Are elders ever wrong or do they make mistakes? The question sounds somewhat ludicrous, doesn’t it? Of course, elders are sometimes wrong and can certainly make mistakes, despite the most sincere efforts and prayer. That being true, what does an elder do when he is wrong?
Keep in mind, the rest of the congregation probably knows when you are wrong. I believe they can handle that. The real issue for them is how do you handle things when you are wrong? The first step is to honestly admit it to yourself and then to the Lord. Next quickly admit it to those affected.
Many are the jokes about politicians who deny or spin what everyone knows to be true. This shouldn’t be the case for spiritual leaders. If James 5:16 applies to all Christians, it behooves elders to lead the way: Confess your sins to each other. This includes asking forgiveness, if necessary.
What does this accomplish? First, you become more credible in the eyes of others, because they see that you are not teaching people what you yourself don’t put into practice. Rather than making you look weak, it shows you to be a humble, faithful leader.
Second, dealing with reality is always better than embracing falsehood. The sooner you admit your fault, the sooner you can move ahead in truth. Third, the time otherwise wasted defending yourself can be better be spent ministering to others.
Having had much experience in being wrong, I have found the best thing to do when wrong is quickly admit it, seek forgiveness and move ahead in the work.
*This article was originally published in Elders’ ShopNotes.