What does it really mean to repent? If you are in ministry, how do you respond to people who say that they are sorry but then don’t take action to change? What do you do when people express words of repentance, but then mix them with words of blame for others and not taking responsibility? The classic: “I’m sorry. But it wasn’t my fault.”

All of us can be experts in blame shifting and the avoidance of responsibility. All of us can make excuses that try to justify our poor behavior. So how do we handle that when we face those conversations in the course of our ministry?

True repentance, literally “changing mind,” results in a change of behavior (2 Cor. 7:10-11). So making excuses is not taking responsibility. Focusing on past reasons why something was or wasn’t done only serves to throw focus away from the current responsibility to take action in the present.

To excuses, we can respond like this: “At this point, it really doesn’t matter why you didn’t listen in the past. The key question now is, ‘What steps are you going to take today that show you are taking responsibility?’”

To expressions of being overwhelmed, we can respond like this: “I can appreciate that you feel overwhelmed. And we’re here to help you can one step at a time – if you are willing to change.”

The bottom line is this:  “We are here to help you, but if you keep making excuses, then there’s nothing we can do. If you want to change, then let’s focus on the next steps you will take. It’s going to be a long journey, and it can be done one step at a time. By God’s grace, it can be done (Philippians 4:13).”

And of course– continued prayer.