After being a pastor for a few years I have made more than my share of mistakes. and I have found there are a few types of mistakes.
1. Wrong and you know it. Someone comes to you and says “Pastor, you really messed up” and you know they are right and you really did mess up something. These are honestly the easiest mistakes to deal with. It is simply a matter of standing up and owning it. Putting on your big kid pants and taking your lumps like you deserve. Sometimes we stand from the pulpit and say “I’m sorry,” or other times it is a phone call but these are the easiest kind to deal with and grow from.
2. Not wrong and no one knows it. This is the kind when someone comes to you and says “Pastor you messed up.” and you know you didn’t do anything wrong. That the situation they are talking about is a situation where you handled everything right. Maybe the person in your office sees it differently than you do or maybe they don’t know the whole story. Either way, you didn’t do anything wrong. These types of situations require a delicate balance between planting our feet and standing our ground and giving in for the sake of the relationship. As a pastor we are in the relationship business and sometimes, I think, we need to cave in and admit the other person was right even if we don’t believe simply to preserve the relationship. This is a very difficult act and a very difficult thing to do but sometimes I think we may need to do that. I think sometimes giving in is right when to stand our ground would betray the confidential nature of certain situations. Other times we need to plant our feet and say “I’m sorry you feel that way, but…” this will hurt people and puts up barriers and walls. I think though that there are times this is important and necessary to drive people forward and hopefully closer to Jesus. But if we get it wrong and hold fast when we should give then we can do A LOT of damage to people, church, kingdom of God. Knowing which option is not easy and should be taken with great care.
3. Wrong and no one knows it. This is the hardest kind of mess up there is. This is when a pastor gets it very wrong, in some aspect and no one catches it. Whether it is from a sermon or a speeding ticket or something else more serious and no one knows. What it means at its core is that there is no one there to push the pastor and challenge their own smugness. After awhile it can become almost like an addiction to see how badly we can screw it up before someone notices. This kind of mistake may go unnoticed for a short time but eventually it will catch up with a pastor and cost them more than they ever planned on spending. These kind of mistakes only happen in isolation and only because the pastor is alone. If you are reading this and you find yourself in these sorts of mistakes you need to find someone to tell and share with before it consumes you.