Ministers, churches encouraged to seek restoration when missteps occurcomment (0)
July 24, 2014
By Jennifer Davis Rash
When Shea Lowery (see story, page 9) sought restoration from a moral misstep, the group committed to helping her contacted the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).
Dale Huff, director of the SBOM office of LeaderCare and church administration, guided the group in what to do.
The group became known as her restoration council, Huff said. And it played a role that other groups have played for various ministry leaders across the state.
“We offer to form a restoration council when a minister has been involved in moral misbehavior,” he explained. “We provide the material to be used, and I come and train the council.”
A typical restoration process takes several months with one year being the most common timeframe, Huff said.
In Lowery’s case, the women on the council would call her each week and ask her a series of questions such as:
Have you counseled with a man this week?
Have you had any contact with the man you stepped over the line with?
Did you attend your counseling session this week?
Did you attend a church service this week?
“The purpose of the council is to provide both accountability and support,” Huff said. “Each council devises the restoration process for the person and situation involved, so no two are exactly the same.”
But in all cases the overall concept is a four-step restoration process, he said. Those steps are:
1. Restoration to the Lord.
2. Restoration to the family.
3. Restoration to the church at large (not necessarily to the church where the minister was).
4. Restoration to the ministry.
“While there is no promise that the misbehaving minister will ever be in formal ministry again, we have seen some good things come about with those who have accepted their responsibility in immorality and desire to work to see things made right,” he said.
Barry Cosper, director of missions for Bessemer Baptist Association, agreed.
Having been involved in restoration ministry for 15 years, Cosper even wrote his doctoral dissertation on how church discipline is really a ministry of restoration.
“A lot of times people treat church discipline as excommunication, but that should only occur if the offender rejects restoration,” Cosper said. “Every person regardless of their sin can be restored. It is sad but sometimes the Church is the only marching army in the world who shoots its wounded.”
Cosper has helped 18 of 19 people under church discipline for restoration be restored, “and the 19th person is close,” he added.
“I train in teams of three, men with men and ladies with ladies,” Cosper said. The person who made the mistake gets to choose his or her restoration team based on a list of individuals trained by Cosper.
“This is tough love and compassion without compromise,” he said. “The team is willing to make an investment in your life so you have an opportunity to be restored and to know God is not through with you.”
Cosper urges churches to be prepared for restoration ministry rather than find themselves involved in it “out of necessity” like he did as a pastor.
“I have found churches who do not do the ministry of restoration/church discipline (when it is needed) will face a credibility issue in the community,” Cosper said. “It must be remembered that church discipline is a labor of love and compassion for the Christian who has fallen.”
To contact Dale Huff, call 1-800-264-1225 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Barry Cosper, call 205-428-2451 or email email@example.com.
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