There are two words that can make all the difference in your ministry relationships. Those words are very simple, yet they are quite profound. These words can heal and create a sense of trust. They can let others know our sincerity as well as our approachability.
These words are… “I’m sorry.”
Why is it so hard to apologize and admit our weaknesses, mistakes and even sins in ministry? Is it pride? Is it the sense that admitting any wrong doing will jeopardize our ministry or public reputation? I know that I don’t like to admit when I am wrong. And I certainly don’t like to apologize if I feel that I am not really responsible for whatever “wrong” was done. Should we apologize just because we know that another person has perceived an injustice even if we are not primarily responsible for the outcome? I believe the answer is frequently “Yes.”
We can disarm situations by taking responsibility for our part. Also, we can let the other person know that we wanted a different outcome than what occurred. We can recognize their pain and express our desire to move forward in a new direction. We can create a bridge that will allow a restoration of our relationship.
Of course, there are some things that leaders should never apologize for because it would do more harm than good. We don’t need to apologize for loving God or fearing Him more than any person. We don’t need to apologize for obeying divine direction or speaking the truth in love. It requires divine direction to know what is appropriate and helpful for each situation.
Are you willing to be proactive in seeking reconciliation? Sometimes it takes a big person to say that you’re sorry.
One of the worst feelings is to do something merely out of a sense of obligation. This is especially true when you are doing something for church or a Christian ministry. We shouldn’t do things out of guilt. We should do them out of a sense of love, devotion, and gratitude for what God has done for us.
I am always suspicious of any leader who uses guilt to motivate people to do the “right” thing. Jesus never did this. He said tough things to show people the reality of their situation not to manipulate them.
Jesus knew that people who do things out of the right heart will generate a godly result. Others do things with wrong motives. They may not be really effective in what they are doing because they only go half-way.
I am not saying that you must be gung ho about something before you do the right thing. There may be some things that you need to do that you don’t feel like doing. I am not arguing for a life where we only do what we want. That worldview runs completely against the call to follow Christ as Lord of all. Jesus modeled out what it meant to do hard things that his soul did not want to do. He prayed for his burden to be released even as He determined to go to the cross if that is what was required to accomplish the will of God.
Just like Jesus, God will likely call you to do some things that are not easy or make no sense from a human perspective. The Apostle John wrote that whoever claims to follow or know Jesus must walk as He did in full submission to God.
If we are obligated to anyone, it is Jesus. Yet, His call is a wooing of the heart not a harsh demand. Jesus never says, “You owe me.” This seems obvious to anyone who believes the Christian message. We know that we owe God, and it is the reality of His incredible love that stirs our heart to do things that please Him.
The real problem comes when we focus on meeting the expectations of others instead of doing God’s will. This can even happen by doing “good works” for the church if God has given us different priorities. We need to know what God desires for our lives. We will only discover that as we get to know Him and grow beyond our typical experience. Grace anchors our works in the firm reality that we can never pay back God.