By Randy Heacock, LEADership Minister
When Steve Kriss, Conference Executive Minister, invited me to consider being a LEADership Minister, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I have a LEADership minister and I have been in the conference long enough to remember the early conversations of the role of a LEADership Minister. However, one of my first interactions, a phone call from an elder of a congregation I now serve as a LEADership Minster, caught me by surprise. Steve never warned me of such a call, nor was it listed in the memo of understanding I signed. I attended the training on mandatory reporting; Barbie Fischer, Conference Communication Manager, provided some guidelines for communication protocol so that confidentiality is maintained. I was ready to go, so I thought.
An elder called and began with the following statement, “Randy, I need to apologize to you and ask for your forgiveness.” He went on to explain how he had heard something about me that he allowed to shape his opinion of me. When my name came up at their elders meeting, he raised some questions based on what he had heard about me. The other elders challenged him to speak to me directly rather than to rely on what he had heard. Hence, he began with an apology for not speaking to me first. His sincere apology and request for forgiveness provided a solid foundation for us to discuss his questions. I believe we both ended the conversation grateful for the interaction.
Though grateful, I soon felt a sense of sadness regarding this conversation. Sad, because it made me realize how rarely I have been involved in communication with other believers in which a person requested to be forgiven. In 30 years of pastoral leadership, I can only recall one other time when a person asked for my forgiveness. I wondered why this is so rare in the church that proclaims that reconciliation is the center of our work. At the same time, I have witnessed men with whom I have played basketball with for 15 years apologize to one another on a far more regular basis. Why is it more common for these men, many of whom do not share a faith commitment, to readily apologize to one another?
While I could provide some possible answers, I prefer to let us think on this for ourselves. I do know the positive outcome of one elder’s apology. I was deeply moved and our relationship enhanced by his phone call. It also challenged me to consider what stops me from freely seeking the forgiveness of another. I am grateful for this sad surprise. I pray we all may grow and experience the fruit of forgiveness in our relationships as the norm rather than the exception.
Luke 17:4, “”And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”