11 Easy Steps to Repenting on the Internet

The Internet is in charge of everything. It is the authoritative word on ethics, morality, decency, politics, and now church discipline. Don’t believe me? Spend more time on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll be brainwashed in no time.

Sadly, we often see Christian leaders fall – affairs, leadership blow ups, ethical misconduct. Once upon a time that meant they worked through any discipline within their context (church, organization, etc.) toward restoration. Now, though, the Internet is in charge. This means that the Internet is where we look to see how discipline and repentance work.

It is an 11 step process.

1) Word Leaks Out

A rumor. A blog post. A Tweet. Somehow word leaks out that someone heard something about a leader’s indiscretion. The buzz begins.

2) A Letter From Fellow Leaders

The leaders who serve alongside the rumored deviant address the rumor publicly. If they’re wise they do their diligence and confirm any truth (or untruth) in the rumors. Often they simply repudiate the rumor, making themselves look like quite the horse’s backside when it comes out the leader did what the rumor said.

3) The Viral Confession

The leader publicly confesses to his failings. Usually he admits fault, confesses guilt, states his remorse, and begs forgiveness. Occasionally he makes an excuse or blame shifts, but not too often. This post explodes across all the news, pseudo-news, and Christian gossip sites. Social media goes bonkers with it too to the point Facebook users actually yearn for naught but a Donald Trump meme.


And here come the armchair Jesus’s, except without the deity or grace or wisdom. They critique motives, tone, and what should or should not have been said. Volumes are composed refuting, supporting, and otherwise confusing the issue.

5) Social Media Judgment Is Passed

This, of course is the arbiter of justice and morality. The bloggers contribute motions and render opinions, but in the collective wisdom of social media is where truth is found. Unanimity doesn’t matter. Reason doesn’t matter. All that matters is max volume and vitriol.

6) Leader Steps Aside

Whether willingly or under pressure the leader steps down from his position. We all know he leaves a gaping void behind and many hurt hearts. But what is that, really, when compared to the opportunity it creates for reaction?!

7) More Blogs And Judgments

Well, if the internet is going to judge motives and parse apologies of course it is going to judge actions too.

8) Leader Goes Underground

In light of his transgressions (what a great word, “transgressions”) and the unassailable judgment of the Internet, the leader disappears from the public eye for a while. Is he repairing broken relationships? Working on weaknesses? Or is he deep in the mountains of Eastern Europe gathering an army of death eaters? WHO KNOWS?

9) The Internet Pauses (But Doesn’t Forget)

It is a 24 hour news cycle. When someone disappears the Internet moves on to other things – Kanye’s latest idiocy, Trump being Trump, etc. But that isn’t the same as reaching resolution. No, the Internet considers the leader a “tabled issue”, not a resolved one.

10) Leader Reemerges

Is it safe to come out yet? Only if you bring your army, sir. No amount of restoration in your private life will prepare you or protect you from what happens next.

11) Internet picks up where it left off

With the reemergence of the leader comes reentry into today’s tweets, blogs, and news feeds. Old arguments are rehashed and re-presented as new thoughts. Further judgments are cast in favor and opposition. Motives are questioned. Private life is invaded. And so it shall ever be.

It’s truly a gratifying, satisfying, fulfilling experience for all involved. Nobody gets hurt and everyone walks away happy. The leader’s family and relationships are enriched. His motives and confessions are understood and accepted. People are gracious and kind.

Only just the opposite of all these things.

I live in the Nashville area and spend my days helping churches with leadership development. My nights are spent writing and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. I also podcast a bit. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, and The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life