Thursday, June 08, 2006

Do I publicly apologise in Church this week?

OK. I’m looking for your thoughts here.

I said two things on Sunday in the Pentecost sermon that was just a little sloppy. I’m not proud of it. I was just two quick, trying to get to my main point.

I claimed that it was only the twelve who spoke in other languages. But I spoke with too much certainty. The ‘they’ in Verse 1 could have been the twelve together with all or some of the 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1. Secondly, I said that it was a wind that came upon the room, rather than a ‘sound like a wind’.

OK -- for some of you, it doesn’t look that bad. But one person in church wondered if I had a doctrinal axe to grind. And for the record, my point was simply that not everyone spoke in tongues that day -- a still valid point even if it was 120 speaking in other languages.

Either way, I’m not particularly looking for advice on Acts 1. [Another post if you want.]

Here is what I want: I want to know if you appreciate it when ministers apologise the following week if they were wrong about the text [or claimed too much].

  • Would you appreciate that?
  • Or would a clarification or apology detract something from the following week?
  • Would you put a note in the Bulletin? Like ‘Corrections’ in a newspaper?
  • Does an apology communicate something good [i.e. all of us have a ways to go when reading our Bible]?
  • Or does it destroy trust?
  • When is a blunder big enough to say something?
  • What was the worst blunder you’ve heard? [Not a bad sermon, but an error in fact] But please don’t name names...
  • Have you heard a preacher apologise?
  • Have you apologised the next week [in a Bible study etc] for something similar?

I have shared my blunder. Please share your thoughts... but be gentle!

Love, Justin.


Tim F said...

Hey Justin. I think you should make a mention of it next week, for sure. You obviously feel a need for some clarification (if not admitting an error) and it will only do good, particularly as it is on a potentially sensitive issue. Its good for ministers to be humble and shows they are not equal to or above the bible as authorities but subservient to it. I find it refreshing when preachers make a correction or apologise, it happens only too rarely. Which is not to say I want my teachers making mistakes, but rather displaying a willingness to be seen to be humble.

Scott said...

I screwed the pooch in biblestudy last week. Got myself in knots over Matt 7:6 the dogs and pigs. Only when i got home did i realise (cause my wife saved my butt). I felt so crappy. Next day I emailed out an apology and correction.

Sadly though I'm not 100% sure it undid the confusion. But in my mind it was bad enough a mistake that it couldn't go unchecked.

For acts 1, if your preaching thru a series, you have the advantage of reviewing the week before, maybe slip it in there . ..

Anonymous said...

Hi J, I think that it is probably good to say that you got it wrong (or however you think you got it), because it could be damaging for someone's faith. i think its refreshing to hear that a minister can learn from his congregation. I guess it would also depend on whether you did have 'an axe to grind' regardless of the point you were making.
Strength in weakness vibes, rhea

Mandy said...

I think a mention is appropriate - sure, what you said is not a big issue, but I think it gives an opportunity to model humility in sitting under God's word.

It shouldn't destroy trust, but encourage people to be listening to the sermon with engaged minds. I'd be encouraged that someone in your congregation was sitting, bible open and engaging with God as you preached.

I've been at churches where the preacher has clarified things said the previous week, based on discussions they have had with others. Best ones are short and to the point - explain what was said, correct what needs to be corrected and move on. Should be understandable even to people who were not present. A notice in the newsletter seems pretty impersonal to me ...

Luke Collings said...

Hi Justin,

There was a John Wayne movie once where where he came out with the pearl of wisdom, "Don't apologise, it's a sign of weakness." But this ain't the movies and you ain't John Wayne (I do love you, you know). Praise be that the Lord has chosen to entrust his Gospel to weak and fallible people.

Start the talk next week with a "Clarification and Correction" time. As has been previously said, it doesn't have to be anything major, but I have definitely appreciated it in the past when ministers have corrected themselves up the front.

Worst sermon mistake ever: heard one guy say that when Jesus died, he died only in his Human Nature and not his Divine Nature. This was later retracted and acknowledged as Nestorian.

mandy said...

Hi Justin,

great to read your blog and keep up to date with what you're doing. Miss the way you always challenged me (but the blog is a small compensation!!)

yeah, i'm sure a quick clarification would be appreciated by people...I will always remember your advice "maybe God just wants us to read his word properly".

Also, just in reply to the last comment- people should not entirely bag out the nestorians
(not that this was being done...)

Nath Scoular said...


One of the best experiences I have had at church this year was when I felt that the guy up the front was 'with' me. I like that. We are all in this Christian walk together. Just because someone is employed full time by the church, it doesn't mean they will always have the correct answers or the right point of view. Aren't we all stumbling home? And isn't this only as a result of grace and no doing of our own?

By writing this post you're almost halfway to giving an apology, all that's left is how you say it. I would have no problem with my minister re-clarifying and re-addressing previous sermons over the following week(s). (I'd just make sure that it was when John M wasn't sitting in the evening congregation! : ) I'm just joking here. In all seriousness, I would really appreciate it if I were sitting in your congregation.

Admitting you were wrong doesn't mean that people's perceptions of you will lower. To the contrary in fact.

I believe that the success of a church has a lot to do with unity. Humility is often the best fertiliser for the unity garden.


Nath Scoular said...

PS: There's already too much crap in church bulletins, so I steer well clear of that idea

chelsea said...

I totally agree with what Nath said before me - admitting wrong doesnt make people think less of you but more. If I was there I would totally appreciate you making the clarification. For one it is good to identify with a minister in the regard that its possible to make mistakes and that we can all learn more etc. And two, it also kinda shows a trust in your congregation in that you are willing to be honest with them and trust that they are there for the Lord's word and its truth rahter than anything else (if that makes sense?).
I remember an occassion earlier this year when one of my girls in b/s picked me up on something, i just needed to clarify it, and although i felt a little inadequate, it was ultimately more helpful in providing that clarification.
Anyway, Id say go for the clarification, and at church not the bulletin. I think it will ultimately build trust rather than damage it.
Thats my 2 cents worth anyway...

P.S>Was talking to someone about visiting NY today - so wanna go! haha

Renée said...

Yep, I voice a NO the the bulletin - seems as though you're fearful of drawing attention to the slight error. And a big resounding YES to the clarification/apology/correction in church.

Again, it's the humilty displayed in doing so that will most endear the gospel of Christ to your congregation, whether or not they noticed the mistake.


Anonymous said...

oh my, a resounding NUH-UH to the bulletin. i'm all for the mentioning-it-in-the-service. Ministers (although they may be more bible smart than most of us) are only human, mistakes get made. no disaster!

seapea said...

Hi, I think it's fine that you're so aware of what you've said, done, etc. Not many people can even recognize that, and just move on. As a pastor, I think it's great that you want to even APOLOGIZE (i think which happens wayyy too less in churches, believe it or not), so go ahead!

Simon Brown said...

Hey Justin,

If you're telling us, I'd suggest that it's important enough to tell them.

I'd also follow the principle that the adjustment/retraction/correction should be as prominent as the original statement -- I'd start the same talk this week with your comments, then move on.

I'm not sure, however, whether you phrase it as an apology or a correction...


Jim said...

Im going against the crowd (probably being Devils advocate more than anything else).

From the example you gave J, maybe you dont need clarification.

If someone challenged you on it, you can just take it up with them for clarification.

I mean, its not a heresey. (If it was, then yes, you need to correct).

I wonder if a correction ever places the question in peoples minds "I wonder what else he might have said which we didn't pick up on thats not right".

I dunno. Im just chucking thoughts out there.

What is it was every week? Would you want the minister the week after apologising every week for something they said the week before?


(please dont shoot me down. Im really just throwing the opposite ideas out there)

The Pocknalls said...

Hey. Let them know that you may have made a mistake.
From your pentecostal friends (aaarggggh)

James said...

James Says: Make the qualification. I can't see any legit negatives coming from it.

nfloridonker said...


hey there j-man, wish i was there for the sermon. i wasn't ... so i'm not sure what you should do (but has your conscience led the way with the blog??), but have a blunder story - more of a Freudian slip actually:

Bible reader in church: "I will be reading from the New International Virgin .... VERSION ...I mean Version"
[True quote from st ives circa. early 1990s]

On the other hand, "First law on holes - when you're in one, stop digging" [Denis Healey, British Chancellor of the exchequer].

Justin said...

OK -- Thanks all. For the record, I can't say anything this week. I'm neither preaching nor leading. But I think I'll get a chance in a week or two.

Personal notes:

Tim F -- Lovely to have Tim Friedman on my Blog. I love "Beautiful as You". Who knew that a person could write songs that inspired.

Scott -- Pooches, Dogs AND pigs? Hooley Dooley. Thanks for your honesty. I know the feeling full well. Intrigued to know what you got wrong.

Rhea -- my 'axe' is simply the obvious fact that not everyone spoke in tongues. A point still valid. We wouldn't want to make the Corinthians error of confusion the manifestation [great word] of the Spirit with the Spirit himself.

Safteygirl -- 'short and to the point' is good advice.

Luke -- John Wayne I ain't. But whenever I meet a Nestorian, I reach for my gun.

Mandy -- Watch out for my gun.

[For the record, I am joking]

Nath -- ‘Stumbling home’ -- Yes. [Part of the reason we are stumbling home is that it is no fun walking through the fertiliser of humility. Phew.

Chels -- You are right, I do trust my congregation. Someone said to me: "Hard congregation, at CCNYC. They'll pick up an exegetical error in a flash." Hmmm. Sounds like CCSI! Love it.

Renee -- No. I'm not fearful. Just interested to see what people think. I'm with most people that a clarification/apology is good.

Anonymous -- I've always found that people who don't like the 'bulletin' are afraid of outing themselves as Bulletin haters. Go on -- take a risk -- tell us who you are. Own your anti-Bulletin-ite tendencies.

Simon -- Good to have you here. I'd say 'correction' in this case. Only in that there isn't much damage done. But I would apologise for being sloppy. I want to avoid that as much as I can.

Jim -- Here’s what I think. If I said nothing, that'd be fine. I don't think that even the people who pointed it out to me would mind. And maybe you are right. Unless you are Nathan Walter, or Robin or Gav P, one always makes small mistakes. It’s just hard to avoid. Anyone who has lead a Bible Study knows that. We shall see.

Pocknalls -- Hey -- I'd be interested to know if the Pentecostals make public corrects in their exegesis. Do they have a strict sense of 'getting the text correct’? I can’t see it. And is there a difference between larger Pentecostal Churches and smaller ones in this regard? Of course, you can only speak from your experience!

James -- as always, brief.

Nat -- Myths and Legends of CCSI. Love them. Also -- there is always the problem of the Gentiles -- esp. when you mix around the ‘’t and the ‘I’ add ‘a’ in there somewhere. Common problem, I believe.

Back to preparing my Bible Study on Revelation 1.

Enough digging holes...


michael jensen said...

I think you should stand up in sackcloth and ashes.

And resign.


Justin said...


I thought that the point of Sackcloth and Ashes is that you SIT down in them.

But I could be wrong.

I've been wrong already this week.


Two+One said...

Hi Justin,

I appreciate your post, esp. having heard you preach and now being again reminded that we do have to read God's word careful.

So this week you just have proven that our minister is just like us:-)

Here my thoughts:
Being one body means to be a "helper" to on another too, doesn't it? How can eg. I help you, if you wont be just thankful for someone to pick a mistalke up, point it to you and then move on?

So I fear more demage done by a big word about it - kind of "what else was wrong" and "mh, will he be right this time". Leads to pick and choose about what you say next time.
Correct it as people come to you about it - a chance to one on one ministry...

Heike - The bookeeper and sheep of CCNYC

Jeremy Holland said...

Hi Justin

out of lurking for this one

... I don't think it can every hurt to show the detail of how you are using the bible to the congregation .... and points the way forward to your flawed humaniy at work under God
and a big yeh to all the other posts on apoligies, humility, openness.
Means a lot to me when I see my minister doing being open and honest from the pulpit.

Back to lurking

Jeremy Holland

Two+One said...

Sheep to shepard:

Justin, I keep thinking about it and this big question is now in my head:
Is there a difference between a mistake done unkowingly and done knowingly/deliberatly?

My previous comment is based on my assumption that there is a difference. But may I am on the wrong track here (and in doubt I am). Pls teach!

Heike <>{

Megs said...

I like it when a minister is honestly engaging and struggling with ideas, and doesn't have to be 'right', and is willing to listen. I think it would be good to weave the perspectives on your last week's sermon into this week's - not making a big deal of them or being apologetic, but just letting the people in on your thinking process...

We are looking forward to hearing you preach, in NY, in July or August!!!!

Goldy said...

I'm too lazy to read everyone else's comments & too late to give any constructive help. Nonetheless, I may as well weigh in with my 2cents (rounded up to five, rather than down to zero!)
I think it is certainly worthwhile apologising, or at least correcting yourself from last week. I guess the thing you want to avoid doing explaining your way out of things & looking like you are just making excuses.
It's a good thing to reenforce that the word of God is the word of God and not what you say about it.