Reflecting on a Year of Leadership Mistakes and Forgiveness

In a difficult ministry season, we could all use some grace and forgiveness.

Recently, I had a brief phone conversation with a woman in our church. (Well, apparently, she’s not in our church anymore.)

“Hey, this is Kurt! Just callin’ to see how you’re doing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. I know, all things COVID considered, that lots of folks have been out and watching online. But I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you, and you are loved and missed!”

“Please don’t call me again!”

Awkward silence.

“Uh, have I done something to offend you?”

“Because of COVID, I’ve been gone from Eastpoint for almost a year, and this is the first call from you or anyone!”

“Wow, I am so sorry …”

Before I got “sorry” out of my mouth, she hung up on me.

I wish I could tell you I’m confident and secure enough to handle rejection.

I wish I could tell you this is the first time someone has been upset with me as a pastor.

I truly wish I could tell you that I’ve done an incredible job pastoring our people during the worst crisis I’ve ever experienced in over 40 years of ministry.

But in so many ways, I’ve disappointed and upset so many people this past year.

• The anti-maskers are mad at me for requiring masks at one of our services.

• The maskers are upset with me for not requiring masks at all our services.

• A group thought we should have stayed closed and at least stopped singing in our services. (I wrote about that here.)

• Another group felt like we should never have closed at all (even for the few weeks we did).

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• Oh, and did I mention those who are upset with me over not saying enough about our country’s racial tensions and recent political situation?

I quit trying to please everyone a long time ago because it’s a foolish endeavor. As Aristotle once said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” Yep.

So, for the most part, I live to please an audience of one—Jesus. But I’ve never had to face a season like this before.

I had lunch with another pastor in town yesterday. We empathized with each other over how it has felt like a lose-lose scenario for leaders during this COVID season. No matter what we pastors do or don’t do, big groups of people are frustrated and ticked off.

Sadly, the division in our country has seeped its ugly spirit into the church.

Forgive me if I sound like I’m whining because that’s not my intent, but it’s been a tough year.

Speaking of forgiveness, here are some things I’m begging you to consider:

• I believe it’s time to heal.

• It’s time to forgive and set others free from our wrath.

• It’s time to reconcile and reunite families, churches, and our nation.

• It’s time to move forward as best as we can.

Please forgive me for not leading better.

Please forgive your parent, spouse or adult child for anything hurtful or harsh they’ve done.

Please forgive yourself for any poor choices you made during this trying season.

Forgiveness literally means to “untie the knot,” meaning we release others from our right for revenge and from our personal judgment. Instead, we choose the path of mercy and grace.

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And that choice isn’t based on our feelings or emotions, but on one thing: We forgive others as God chose to forgive us while we were still messed up and trapped in our sins.

By the way, the alternative to healing and forgiving is to stay bound in our anger and disappointment. But trust me, that path of unforgiveness isn’t good for you or anyone.

I truly am sorry for your angst and pain, especially for any part I had in your suffering.

By now, if you know me, you should know that I am far from perfect, a recovering idiot, and yet madly in love with Jesus.

And for the record, I have failed, I am failing and I will fail in the future as a human and as a pastor.

I don’t say that glibly or without a sharp pain in my heart, but I’m doing my best to live shame-free because I’d rather be in process than stuck in unforgiveness.

So, I’m working on the godly choice to walk in forgiveness. How about you? Will you forgive those (like me) who have offended you?

And if you are a fellow leader in the church, press on and forgive yourself. I cannot promise easier days ahead, but we have all we need in and through him. That’s God’s promise made to broken people like you and me.

“Keep your head up and your eyes fixed on the future before you.” —Proverbs 4:25 (Bubna Paraphrase Version)

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.