Tag Archives: biblical restoration

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Why Restoration Matters

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 24: Why Restoration Matters

I have had a hand in a number of people’s stories. A classmate restored to his wife and kids spent a decade as a hospital orderly post spiritual crisis. One day, the hospital’s administer invited him to his office and asked him to become the chaplain to the patients, noting his voluntary spiritual care for them made him an easy choice.

Another spent a year with a team exploring why her life choices had led to divorce, as well as other missteps along the way. She later initiated a spiritual transformational culture in a church, training people how to pursue intimacy with God so they would be healed from hurt in their heart and delivered from deadly sin choices.

Then there was the guy who did all he could to blow up his life and church by his destructive choices. Today he has a solid marriage, respect from people whose lives he is investing in. He has taken on ministry to one of the rough areas in town, knowing that he has something to offer from his own journey back.

Why restoration matters in the transformational church is that, while there may be runaways, we should never believe there are throwaways. A restoration process is the norm, not the exception, because one person is just as important to Jesus as the ninety-nine. Restoration is not just a rescue; it is about seeing someone who was caught in sin living whole and holy again—returned to his or her calling of being a witness of the grace and mercy of God.

As you can see from the above rest-of-the-stories, restoration has an impact that goes beyond the process. The team that worked with one person spent over eighteen months meeting regularly with him. We walked with him as he pursued renewal in his marriage, as he sought to be reconciled with his former employers and as he took temporary work in another area to pay bills (he had us write a letter to the pastor of the church he attended to let that pastor know of the process). We saw a man changed from the inside by the power of the Spirit. Our congregation was spiritually charged by the changes they saw happening in him. But just as important, he was in a place of being used by God again in the lives of others.

Restoration is at the heart of the gospel. Restoration is part of the message a healthy church announces into the community it is seeking to sow the gospel—that no matter how badly someone messes up, he or she is still family and we are ready to guide that person back to a healthy walk with God among us. Remember, Peter would not have been there on the day of Pentecost if this was not true.

Steve Smith


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6 Landmines on the Restoration Battlefield

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 23: 6 Landmines on the Restoration Battlefield

When you least expect it on the battlefield, a landmine can blow up in your face. It can cost you your life or your limbs. In the restoration process, you want to know what the landmines look like and where they are most likely to be buried. Here are six that I have seen over years of working with people caught in sin.

Failure to get to the root of why the sin happened. This is the number one reason restoration processes fail to help the person caught in sin. Therefore, do not accept the surface issues as the full truth. Most sin issues are rooted in unresolved issues and choices within the person. If these are not discovered, the person is in danger of repeating the sin or falling into another after the restoration process is completed.

Letting the person in restoration control the process.  Some people have strong personalities and seek to set goals and make demands of those leading the restoration process. If the team finds itself not strong enough to address this problem, ask for outside intervention to keep the person from derailing his or her restoration process. This includes calling the person to repentance if he or she does an ‘end run’ around the team.

Spiritual warfare. Always be aware that Satan lies to us all the time. He will use both the person’s sin and our compassion to frustrate the work of God in the process if he can. Knowing this, do not neglect prayer as a potent weapon in this process and watch out for his schemes to draw the person back into sin.

Anger. Be ready for anger, because all processes involve the person caught in sin being angry, either at the team or the church. Sometimes the family of the person becomes angry on his or her behalf. Do not quit the process just because anger arises. Persevere through the anger, and help the person to focus it on what is wrong, rather than on people seeking to help him or her.

Messiness. All restoration processes are messy and seldom follow a straight line to the end. Be at peace when things go awry—ask God to keep you from giving into negative emotions and quitting too soon. Do be willing to admit mistakes in the process without letting them become the problem.

Waiting too long to take next steps out of fear of other’s anger. Sometimes you can see that God is truly at work in convicting and drawing the person caught in sin more quickly than anyone would have expected. His or her heart is turned, but others who have been affected by the sin or maybe the church family who were hit by the sin’s revelation may not be ready. They might be angry that the person is not ‘suffering’ enough for his or her choices. Do not allow your fear of ‘what-will-people-say’ keep you from going forward with the person. Be ready to move forward as God shows you because He is the one who reigns over this process.

Steve Smith


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What If Someone Walks Away from Restoration?

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 22: What if someone walks away from restoration?

Nothing is as disappointing for a restoration team as someone walking away. It has happened several times to teams I initiated. One person abandoned the process several months in when the team began to look deeper under the surface. She felt she was ready to step back into ministry. They saw she had unresolved pride issues that would reemerge and claim her again. After explaining this to her, instead of a break through, they had a break away. She never returned.

Why do people walk away? To be honest, the reason isn’t always the person’s unrepentant heart. Sometimes the reason is an overbearing team full of people who are controlling and lacking in transparency as well as compassion. Or they are misguided in what help they are trying to give placing more faith in rules of conduct than the work of the Spirit. Or maybe they forgot to make sure the person was stable in their life, leaving them in a muddle of no work, no place to live, and feeling friendless. I know it is hard to assess yourself as a team on these matters when you are in the middle of seeking to restore someone caught in sin. But if someone does walk away, be humble enough to ask for an honest assessment from a wise person who was not on the team to see what you can learn about yourselves.

Yet people do choose not to get well. They resent the probing into private areas which led them to be caught in sin. Some want to control the restoration process out of their pride. Others choose not to pursue God in intimacy because they prefer to believe the lies of the enemy. They feel the draw of the pleasure of the sin from which you are trying to restore them and walk away because they cannot fathom that knowing God would bring them a better joy. Or perhaps they are not a true believer. This last exposes a painful truth we must face. Sometimes we are working with a Jekyll and Hyde person of non-faith. Nothing goes home to their heart because they have no faith, no Spirit within them to convict them of sin.

None of us knows the heart of another and I am cautious about assigning inward motivations to people who have professed Jesus as Lord in the past. But whatever the reason they say NO to the question of spiritual restoration, you have to let the person go. You can pray for them—grieve over them—but do not chase them. Their choice to walk away has put them in the way of God’s justice. He will deal with them because He is their Father.

Here is one more thing that may be hard to bear. Be prepared to hear that another pastor or church has embraced him or her. This happens all the time due to the fragmented nature of the American church, where people easily get away with lying about other churches. I have called pastors when I hear of someone washing up in their congregation, but I have found that they have readily believed the unrepentant person over me. This, too, is a matter for God, who reigns over His church.

Steve Smith


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First We Need Stability

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 18: First We Need Stability

The restoration process has four phases through which your team is to guide the person. There is no timetable for these phases. As you work with the person, you will be able to sense when you are moving from one phase to the next. Sometimes you may find yourselves working in more than one phase simultaneously. Do not be alarmed. The restoration process does not always follow a straight line.

The first phase in the restoration process is stability. This is the first guidance task of the team. It is during this phase that the person must make numerous decisions about his or her life—whether the sin issue affects the church, job, marriage, living arrangements, etc. A person will hesitate to move forward if he or she feels unsafe, so focus on bringing the person to a level of stability in life.

Do they need a job? Housing? A lawyer? Are they under court order to stay away from family? Have they initiated actions that will bring them or others grief? Those engaged in restoring the person must address whatever issues that distract him or her now so that attention can be drawn to the sin itself. This phase may be shorter for the person who has resources and maybe non-existent for the one whose sin has not caused him or her the least amount of discomfort—yet.

Do you know why your involvement in this phase matters? It is your statement of deep commitment to stand with a person at the worst moments of his or her life. To accept harsh words from people who are unhappy that anyone cares to help this ‘jerk!’ To identify with the person who has betrayed others, especially God and say he or she is still family. Perhaps to be lumped together with the person in the misdeed. I have experienced all of these responses.

Sin causes so much hurt in others. Do not go into this phase unaware. But be firm in your guidance. Do not let the person seek to lessen the blow by running away or giving up. Give direct advice when asked, but do not take over making choices that the person alone must determine. It is a delicate part of the process, but guiding the person caught in sin towards stability will prepare for the next phase, which is repentance and confession.

Steve Smith


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Where Do We Start?

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 17: Where Do We Start?

So how do you actually do restoration? It kicks into gear when the person caught in sin starts meeting with the team. Your team is not there to be the primary counselors for the person, but to be with the person throughout the time he or she is being restored and to guide him or her in spiritual restoration. Their insight will help determine when that person is ready for whatever is the next step. This team will pray and share with the person out of their own journey with God. They should be guided by humility, aware of their own struggle with sin.

They will meet weekly at the start of the process with the person, as long as the person is submitting to their ministry to him or her. As progress is made—which should be measured by people both on the team and in the leadership of the church family—the meetings can be reduced over time. If the person tries to run away from the process, your team must be ready to pursue him or her and bring the person back into the process (this takes humility and boldness, a powerful combination). It is up to the church’s leadership to determine when pursuit is no longer possible.

The team will hold the person accountable to fulfill all that he or she has been asked to do, whether it is to go to a counselor, confess sin before the church family, read and reflect on spiritual material, make restitution or any other requirement made to help restore him or her in their walk with God and to the church family. But their primary work is to seek to guide this person back into a deeper spiritual walk with God. This will call for transparency on your team’s part about their walk as well. Your team should work through spiritual transformation materials and read and discuss those together as they meet.

You have to be willing to ask hard questions when questionable behavior arises. You cannot let a false version of love for this person interfere with their being direct in challenging wrong actions or decisions. I once worked with a believer who had had an affair with another man’s wife. He had submitted himself to the restoration process and was in the early stages of restoration. Out of the blue he had sent a romantic card to the woman. Hearing from her husband, I took this information to our team and we confronted him. He got angry at us, but we loved him too much to let it pass. That became the turning point for him to pursue God for healing and deliverance.

Steve Smith


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It Takes a Community to Restore

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 16: It Takes a Community to Restore

The man that I was visiting was a broken one. He had had it all—loving wife, talented children, respect from young people who were learning from him at a school where he taught and a prestigious leadership position in a significant church. Until the day he hit the front page after being arrested for a crime. He was fired from both jobs. He had been sitting alone at home, wondering if his wife would leave him, wondering if his children would ever speak to him again, wondering if anyone would ever employ him again, wondering if God had turned His back for good on him. Some of his friends had coaxed him to attend one of our services and by the next day, I was at his home asking him if he wanted to get well. He did want that, and though I had known him for little more than a day, I set my sights on seeing him restored in his walk with God and with his wife and children.

We are not the Messiah when it comes to people being caught in sin. But we are their community. What I have learned is that restoration is not a one man band project. You need a team of people who know the person caught in sin and are willing to make the time to walk with that person through the process.

Knowing that it takes a community to restore, I always start with forming a team to walk through the process alongside the person, based on their maturity, gentleness and on their ability to hold confidences. They need to be safe, full of wisdom and the Spirit and willing to meet regularly with the person to be restored, possibly once a week for up to a year. In addition, team members have to be able to handle the confrontation and anger that comes with this ministry. This process is not for the half-hearted. It demands a robust commitment, as well as compassion for the person being restored. Anyone who displays a judgmental attitude should not be asked to serve.

I have found that experience is not a requirement. Love for Jesus and his church are. At the time of working with this man, my church was pretty young, so I did not have a huge selection of believers experienced in restoration. Two of the men I asked were pretty apprehensive because they had never done anything like this before, but they knew how to love. This process caused them to grow up more in their walk with God.

Though I led this team, I want you to know that I was not so much the leader as the trainer. I had experience in restoration, but the rest had little to none. I was preparing them for the time when they themselves would lead such a team. Please recognize that restoration is a spiritual practice not just for a pastor, but for all believers. When your church is just starting out practicing restoration, your goal is to raise up many who will be willing and able to restore others.

Steve Smith


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Avoid Being a Rescuer

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 9Avoid Being a Rescuer

One of my friends asked my opinion about how to handle a person he was mentoring in the faith. It seems that this person is beginning to have success in his work. He is becoming known in his field. People are calling him, recruiting him to speak to their leaders. However, he had become personally involved with one of his employees. When challenged about this, he blew it off as an everybody-makes-a-mistake kind of slip. His pushback bothered my friend. He was wondering how to bring about restoration for this man. I encouraged him not to be a rescuer.

What is the difference between being a safe person bringing about restoration and being a rescuer? The distinction comes when your spiritual concern as a mature believer is not heard and the other believer does not acknowledge the need to realign his or her life with God’s reign. Rescuing is pursuing someone too long when it is clear that person is defiantly moving towards becoming spiritually toxic.

Paul, who wrote Galatians 6:1-2, also wrote 1 Corinthians 5. In that part of his I-can’t-believe-I have-to-address-these-issues letter to the Corinth church, he is dealing with the outrageous behavior of a church that is averting its eyes from a scandalous sin in their midst. A believer is openly living with a woman who is his step-mother, coming to the gathering with her on his arm. Pagans are even shocked. Using his apostolic authority, Paul directs them to put him out of the church immediately and then proceeds to remind them that he had instructed that no one should eat with believers who lived like this.

It seems clear that the man was not concerned about righteousness. This was not just the behavior of someone unaware of what God called sin. His pagan culture did not even approve of it. But, the unwholesome slogan of the Corinth church was, “I have the right to do anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23) He evidently reasoned that his new faith allowed him to do any immoral thing he always secretly desired to do. God does not care because He forgives all. In addition, we see a sense of defiance in this action. He did not appear to care in the face of Paul’s previous instructions not to associate with sexually immoral people.

So what if someone says NO? Shouldn’t you just give him more time and wait for the Spirit to convict him that he needs to get well? Listen, this is not just about the NO, but about becoming toxic. He or she may not know how toxic they have become. But their sin is causing harm to others. These are people who want to play the game—have it their way and expect both you and God to accept them because they are satisfied that what they are doing is none of your business.

This stance of defiance is the dividing line between restoration and the need to let that person fall under God’s discipline. Restoration can only start when a person says YES to the question, “Do you want to get well?” You are looking for repentance and brokenness in this process. When a person does not want to get well, actively boasts about his or her rebellious choices, being a rescuer is futile and painful.

Steve Smith

 


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Learning from John How To Be a Safe Person

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 6: Learning from John How to Be a Safe Person

Learning to be safe requires that you first grasp what it will cost you to accept that those who mess up still belong to the family. This is neither easy nor cheap. According to all we know, John was the last survivor of the Twelve. He reportedly finished his life out as the overseer of the churches in the Roman province of Asia (modern western Turkey) after returning from his exile on Patmos. Clement, an early leader of the church in Rome, passed on the story that in John’s last years, he committed a young man who deeply impressed him to the discipling ministry of a pastor in one of his churches. John then returned to his home base in Ephesus. For a while the pastor diligently followed through. But at some point, he let up and the young man fell into the company of some pretty rotten characters, finally engaging in robbery with them. In time, he became their bandit chief, the most violent, most bloody, most cruel of them all.

Sometime later John returned to deal with an issue at this church. Asking after the young disciple, the pastor groaned deeply and burst into tears, saying, “He is dead to God, for he turned wicked and [became] a robber.” John was stunned with grief by this tale, but demanding a horse and a guide roade off  to find the young man. When he arrived at the robbers’ outpost, they took him prisoner.

Fearlessly, he urged his captors to lead him to their captain. As soon as the bandit chief caught sight of John, he ran as hard as he could to get away. But John, forgetting his age, pursued him, “My son, why do you flee from me, your own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure your death as the Lord suffered death for us. For you will I give up my life. Stand, believe; Christ has sent me.”

The young man stopped and wept, allowing John to embrace him. Falling on his knees, John kissed the young man’s right hand and assured him that he would find forgiveness from Jesus. He returned with John to the church. John stayed with him a long time until the young man was restored and he never wandered from his faith again.

Here is the starting point of being safe. You have to be willing to put even your life on the line for the person who messes up. If the wandering one knows you mean this, it changes the game. This is what agape looks like. “I love you no matter what you have done. You still belong and I will not let you go. I will sacrifice myself to make sure you do not.” The time you will give this person is not coming from one who is pouring out judgment or from someone who is standing in a place of superiority. The time is coming from someone who has experienced God’s love and is giving it to the person because they matter, whether they want to receive it or not.

Steve Smith


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You’re the Guy!

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 5: You’re the Guy!

In many cases, restoration has to start with a “Nathan moment.”

I have worked with numerous people in restoration who assumed that the people caught in sin referred to in Galatians 6 had repented—that he or she had shown fruits of great sorrow and is in anguish over what had happened—was ready to repudiate the sin—was in a position of non-defensiveness. While I have actually worked with some who fit this description, I have been involved in an equal number of restoration processes that started with us tracking down the offender and essentially delivering a blow to his or her spiritual solar plexus. Echoing Nathan’s powerful indictment to David in 2 Samuel 12:1-13, we began with a ‘You are the guy’ confrontation—prayerfully and pointedly. Sometimes it is the only thing you can do to stand between someone who needs your tough agape and his or her spiritual ruin.

I finally awoke to the need to do hands-on restoration with someone caught in sin by being tossed into the deep end ten years into ministry. God brought to me a personal friend who crossed all kinds of boundaries and had kept most of it hidden for a long time. I entered into a steep learning curve on restoration, learning much on the fly. The team we surrounded him with had a number of Nathan moments in that process, but seeing my friend alive in his walk with God again was worth every minute I and others gave to him. Yet I confess that we stumbled in the dark learning how to restore someone caught in sin without any of us having a clue how it was supposed to be done.

The first thing I learned during this restoration experience is that you have to be a safe person. Being safe means not only that you care, but that there is no judgmental attitude in you because the truth of your own wandering heart and the grace of God that has saved you from wandering.

I contested with a fellow leader who once told me there was no point in trying to restore people who were not repentant. We were talking about a person who we both cared about, but who was defiantly running in the wrong direction. I pointed out that Galatians 6:1 does not say restore the repentant. It says restore someone caught in sin. He totally disagreed. His stance on this messed up someone told me that he was not a safe person—not a Nathan. Because I was safe, I pursued the person until he was restored.

Steve Smith


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Is Restoration Worth the Trouble?

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 4: Is Restoration Worth the Trouble?

Transformational churches are full of people who are just as messy as those who attend churches that teach reformational life. So what do you do with people who have messed up . . . again? Or maybe are at the point of their lives when you would think they should know better, should be more spiritual, should demonstrate more maturity? Or maybe everyone’s question is, “How did he or she hide their sin so shockingly long from us?” Can these believers ever come back? And if they do come back, can they come back into your church?

Getting rid of the evidence of failure is such a temptation for churches. This is so because we tend to personalize people’s sin failure. Especially if the sin is very public (hits the newspaper, airwaves or the internet). We feel betrayed and maybe a little angry… or a lot angry. So statements are made, such as “This person has hurt the testimony of Jesus,” (which is our code for saying they have embarrassed us). Many times the choice of the church is to ask the sinner to step away from the faith community and maybe not come back until he or she gets fixed, if at all. But this is backwards. Jesus’ testimony is not hurt by someone’s sin failure as much as it is when we deny his mercy and grace at work among us by failing to seek to restore such people. That is far more serious because we have failed to love as Jesus loves.

A clear commitment to restoration keeps the transformational church from kicking people to the curb. Churches that have a transformational culture take Galatians 6:1-2 seriously and value fellow believers so much that their spiritual demise has to be challenged. You should care for each other enough to want to stop someone from going to destruction. I know when I see people strolling down the path toward an addiction that I lived with in the past, I want to stop them cold if I can.

This is what the body does. In this passage, I am pretty sure that Paul is focused on sin which has caught and is already controlling a fellow believer in such a way that it is leading to personal destruction as well as broken relationship with God and his or her church family. To engage in restoration means pursuing people who we are to love in the way Jesus loves them—this is the actual meaning of “so fulfill the law of Christ,” in this passage.

Steve Smith


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