This is a discussion based off what Clark Crebar wrote at the church blog for Community Bible Church in Folsom, California. The EFCA Pastor wrote about what it means to be sorry and why people don’t accept apologies. I also add my own thoughts based on personal experience to what Clark has written.
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
“After much discussion, tears and prayer, the Lord made it quite clear that this was the place where we were to be,” he said. “The opportunity to lead a people who loved God and desired to love Him more and to bless their community and the world around them made it a no brainer. It has also been amazing to see the unity of churches in Folsom. It is evident that we all see ourselves as one big unified family desiring to show Christ to all those around.”
Clark Crebar in the Folsom Telegraph
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice[a] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Matthew 5:23-24 NLT
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Community Bible Church of Folsom’s Senior Pastor Clark Crebar
Community Bible Church is an Evangelical Free Church in Folsom, California. Folsom is a small city in the Sacramento County area. Its known for Folsom Prison which is located there. Folsom itself is named after Joseph Libbey Folsom who purchased land and laid out a town that was called Granite City. Gold miners who were seeking gold in the California Sierra Nevada foothills were attracted to the area. The railroad linked Folsom to Sacramento shortly afterward. When Joseph Folsom died in 1855 the town was named in his honor. At one point there was a large community of Chinese-Americans in Folsom. However, arsonists burned down Chinatown in March of 1886 driving Chinese-Americans from Folsom. Its important to note that in national history at this time there was xenophobia towards the Chinese. In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed which prohibited the employment of Chinese laborers. Folsom Prison is the second oldest prison in California, with San Quentin being the first. Folsom has 2,000 inmates and its known in popular culture for Johnny Cash performing there in 1968. I have a song from that recording at the bottom of this post.
Community Bible Church began in 1956 with 25 people. Today it has about 400 people involved. Clark Crebar is the Senior Pastor of Community Bible Church. It appears Clark is from Eugene, Oregon where he ran track and field. Clark went to college at the University of Oregon where he got a B.S. in Community Health and Biology. He then went on to obtain a Masters of Divinity from Biola University. He attended Biola from 1987 until 1991. In the course of time he became an EFCA Pastor and served as the Adults Pastor at Grace Free in Eden Prairie, Minnesota from October of 2005 until July of 2012. After Grace Church he came to Community Bible Church in California and has served there from August of 2012 until present. Shortly after arriving in Folsom the local newspaper, the Telegraph wrote an article about the new pastor at Community Bible Church. You can read that article in, “New pastor looks to serve others in Folsom.” Clark also works for Strategic Renewal and has authored articles which you can read here, and here, plus there is this talk here. At Strategic Renewal he trains speakers also gives talks and has done this since 2007 and continues to do so. Clark is married and has five children. He writes an active blog called, “A Greater Passion.”
There is an article in Clark’s blog that I would like to use for a basis of writing. The name of the article that Clark wrote is called, “If You Were Really Sorry Then You Would…” There are some thoughts that I have about this post, plus I would like to discuss this in the context of modern evangelical Christianity. But before we discuss it let’s look at what Clark Crebar of Community Bible Church wrote.
Why Others Won’t Accept Your Apology
Too often in relationships something goes wrong and a person gets hurt. At times it is intentional and other times it happens out of not paying attention to what is important. We end up failing another person and then attempt to express our apologies to that person. We humble ourselves, give an apology and then somehow it gets rejected, “You are not even sorry! If you were really sorry then you would …”
Now you are really frustrated and the relationship is even more strained. Inside your head you are doing everything not fire back to them, “Did you not hear me?! Am I speaking another language?!” The walls go up and you want to give up. But don’t give up yet! Here is a great tool of communication found in a book by Gary Chapman, The Five Languages of Apology. It turns out that perhaps you were speaking in a different language after all. Here are five ways people generally understand and communicate apology. There is a good chance you both are just not hearing each other they way you intended.
Words of regret. “I am sorry. I made you feel … I feel terrible for what I have done to you.” They need to see both genuine empathy towards them and genuine sorrow from you.
Making restitution. “How can I make things right? What can I do to fix what I have done?” They need everything fixed and made right again.
Admitting wrong. “I was wrong when I …” They need For you to see that you acknowledge you were wrong.
Asking for forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for …” They need to hear you specifically ask for forgiveness. This puts your relationship with them in their control because you broke it.
Repentance. Just change your attitude and behavior. No words just action. If you tell them anything then tell them, “I’ll try not to do that again.” And then share your plan to change and carry it out.
All in all, your apology has to be heartfelt and put the other person first, no matter what their language of apology is. For those who are attempting to apologize to you, grant them mercy as they are doing the best they can using their language to show their regret. Prayerfully forgive anyway. Perhaps share in a humble manner how you understand an apology and thank them for showing theirs.
Realize as well that some people are so hurt, even adding to their previous hurts, that they will not accept an apology, no matter what language you use. Express your apology anyway as best you can. Ask how they would understand your regret. If nothing then forgive them between you and the Lord and leave them in God’s hands. Be glad the Lord has been merciful to you. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13.
There are a number of thoughts that go through my mind as I contemplate what Clark inserts into his post. And they deal with the problems of evangelicalism which has some systematic issues.
When People are Forced to Forgive
There is one side to the coin of forgiveness that is a problem. There are many evangelicals or fundamentalists who can force forgiveness. This happens in situations were alleged crimes have been committed. For example I think of C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries. In that organization people who had a child allegedly molested or sexually abused were made to forgive their abusers. That happened in the stories of Sovereign Grace Fairfax. Plus it also happened in the stories of Covenant Life Church. In Pam Palmer’s story her infant daughter who was molested was made to forgive her sexual abuser. The toddler screamed and ran under the chair. You can read more about Sovereign Grace in “The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch.” This also happened in other circumstances as well. In writing about Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis which at the times was run by John Bryson and Bryan Loritts this occurred there as well. In Fellowship Memphis, when the worship pastor Rick Trotter illegally recorded videos in the church restroom and engaging in voyeurism and the manufacturing of child pornography; forced forgiveness took place there as well. In the case of Fellowship Memphis the women were made to forgive the person who illicitly recorded them. You can read about that in the post I write called, “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.”
Now this form of forgiveness is coerced and fraudulent. It is often done to cover up criminal activity or to silence people. I think people would be shocked to know how often this occurs. In these situations pastors, or churches have no desire to do what is right. Instead they just want to make the issue of child molestation, or other allegations of criminal activity just go away. This form of forgiveness is intended to silence people once and for all. Its spiritual abuse in its darkest form.
Evangelical Christians Don’t Believe in Forgiveness
Then on the flip side you have another angle. Many evangelical Christians don’t believe in forgiveness as they do not practice it. Over and over as I write this blog I write about church situations and I hear one common theme. From Pennsylvania, to Minnesota to South Carolina and out to California many people want to hear the person who wronged them say they are sorry. They want and need peace so they can live their life. And many evangelical Christians deny people that peace. For outsiders and atheists the way Christians act in this area actually empowers atheism and disbelief. Why? Well its because evangelicals don’t show any form of humility. They know none and perhaps this is why they don’t ask for forgiveness. The tragedy is that if people asked for forgiveness many people would respond and want to extend it. I think its a part of basic human psychology – the desire to hear “I’m sorry, I was wrong will you forgive me? Can we talk this through and work it all out?” One of my goals here at this blog is my hope to help others find peace. The very peace that I was denied. But if evangelical Christians practiced forgiveness and reached out to people that they hurt the world would take them seriously. Because to be honest evangelical Christianity is often a joke.
What I Learned from My Spiritual Abuse Story from Andrew White of Sovereign Grace’s Redeemer Arlington
This issue is personal for me because of what I endured. Here is my take on forgiveness. For me its not about words but instead actions. This is where I think Redeemer Arlington pastor Jordan Kauflin failed in epic terms. You can say you are “sorry” but if you don’t undo or work at fixing the damage that was done; well the forgiveness is shallow and flawed. In my case I endured a false accusation from a military officer – an Air Force Captain who at one point graduated from the Air Force Academy. In my case through a false accusation and in witnessing how a military officer abuses his power I learned why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military. So when Andrew White, myself and Jordan Kauflin had a conference call about the situation Andrew said he was “sorry” and as I later learned is all he would do. The legal effects from the false accusation as told to me by a lawyer were not undone. It had effects that dragged on in the course of time. The apology was false in the end. It was a matter of doctrine. Believing in the right words as compared to doing the correct actions.
In my case I would have been willing to work with Andrew, Jordan and Redeemer Arlington to undo the damage. I was even willing to moderate my request if I saw some honest effort to mitigate the situation. I didn’t see that and that’s what drives this blog. Its the reason why many EFCA churches are being written about across the United States. Its a sad situation however, as I am learning its also a common one in evangelicalism. Its also one of the many reasons why parts of evangelicalism are just cancerous and toxic. Well that is all for today. Community Bible Church in Folsom, I will be writing about you again in the near future.