Chapter 5, Rebuilding and Restoring

Now first of all, the wrecked ship needs restoring and repairing. The damaged hulk will have to be dragged off the rocks and hauled to a safe place for rebuilding and restoring. No such place may be available, which is not unusual. There are generally few resources to cover the costs of the time and money involved. There is often absolutely no help at all.

Christian leaders may actually want to be out from underneath the pressures that go with ministry. They may create a crisis, even on an subconscious level, which effectively forces an end to a ministry. This, in fact, describes many leadership failures. In such circumstances, the minister may eventually, after rebuilding, long to be back in action—somehow, somewhere.

Most people do not realize the pressures weighing on a minister, especially the pastor of a congregation. The pastor/teacher is carrying a load that few are aware of. Pastors rarely feel as though they are succeeding and are mostly aware of what is not getting done. They are painfully acquainted with people who are hurting and whom they do not seem to be able to help and encourage. Other care giving professionals rely on creating distance from those they serve, but this does not work in Christian ministry. The load is upon the shoulders, and it never lets up. How many pastors actually commit suicide is unknown, but from what I have gathered, it is a small but quantifiable percentage, nevertheless. It is then obvious the size of the rebuilding job that may be necessary.

There are many ways to serve our Lord Jesus other than pastoring a church. Though the church is a vital venue for service, it is not the only one. It may be publishing, writing, evangelism, serving abroad in difficult places; it may be as simple as handing bulletins to worshipers on Sunday morning. Over the years, I have found a number of those who were drummed out of the professional ministry, and some of them for good reason, who created businesses of one kind or another and therein found ways to count and witness. Whatever it may be, there will be a place to work for the Kingdom. The manager of the vineyard will find work for any who want it, even for those who show up late.

Our concern here now is rebuilding and restoration. I have learned that healing from a catastrophic collapse is not simply accomplished. Perhaps it will be a lonely and private struggle, as some Christian communities practice effective shunning techniques. Or, due to circumstances, there may be no time or money for such.

Ministers who must suddenly leave their place of employment are often without resources. What then? Here is where the internet might be helpful. If drugs or alcohol are involved, there are Twelve Step programs, which can be wonderful. These folks know what it is to stumble and to do so badly. They will be welcoming and affirming. Within the broad range of groups within the Twelve Step family are also groups that involve issues other than substance abuse. And there are men’s groups of all sorts. Some of these can be discovered on

There are Christian congregations that have mature believers who can be counted on, even among churches that are Christ-centered and biblically faithful. Christianity is far from a cookie-cutter phenomenon. It takes searching, asking, phoning, whatever it takes—but the point is, no one can do it alone. Even those who take up a monkish lifestyle and head for the desert or a mountain to pray, meditate, reflect, repent, and go back to basics—this is only a beginning. The Church, the blood-bought community of faith, that gathering where Jesus walks in its midst, is the place of ultimate healing.

After a crisis some Christian leaders fall apart and apparently, seemingly, depart from the faith. I have seen plenty of this. I had also seen that some of these “fallen” often make a comeback at some point. This is more often the case than one of no return. Once born again from above and one is a son or daughter of God, this does not change. Parents know that whatever happens, their kids are still their kids. Is it not so with the Father—does He not continue to love His erring and damaged children? Will He not lead them out of sin and its consequences and into green pastures? You know the answer, at least in your head if not in your heart.

Let us examine, briefly, some helpful passages of Scripture that speak to our issue.

James 5:19–20 reads:

[19] My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, [20] let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (ESV)

James, half-brother of Jesus, who many think was the first pastor of the first Christian congregation in Jerusalem, whose letter is likely the very first inspired document to emerge from the Christian Church, speaks to the issue of shipwreck very directly. The “if” in the first sentence is a conditional clause of the third class and is predicting the high probability of an event where someone wanders from the truth. To wander or stray from the truth is certainly a shipwreck scenario. Pastor James was concerned about such brother and sisters and encourages members of the flock to bring them back, the result of which is of the highest good.

James does not consider these wandering sheep as hopelessly lost at all. Perhaps echoing the teaching of the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine and goes out searching for the single lost lamb, he actually concludes his general pastoral letter with this beautiful, sensitive, and realistic admonition.

In 1 Timothy 3:1–13, we find Paul’s qualifications for overseers and deacons. The lists are formidable indeed: above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, a good manager of his household, have submissive children, not a recent convert, well thought of by non-Christians, dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy, having a thorough understanding of the Faith, tested beforehand so as to prove themselves blameless, and with wives who are dignified, not slanderers, sober-minded, and faithful in all things.

It might also be helpful to look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12 as well.

My thinking is that if anyone of us in Christian leadership was to sober-mindedly examine these qualifications, we would have to resign immediately. The calling is extraordinarily high, and this is in addition to loving the Lord our God with all we are and our neighbor as ourselves!

As I write this section, I cannot help but say to myself, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) Then the angel of God assured Isaiah, to whom the words were directed, that by the grace and mercy of God he was forgiven and by that grace he would fulfill his calling.

By my own strength I can only fail. Though appearing outwardly like I am faithful and obedient, I would know, and I do know, that I do not measure up. Though I may often be briefly commendable, to be honest, I do not qualify. The issue is that no one does, and those who do not know this about themselves are like a mine in the minefield. Am I too harsh in my judgment after fifty-two years in pastoral ministry? I think not.

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