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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