A Primer on Repentance: What are Indicators that Repentance Has Occurred?

What is repentance? What are indicators that a person has repented? I have been meaning to write about this for a while. I also wanted to combine two situations and write about them in this post. This looks at the situation at Community Evangelical Free Church and Redeemer Arlington.

“Repentance is accepted remorse.”

Sophie Swetchine

“Brock is the most repentant man I had seen in 30 years of ministry.”

Steve Estes

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24 NIV

I dedicate this post to Steve Estes – biographer of Joni Erickson Tada, Westminster Seminary Professor and Senior Pastor of Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Plus I also dedicate this post to Jordan Kauflin, Pastor at Redeemer Arlington, formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries in the Washington, D.C. area.


A few months back I asked the question why don’t Christians say they are sorry? Why don’t they repent of their sin? Today I want to follow up on that post and ask, what is repentance?  What are the indicators that repentance has occurred? I want to start out by telling a Jewish proverb, and list indicators that I believe show that a person has repented. Then I would like to apply that to Brock Estes from Community Evangelical Free Church and Andrew White formerly from Redeemer Arlington.

There is a Jewish proverb that takes place in Eastern Europe. A man in a village loved to talk. He was in business and a good-hearted man. He loved attention and he meant no harm in his life. He knew it was wrong to tell some of the stories he did, but he dismissed it and carried on.  One day he found out a weird story about another businessman in town. He told the story over and over and fanned the flame. He shared it with his colleagues, who told business partners, who told friends, who told their wives, who told other family. It went around town until the subject of the story – the other businessman heard it. His career, name, and reputation were ruined. The businessman went to the Rabbi and proclaimed “My reputation and name are ruined!”

The Rabbi when he heard of this situation thought of the other businessmen who liked to gossip, so he asked to meet with him. When the businessmen heard of what he did he felt remorse and sorry. He was moved and said he did not realize what he did. The Rabbi sighed. The Rabbi said, “You cannot just tell stories about people you are hurting a person’s reputation.” The businessman asked, “What should I do? What can I do?” The Rabbi asked him to get a pillow. The businessman was baffled. “A pillow?” So the businessman went and got a pillow and returned to the Rabbi’s home. In the study the Rabbi opened the window and gave the businessman a knife and told him. “Cut it open.”

In here the man asked? The Rabbi told him to cut open the pillow. He did so and all the feathers came out. They went all over the study and made a mess. The window was open and the breeze picked up a number of feathers and they went outside and went far and wide. After a few minutes the Rabbi ordered the man to collect all the feathers and stuff them back into the pillow. Bring back every single one. The man blurted out, “Rabbi that is impossible! I can’t bring all those back!” The Rabbi said, “This is an example of what happens when something leaves your mouth and causes pain to others. You have no idea where the information goes.” The man now had an understanding of what it meant to apologize, show remorse and clean up the pain he caused. The Rabbi ordered him to go to the person and seek forgiveness. Afterward he needed to go to the other people he told the story to and apologize. He needed to make amends with as many people as he told the story. In that story he overcame his problem and never told another untrue story again.

I like that story because it indicates the meaning of forgiveness and how to clean up a problem that is created. Before I discuss the situation at Community Evangelical Free Church and Redeemer Arlington, let ask the following question. What are signs of repentance? What are indicators of repentance and remorse? Remember Steve Estes said that Brock Estes was the most repentant person (cough, cough) he had ever seen in all his thirty years of teaching. In repentance a person stops what they are doing and make a turn in their behavior or living. Has Brock done that?


Repentant Person Stops Running

A repentant person stops running from the mistakes or pain they cause. They stop being evasive, and avoiding the situation. They realize that they can’t keep running as running only makes the situation worse. A repentant person stops in his tracks and starts to go back to where the conflict began. He realizes that he will have to engage, speak, and be willing to work things out. He realizes his days of running are over. He is committed to working out the problem and do what it takes. When its hard and difficult he doesn’t break off in the middle of the situation and resume running. No he stays and works things out. He doesn’t back away or back off, he doubles down and is committed to engaging until the problem is resolved.


Repentant Person Accepts Responsibility

A repentant person accepts responsibilities for their actions. They accept their fate for what they did. Now here is the key, if the person repents fully the person who was wronged will most likely show sympathy as people want to forgive. But a repentant person admits and accepts responsibility for what happens. They let the chips fall where they may and they deal with it. That also shows their maturity, depth, and wisdom in that by doing the right thing they are not making it worse and fanning it. Owning the situation means that it doesn’t go any further and that the effort to heal and repair the damage has begun.


If a Repentant Person Broke the Law they Accept the Consequences of their Actions

One thing that needs to be remembered is that if a person broke the law then they should accept as a part of their repentance, punishment from the state. Not only is this an indicator that they are accepting the situation but it also reveals their desire to make the wrong right. The difficult thing for some people is that the legal system will vary from person to person. Some may receive the book, and some may get off lightly. It also depends upon what you committed. But whatever the crime, driving while intoxicated, theft, embezzlement, or more involving the legal system needs to be a part of the solution. Repentance doesn’t mean a “get out of jail” card. I actually think of some of Chuck Colson’s experience in prison for his involvement in Watergate. That is a modus operandi that should be followed by the Christian church.


Repentant Person Grieves and Mourns What they Did

A person who is working through something understands and knows what they did. They honestly grieve over the pain they caused themselves, others and the community around them. What is grieving? Its different for every person and it doesn’t have to be open and emotional, but for some it will be. But I think grieving takes place over a period of time. Its not a momentary thing of “I’m sorry I did this…” and then suddenly forgetting it. Grief can be a period and it varies depending upon what took place. For example grief over an affair may last a significant amount of time. In the process of winning back trust they do that by mourning the situation. They mourn how the hurt their wife, husband, friend, business partner, etc.. They mourn the ramifications of trust that was broken and pain that was caused. They are doing this to help build a bridge with a person again. Trust may or may not be created again, but it can help those around them who are deciding how to engage a person. But a strong indicator of repentance is that they are grieving what they did and mourning it as well.


Repentant Person Wants to Make the Situation Right

When  a person has changed course they are eager and willing to do whatever it takes to help fix the situation. This is a strong indicator of a heart change. It may be pursuing a person and pleading to be forgiven. Or it may be they going above or beyond. For example on a scale of 1 to 10, the person may be aiming for a 15 to help resolve something that took place. They are not content with the bare minimum (to quote from Office Space 😛 ) but they are committed to going all out to resolve the conflict, fix their marriage, or do what needs to be done. Attitude and heart shows and reveals itself especially in this area. Forgive me for saying this…but its kind of like porn in that  you know it when you see it. And the difference between someone saying I am sorry and not working to fix something, vs. someone going above and beyond are profound. Personal initiative that a person takes speaks a lot about them in the end. People are not stupid either. People can see through something half baked. When its done in a half hearted attempt it can lead many people to conclude that the person is “sorry” they were caught.


Repentant Person Cares about Healing the Person they Hurt

A repentant person cares about healing the person or community they wounded. They repent not only for their benefit but for the other person as well. In this situation the repentant person knows and understands how much a person needs peace. And they respond to not only give that person peace and fill that hole that exists,  but they do that because they care about the other person. The greatest gift a repentant person can give to the person they wounded is their desire to heal them so they can live. So that they do not feel stuck. The cruelest thing a person can do is to deny peace.  That is key and plus I think that is why Jesus makes it mandatory to work things out with your brother.


Repentant Person’s Words are Backed up by Action

Talk is cheap, and talk can often mean nothing. When a person is having actions that back up their words then you know you are dealing with a different person. Actions speak loud and actions speak volumes that this person knows what transpired, what happened, they are working to fix things and they are moving in the right direction. This affirms the previous points and is what many people should look for as well. Too often especially in the Neo-Calvinist community there is an emphasis of saying the right words but not having the actions that back it up. All this triumphant proclaiming of “sound doctrine” and yet they still have failed miserably. This point is key and should be remembered and esteemed as well.


Repentant Person Listens and Responds

The final point I want to make is that a repentant person listens and responds. He engages all around him and is willing to hear other opinions of himself. For example, a repentant person is willing to stop, and let the wounded person say, “This is how you hurt me…” They do not stop or try and prevent the person from speaking. They let the person explain what happened, how they feel, they let the person get out all that is bottled up inside. The person who repents also walks with the person who is recovering or is willing to do so. Some issues such as child sex abuse might be too sensitive, but then stop and consider the story of Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge. Their relationship illustrates this point perfectly. The repentant person listens and responds with warmth, eagerness, and they want to invest in someone’s pain so they can redeem that pain and heal a person.


Application: Brock Estes – Community Evangelical Free

Lets apply what I wrote above to Brock Estes. Now Steve Estes claimed that Brock was the most repentant person he had seen in thirty years of ministry. But the question remains…has Brock repented of allegedly raping his wife and allegedly pointing a gun at her? Has he repented of the alleged domestic abuse in his marriage? Brock has never surrendered himself to law enforcement over the situation. During the process of the separation he expressed no desire to patch things up and heal them. What little he did from what I understand was far short, and in these situations one cannot do the bare minimum. Its also my understanding that Hurit never took out a restraining order against her husband. So Brock was free to reach out and pursue Hurit. He never did, he never reached out to send a note, a letter or took any action like that at all. To my understanding Brock has never repented for the alleged rape of his wife. Also he has never repented for the alleged gun incident. As for his addictions he has never took the steps to get long term treatment for them. That’s pretty sad, given that as a government employee he has health care benefits that can be far superior to private sector health benefits. To my understanding Brock never sought out a counselor for his pornography problem. Likewise he never sought out an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for his drinking habits. I know some will say what about Christian Counseling and Education Foundation? Well, I think this post reveals that David Powlison’s organization has serious systematic and systemic problems. So has Brock repented of all that happened? In this observer’s opinion I would suggest that no he has not. Now if I heard he was in AA and still having problems then I would give him the benefit of he doubt and say that he is trying. But I have not heard anything like that at all.


Application: Andrew White – Redeemer Arlington

Moving on to Andrew White let me illustrate the problems that exist. Initially I was cautiously optimistic after Jordan Kauflin, Andrew and I have a conference call on May 18, 2015. The stakes were high for me because Andrew gave birth to a false accusation. He falsely stated that I was a threat to his family, and did so after he asked me to stay in his house, walked me through his wedding album, and asked me to change he password on his computer. Dee Parsons had me speak to an attorney who explained to me why I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit against Andrew. He pointed out how my name took a hit, and how my current and future employment was threatened. He also explained to me what I needed to accept. To be honest I was nervous engaging with a former Sovereign Grace church after all I read on SGM Survivors. But it was my name, and my future that was at stake. So here’s what happened, on May 18, 2015 we had a conference call. Andrew said that I had respected his requests to not contact him and that no I never stalked him. He admitted he was wrong and in error but that was as far as it got. Shortly thereafter Andrew broke off the discussions. He didn’t neutralize the false accusation and left it in place. He resumed running and has acted just like Jonah since this all happened. The logjam with Jordan Kaulfin was “well Andrew said he was sorry.” Today I would say that Andrew is sorry that he got caught. He is not at all sorry over the fact that he could have destroyed my life or reputation. Andrew built a wall and refuses to deal with the situation. It took a year for Jordan Kauflin to admit that Andrew needed to communicate more and should have been more open. But much of what I wrote about up top never took place. I think Redeemer Arlington tried to do damage control especially when it bordered on a legal situation. Plus I think they were afraid that they would be written up on The Wartburg Watch and the leadership of Redeemer was afraid of this situation spilling out there. I would love to be proven wrong, and if I am wrong then I will retract what is written and would be eager to apologize to Jordan face to face.


Closing Remarks

In that Jewish proverb up above it stated that the person who caused the pain had to chase down all the feathers in order to resolve the situation. There are many feathers that need to be chased down in both stories. In the case of Hurit and Steve Estes, her name took a hit in an Excommunication Service that was based on dishonest evidence. Basically Community Evangelical Free Church went after the wrong person. All the people that heard Hurit’s name take a hit need to be approached by the leadership. This is why Community Evangelical Free needs to hold a special service and repent. Hurit’s family and her parents need an apology. Those who stood by Hurit need to hear the apology. In this story there are many feathers all over Elverson that carried forward up to Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. In the other story with Redeemer Arlingotn there are only a couple of feathers that Andrew has to chase down. As always I love you guys!

4 thoughts on “A Primer on Repentance: What are Indicators that Repentance Has Occurred?

  1. If you live in Elverson, or were involved in CEFC I would like you to get involved in this discussion. Is Brock Estes “the most repentant man that Steve Estes saw in 30 years of ministry?” Let’s discuss this…has Brock repented? Why or why not? What would you consider repentance?


  2. The part that still makes me shudder is the depiction of the Elverson leadership getting up in front of the church, pulling out a bag of rocks, and telling the congregation not to throw stones at Brock, all Jesus-like… while they were dropping boulders on poor hapless Hurit.


Comments are closed.