The Pastor’s Toolbox: Admitting Mistakes

Admitting Mistakes: It Is Best To Admit Them And Move On

“He that is down needs fear no fall; he that is low, no pride. He that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide.” (John Buynan)

Let’s admit it. Sometimes we are wrong. At times you say things that we learn later are incorrect. There are times when our judgment is poor. At times our reaction will be purely emotional and improper. And worst of all, our pride wells up inside, and we just don’t like to speak the three hardest words in the English language: “I was wrong.”

But there can be no better way to lead a group of people and then to admit our human weaknesses. Mistakes are part of the human predicament. As we continue to study, there will be times when we will change our minds on points of theology or the way we have interpreted a passage. When we do, we must not only correct our personal position but let our congregation know also.

I know of a pastor who began as an Arminian. Over years he has become an outspoken Calvinist. This is clear to everyone. Yet he maintains that his understanding of the Scriptures has always been Calvinistic. He needs to acknowledge to the congregation that the study over the years has led him to a new conclusion, that his theology was defective, and that by the grace of God he now has a better grasp of the Scriptures. Such is not a weakness but a strength. Those who will not learn should not teach.

I also remember hearing a true story about a man who was committed to the position that a believer could fall from grace. He began a series defending that position. In one of his sermons he was preaching John 10. Right in the middle of delivering his sermon his eyes were open to what Jesus was saying. He stopped his sermon and explained to his congregation that he now so clearly the opposite position taught in this passage. He finished the sermon for cleaning the preservation of the believer. That is an outstanding example of a man who was willing to admit his error immediately once the truth was made clear before his eyes.

We will not only be wrong on theological positions, but in implementing certain programs in our church, or in the shepherding of certain members, or in choosing message topics. The point is, at times we are going to be wrong, and we need to be humble enough to admit it, make the correction, and move on.

Our members will usually be very forgiving and ready to support our new direction, providing we teach them enough to show them the error of our ways and the correctness of our new approach. Members appreciate leaders who will acknowledge their humanness and those were willing to asked to be forgiven.

Source:  “Practical Wisdom For Pastors” by Curtis C. Thomas.

Gary Chaffins, is co-pastor at The Grace Community Church at Bigelow in Portsmouth, Ohio. He has a beautiful wife, two rotten kids, a big-white dog, and carries a large NASB.

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