I have served small, mid-sized and large churches as a youth, assistant, solo and lead pastor. For the most part, I’ve loved those congregations with all of my heart and soul. They were, to be honest, easy to love. But, I have made numerous mistakes in each ministry role and context. I didn’t realize that most of those mistakes were actually mistakes until many years later, when I had the space for reflection. Here, now, is my untimely confession and apology.
To all the congregations I’ve served:
I’m sorry for using the task of preaching as a tool for revenge. I’m sorry for those times when I saw myself only as a prophet representing a holy God to sinful humanity instead also as a priest representing sinful humanity to a holy God. I’m sorry for those times when I succumbed to preaching what I did not believe or practice. I’m sorry for preaching life-application in place of Kingdom values. I’m sorry for those times when I gave you good advice without giving you God. I’m sorry for my inability to string together words to capture the beauty, mystery and majesty of “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” I’m sorry for those times when I preached to entertain more than I did to transform.
I’m sorry for underestimating the power of my presence to make real the presence of Christ in your crisis. I’m sorry for those times when I wasn’t fully present with you in your pain, when I looked like I was listening empathetically but was really searching desperately for an escape so I could get to my next task. I’m sorry for offering small talk even when I sensed that meaningful, challenging conversation was what you needed most. I’m sorry for giving you therapy instead of theology.
I’m sorry for leading meetings that deteriorated into small-minded minutia instead of allowing space to dream God-sized dreams together. I’m sorry for allowing charts and graphs to blind me to the presence and power of God in our midst. I’m sorry for those times when I pushed you too hard to become what God never called you to be. I’m sorry for those times when I didn’t push you hard enough to become what God created you to be. I’m sorry for those times when I did not pursue the vision God gave us with passionate purpose. I’m sorry for those times when I was more consumed with what you thought of me than how I could join with God to love you. I’m sorry for allowing my quest for an ego stroke to trump my desire to glorify God.
I’m sorry for those times when I critiqued you instead of praying for you. I’m sorry for fantasizing about pastoring other churches when I was married in ministry to you. I’m sorry for complaining about you to my pastoral friends when there was so much about you to commend. I’m sorry for any cynicism that diminished my hope in what God could make of you. I’m sorry for those times when I used you as a pawn in my ploy for power and popularity.
For these and all of my pastoral sins, I am sincerely sorry.