You don’t have to stay stuck in victim mode when you’ve been mistreated.
We asked our friend Ken Baugh to share with you his story of forgiveness and reconciliation after being terminated from his church, despite ten years of faithful service as a pastor. I (Bill) was honored to be part of the process in which God healed his broken heart and reconciled him with his church elders.
What follows is Ken’s story from his new book, Unhindered Abundance:
To forgive the people who hurt you is one of the hardest things to do as a follower of Jesus Christ, and yet it is an essential process to our ongoing spiritual formation. The Apostle Paul writes:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3:13)
I’ve been a Christian for forty-six years, and a pastor for over thirty years. And during those years, I’ve preached a lot of sermons on forgiveness and encouraged many people in pastoral counseling and spiritual direction to let go of the grievances they are holding against others. However, I have found that it is easier for me to move others down the path of forgiveness and reconciliation than it is to do it myself.
Early one morning a few months after my termination, I was sitting alone on the beach, near my house. It was still dark, and I was crying out to the Lord, feeling desperate about my situation and wondering what in the world I was going to do now.
Suddenly, God spoke to me. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I knew it was God because I would never make up what I heard in my head: “Ken, I want you to initiate a reconciliation process with the elders.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“What? Are you kidding me, God? Are you serious? The elders hurt me. They need to apologize to me. They need to go on a forgiveness tour for me and for everyone else they nuked by their decision.”
Have you ever been there with God? Have you ever experienced something so painful, so grave that it caused you to lash out at the one who knows your situation and loves you the most? If you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about, for we have wrestled with God.
The longer I sat there on the beach and thought about what God was inviting me to do, the more I knew that he was right.
I’ll admit that I didn’t do it with the best attitude, but I took out my cell phone and composed a text to each elder personally, asking if he would meet me for coffee. I made it clear that my only intention was to apologize for my part in the process that led to my termination.
Over the next several months, I met with each elder and offered a heartfelt apology. One thing I discovered is that there is no downside to humility. I could have easily stayed stuck in victim mode, allowing anger and bitterness to reside in my heart, but by God’s grace, that’s not what I did. Instead, I let God’s desire for unity flow through me.
Reconciling with fellow believers who have hurt you doesn’t make what they did okay, nor does it mean you have to vacation together or be golf buddies.
Here are three steps toward the reconciliation that fosters spiritual/emotional well-being:
- Appreciate Christ’s unfailing love for you and the person(s) you’re in conflict with.
- Apologize for any hurt you caused.
- Begin to right the wrong by offering empathy and praying for unity.
To hear more of pastor Ken Baugh’s encouraging story you can watch the interview I did with him and the elder chair from his former church: “Reconciling a Pastor and Elder Board.”
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk episode: Bill sits down with friend Ken Baugh to talk about his new book, Unhindered Abundance. The deep truths of Scripture join together with emotions and neurology to lead us to deeper abundance in Christ. Bill and Ken share what it’s like to take off the masks we wear so that we can experience the depths of God’s love. Ken has experienced this first-hand and shares the multiple ways God has tangibly helped him find abundance amidst painful seasons, including being terminated from his church.