An Open Letter to Chris Hilken (Pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, California on Owning Mistakes and Seeking Forgiveness)

An open letter to Chris Hilken of North Coast Church offering advice on seeking forgiveness. This is a how to do it, and a possible way ahead. Remember a bad apology only adds to pain and makes a mess worse. That said, I don’t think Chris will be able to do this but hopefully he prove as the writer of this blog wrong. 

“Admitting to a mistake means refusing to use other people as scape-goats to avoid responsibility but rather courageously owning up to every single one of them.

T Whitmore

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.

5:23-24 NIV



This is an open letter to address your apology that you made a week ago today. This blog did an analysis of your apology in, “An Analysis of Chris Hilken’s Apology For Past Misconduct Inside North Coast Church and Why It Falls Short.” Your apology was short and had issues. That was already explained. Here is the question of what should you have done? How does one own mistakes and what does that mean? Several years ago I did a post on what repentance is, and I think you should read it. You can do so in, “A Primer on Repentance: What are Indicators that Repentance Has Occurred?” Here is what you should have done that would have shown you are serious about repentance.

  1. You should have disregarded Larry Osborne’s instructions and done the right thing. You should have thought of doing the right thing and moved ahead. You should have recorded an apology that was put on a public website. You should have offered to meet with people and listen. You  would do all this because you disregard the brand and care about the harm you have done. Now there may have been a consequence, for example you may have been fired by Osborne. But your intentions could not have been questioned. 
  2. You lay everything out on the table. And by that you discuss everything. From the  shunning and shaming, to the Jacob Cutler and David Garcia situation. You admit error and you don’t try and cover yourself. You know who is an indredible model of faith in this area if you want to check into this is Chuck Colson. Colson who was in Nixon’s Administration went to jail and boldly confessed his crimes in Watergate. You can’t question Colson’s sincerity or his integrity. He suffered but his integrity still shines. Even in his death today he still shines. So what you should have done is lay it all out in the table. If you lay out only a little and more stuff keeps emerging that will show that you are lying. 
  3. You listen to what other people have to say. You don’t speak you stay silent and you listen to the pain you have caused. Too many evangelicals want to speak and too few want to listen. You let them vent or cry or share what happened. You don’t correct them or make it about defending yourself. You are the pastor and yes you should be held to a higher standard. If you are going to meet with someone you meet with everyone. If there are 856 people from North Coast Church you meet with everyone one and let them say what they have to say. If they want to follow up or have several meetings then you do it. 
  4. You accept what people ask of you. Provided that it is not abusive or questionable. But if people ask you to make a larger statement you do that? If people ask you to report the past situations of Jacob Cutler and David Garcia to the local police and you go on record; well you do that. If people ask you to leave ministry then I would look for a new jop. Most people want to hear an apology Chris. That is what a lot of people want. Too often people act defensibly In these situations you have to put other people ahead of yourself. If you do that that is a game changer. 

So how do I know all this? Well because there was a time in my life where I had to do this. In a faith crisis I lashed out , hurt and wounded a number of people. When I hit bottom in my life I realized what I had done and sought to make the situation right. I actually compiled a list of people in my life and sought forgiveness from them one by one. It took time and it was exhausting. But you know in working things out with each person I felt like I dropped a weight? It felt freeing when I did it. I wrote about it for another blog here. In my case I met with nearly 140 people. I took many out to lunch or dinner and listened to them and worked at making amends and building bridges. It took a lot of time, energy and also some money. I knew when I was doing this that I had to convince them that I wanted to make amends. I knew, that my effort had to be overwhelming so that there could be no doubt. You can’t practice favoritism at all in these situations., You can’t pick and choose. You have to do the right thing. If you were to do something like that it would be beautiful. But I don’t think you have the courage to do so. So prove me wrong. Let this blogger be in a situation where I start hearing stories from people in the Instagram group being impressed. Your path to freedom starts with making amends and working with people one at a time.   If you do that it will be impressive. And in the process you could teach Larry Osborne what Christianity is, this blog doesn’t think he understands it. 

Very Respectfully, 

David Bonner