Years ago at a Bible Conference I heard the following story. A young pastor asked a long-term pastor how do you have longevity in a church? “Don’t make mistakes” came the response. A few years later he found the same pastor in another church and asked him why he had moved. The simple response was, “I make a mistake!”
Talk about mistakes ….. a man once opened a new business and his best friend sent him a floral arrangement. The friend dropped in a few days later to visit his buddy and was pained to see that the flowers had a sign that read, “Rest in Peace.” He called the florist to complain. The florist said, ‘It could be worse. Somewhere in this city is an arrangement in a cemetery that reads, ‘Congratulations on your new location.’ “
Have we not all made mistakes at one time or another in our ministries? I remember once as a very young preacher in my first church making a statement that dynamically backed up the point I was making. After the service, a very wise, but humble member expressed his deep appreciation for the message but wondered if I had a biblical text to back up that particular dynamic statement. I said, that I didn’t right now but would find one and present it too him. I recall that I spent much time that week trying to find a text that would verify my point but there was none to be found. The following Sunday I humbly apologized to him as well as the congregation, and since have been very sure that my messages were presented with biblical verification.
Puritan Thomas Carlyle once said, “Never let mistakes or wrong directions, of which every man falls into many, discourage you. There is precious instruction to be got by finding where we were wrong.” Someone else said, “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” I recognize that because of our high and holy calling, our leadership of the flock, and the high expectancy that is placed upon us to always be right, that sometimes it is deflating to find that we might be wrong. But it was C.S. Lewis who said, “There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake.”
If I had the time we could travel the pages of Scripture and find many who had made mistakes but also were aware of it. Let me just give you two examples. King Saul said in I Samuel 26:21: “Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.” Job said in Chapter 19:4: “Be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself. ”
J.I. Packer once stated, “Our God is a God who not merely restores, but takes up our mistakes and follies into His plan for us and brings good out of them. This is part of the wonder of his gracious sovereignty.” When we make mistakes we must always do what is right. Admit, confess, apologize, correct, or whatever might be necessary to undo what we did. Our people fully realize that we are also human and will understand and forgive if we have a humble spirit and are willing to learn from it. John 1:9 is for ministry leaders too!