Can we “overrepent?”

Ted Haggard says he did and I agree that we can. Click here for article.

I am not talking about whether or not Haggard should now be a pastor. That’s a whole other discussion. I am talking about whether or not he groveled enough to convince the powers that be he was sincere.

Ted Haggard is not the only pastor I have seen go through this. In fact, I have seen a multitude go through this experience. They have to measure up to someone’s idea of when repentance is sincere, and that can end up with the repentant “overrepenting.” It’s not a pretty sight.

Of course, no amount of sorrow in the world can go deep enough to express awareness of the damage done. But when others begin to define what another’s repentance should look like, then we begin to wade into very muddy waters. Repentance can then begin to look a lot like penitence. And then it’s a matter of how many Hail Mary’s and sayings of the Rosary before one is back in the state of grace. I have seen churches almost enjoy the process, particularly those in the church who had previously been the pastor’s detractors. There is a dark delight in the tables being turned. It can be very ugly.

So churches that preach grace need to be careful of the “penitence model”.

By the way, Haggard reports the same experience Gordon MacDonald found. After the fall and return to ministry, the number of stories that started tumbling out of parishioners increased exponentially. People began to view the pastor as safe, one who would understand and who would not be harsh. Their sheer numbers stunned MacDonald.

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