people the person being restored has confidence in and wants on this team. All restoration team members ought to be the same sex as the one being restored, if possible.
2. The Restoration Team must be committed to a process that may last several years. Depending on the circumstances, meetings should be held weekly or every other week for the first few months and then monthly, or even less frequently in the future.
3. It’s critical to establish right up front what the goals of the team are. We believe the biblical model for repentance involves these elements:
• Contrition/Confession. This is a heartfelt sorrow and sadness that the person understands they have sinned against God. It is a godly sorrow as opposed to simply being remorseful. They need to understand this sin is not just against a person and their sadness simply can’t be for the consequences to themselves and other people, but this sin is against God and God’s reputation. (I John 1:9, Prov. 28:13)
• Repentance. This simply means that they have ceased doing the sinful things they had been doing and have begun acting differently. Whatever deceitfulness, lying, or relationships that were the cause or been the result of their sin must cease. (Luke 3:12-14)
• Restoration. God’s goal is always that humans be restored to a right relationship with Him, if we truly are repentant. It is also God’s goal that we be restored to healthy relationships with the people around us, which may include writing letters or face-to-face meetings with every person who has personally suffered from the consequence of this person’s sin. (I Peter 5:10; Gal. 6:1)
• Restitution. Scripture requires that whenever and however it’s possible, restitution should be made for the loss to others caused by us. In some cases this might go beyond what the courts require or contracts dictate. (Exodus 22:1-15; Luke 19:8)
4. Help the person being restored, to identify one godly person in their life with whom they can meet weekly to study the Bible, pray and talk.
5. Make sure the basic needs of this person, or their family are met. These needs should first of all be met by relatives who are able to help and secondly, by the church. The deacons should not disburse any funds to a family who are not willing to submit to a complete view of their finances and who have not demonstrated diligence in setting and living up to reasonable budgets.
6. Occasionally the Restoration Team should meet with the spouse of the person being restored, if they are married, just to find out how they believe the healing process is going both for the person who has sinned and in their own life.
7. The Restoration Team should be sure that a person’s spouse also has a spiritually mature person to help them heal and give them guidance.
8. The church should make available professional and biblical, counseling for both the person and their family and family members, if they cannot afford it, or offer to subsidize counseling for the first few months.
9. As long as the person under restoration is making every reasonable effort in this process, members of the church should be encouraged to go out of their way to be friendly and to socialize with this person and their family. Many men and women who have sinned publicly often feel like people in the church have judged them and they will often use that poor treatment as an excuse to leave the church and even leave the faith. The church body should never be guilty of unkindness for those who are truly repentant.
10. The restoration process ends when those on the team feel that their work is having diminishing returns either because the person is unwilling to truly work toward restoration, repentance and restitution, or praise God, it has been demonstrated it in their life that they’ve been restored. If they are married, their spouse should be able to attest to real changes in their spouse’s behavior, even if separated or divorced. The final meeting should be one where the members of the team lay hands on the brother/sister being restored and bless God for restoring this person and affirm him/her as a brother/sister in Christ. It would also be an amazing blessing if the restored person would go before the elders and share their journey of healing. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7
So, what do you think of this process? Is it, or something like it part of your church’s plan for restoring “fallen” people? If not, you may want to share this with your pastor.