If I Have Failed You
Written by Doug Gregan
Today in the course of ministering to a man he shared with me his deep hurt and frustration that within a fifteen year, off and on relationship with a particular church, he had never had his pastor or any other parishioners communicate with or visit him while he was incarcerated. Additionally, when his son had been dying in a coma, the pastor did not come until the boy had passed away.
I am all too familiar with this kind of disappointment, particularly in the lives of New Brothers, who often find themselves relegated to the bottom, or completely off, the priority list of pastors and parishioners. This conversation prompted me, in the moment, to examine my own life and ministry and reflect on how many men would have the same witness against me. The thought of failing someone in this way is something that causes me great distress, yet I know that it happens all too easily.
As I began to consider failure in ministry to others I began to outline the various ways in which I know I have let others down. I also know people who are still waiting and hoping that the pastor who offended and wounded them would finally come to own their sin and apologize. This is an ugly reality, but I feel it needs to be dealt with, possibly with the hope of fostering repentance and healing between minister and parishioner. The Word of God is clear about the heart and attitude that all Believers, but ministers in particular, should possess.
Please be assured that this is in no way a cloaked method of fishing for affirmation or approval. This is not a joke. I sincerely believe that God is looking for His servants, His ministers, to be repairers of the breeches that they have caused. I often hear those on the receiving end of ministry being told they need to remember that ministers are just people, who struggle like anybody else. I completely agree. I do not, however, hear anyone telling ministers they frequently need to be openly confessing their sins against the people, repenting, and recommitting to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to serve them even more like Christ.
This is my Holy Spirit prompted repentance and seeking of forgiveness from those I have failed and hurt in ministry. These are born out of my own life and what the Holy Spirit has spoken to me, but I sense and suspect they are common to many. May The Lord quicken you and bring healing to the places I have caused harm, neglect, offense, or injury.
There is a warning in scripture for those who serve. It is with honest fear and trembling that I confess my sin to you.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1 ESV)
I have failed to be filled with the Holy Spirit
As I understand it, in God's will for the Son, Jesus was always filled with the Holy Spirit to perfectly meet every need He encountered (John 3:34-35). The Son of God lived a life of sacrifice and service (Matt 20:28). There is never a time where we find Jesus empty, from the wilderness temptation to the Cross.
There is only one place that all ministry flows from and that is Jesus, His Holy Spirit dwelling in me. I am instructed by Jesus that it is essential that I abide in Him and that I be filled with the Spirit (John 15:4-8). Truly, I can do absolutely nothing genuinely fruitful apart from Him. If I am lacking, I am instructed to ask for more of the Holy Spirit and the Father will generously give it (Luke 11:5-13).
Every time I have failed you it is because I have not been filled with the Spirit. All of my failures and sins flow from this single issue. If I am in the Spirit, I am enabled, equipped and empowered, to meet the need. Without the Holy Spirit I am left to myself, with nothing of value to offer anyone.
I repent to you for not asking, seeking, and knocking on your behalf. I know that the Father will give me the Holy Spirit, but I have neglected to pursue Hims often as I should. I am sorry that I have not had the spiritual resources needed to meet your needs; the faith, the power, the wisdom, the mercy, the love, all of which are available to me in the Holy Spirit. I ask you to forgive me and to pray for me that I might pursue the Lord for more. I want to meet your needs and know it is my responsibility to be filled and ready.
I have failed you because of laziness
Simply put, there were times you needed me and I just didn't want to answer. For whatever reason, I found a reason not to respond to you in your time of need. I have been lazy and slothful in the call of God to serve you, regardless of time or severity of need.
I repent to you for such a gross and ugly disregard of your needs and seeking for help. I ask your forgiveness. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to convict me and move me to alertness at these times. I don't ever want to neglect the opportunity to minister to you or come under the power of slothfulness.
I have failed you because of busyness
Too many things in my head, disorganized and distracted, these are not excuses, nor do they qualify as reasons for not finding time to serve you. I know that I have committed to call, write, visit, or pray, and have not done so because I was too busy or disorganized to make the time.
I repent to you for my business and the disorganization that keeps me from ministering to you in real-time. I ask you to please forgive me. I ask you to please pray for me to become a better steward of my time and resources.
I have failed to be equipped to serve you
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15 ESV)
This is my charge before God and man, to be ready with an answer, to be prepared to serve, to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to know the Word of God, ready in season and out. This is not always the case and I repent to you. I don't always have understanding and knowledge of the Word that I could and should have. More importantly, I don't make enough time to become more effectively equipped to minister to you.
I repent to you for this and ask you to forgive me. Please pray for me, that I would be diligent to make time for seeking The Lord and the study of His Word.
I have failed to tell you the truth when I knew it
One of the most grievous sins I have committed against you is not telling you what I knew you needed to hear. The reasons for this are varied, some of them encompassing what I have shared above. I haven't told you the truth sometimes because I have judged you unable or unwilling to receive it, which is not my business. I have withheld the truth you needed to hear because I didn't want I what I perceived to be the hassle of hashing through it with you. Instead of having faith in God's ability to open your heart and quicken you to faith, I have often determined for myself that you were in unbelief and so there was no point. Other times I have withheld the truth from you because I didn't want to get in an argument, so I selfishly guarded myself from the confrontation.
As a result of my selfish choice I have allowed some of you to remain in bondage or be further hardened into a place of sin or unbelief. I have been in direct opposition and rebellion to the Holy Spirit when I know He has either revealed to me what you needed, or worse, told me to speak to you and I didn't.
I sincerely repent to you for this grievous and unloving sin. I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of others who have been impacted by my choices, including your spouses and children. I deeply regret yielding to this selfish behavior and choice and repent to God. Please pray for me. Pray for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ. Pray that I would be emboldened to speak whenever and to whomever the Holy Spirit directs me to.
I have failed because I didn't love you
The bottom line in all of this is that I have not loved you as Christ has loved me. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend. There is a hardness of heart and a selfishness that I have not allowed the Holy Spirit to break in me. I know that it grieves the heart of God and I know that it has caused any degree of suffering in your life and the lives of those connected to you.
I have reserved the right to judge you and walk in a critical spirit towards you. Instead of seeing constantly through eyes of faith, as Christ does with me, I have looked through my flesh and produced nothing but death.
I am grieved and deeply sorry. Please forgive me. Please have mercy on me, as I repent to you and The Lord for such an unChristlike heart, attitude, and behavior. Please forgive my lack of faith in my prayers for you. Forgive me for not praying for you as often as I should. Forgive my lack of power and grace when you needed it from me; for when you needed compassion, kindness, or action in love, and I gave you my silence or indifference.
In all of this, I have not loved you as I love myself. I pray for your mercy and forgiveness.
May The Lord minister healing to you in every place that I might have caused injury or harm, either in the natural or in the spirit. May the Holy Spirit minister to your every need, bringing truth and the power you need to mature and be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. This is my highest prayer of you and the deepest desire of my life and call as a minister.
I commit to taking action on every one of these points, beginning with seeking The Lord for mercy, wisdom, understanding, and repentance. I believe in the power of Christ to change me and I ask God for the hunger and thirst it will take to confront these issues in my heart, life and ministry.
Thank you for mercy. Thank you for giving me another chance. May we both embrace the mindset of the Apostle Paul...
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Phil 3:8–16 ESV)
If you are reading this and have no relationship with me as a minister, but have been wounded by others in ministry who have not made an effort towards healing and reconciliation, I pray you would accept my repentance on their behalf. May The Lord deliver and heal you of any spiritual and emotional hurt caused by those who have treated you as I have treated some I strive to serve.
I love you and thank the Lord for your life and place in the Kingdom of God. May God fulfill His every purpose and perfect will in your life. In the name of Jesus.
Your servant in Jesus Christ, Doug Gregan