How do we help a brother/ sister who backslides?

How do we help/ minister to them? They hold so much guilt, shame, and feel unworthy beacuse they have betrayed their faith in God. I know God is the one who restores, and I also believe he uses us to minister to them. Helping those who are struggling with restoration is new to me and would appreciate your advice and wisdom.

Thank You!!


@LucyG Hey Lucy, great question :slight_smile: Are you thinking of someone who has left the faith for intellectual reasons or someone who has fallen into a life of sin and does not know how to get out of it? I think the way we respond depends a lot on the life story of the individual and where they are at in their journey.

If they are struggling with questions and doubts, you might be able to encourage them that doubt is actually part of our journey. Doubt should not be a source of shame. We all experience doubt - it is part of being human. In fact, faith and doubt are not opposites - doubt is part of the faith journey and both God and the community of faith are completely capable of loving someone in the midst of their doubts.

Resources on Doubt

Greg Boyd - Faith is Not About Certainty But About Covenant

faith is not intellectual assent (a psychological concept); it is not psychological certainty

people tend to think your faith is as strong as your mind is certain, in which case doubt is the antithesis of faith, but this view is incorrect

Biblical faith isn’t about trying to attain certainty; it’s about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty

For many, faith is about attaining as much certainty as possible in order to be a true follower of Christ. But the Bible tells us faith is about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty. God is not seeking all the right answers from his people in order to let them into heaven; no, he is our loving Bridegroom who seeks to be in a covenantal relationship with us in the midst of our uncertainties.


The backslider needs to gain ground by standing on God’s word moving forward. God can’t do this for him and neither can you. But it might be a source of hope and security for the backslider to be encouraged to take stable steps along that path, submitting to God moving forward.

the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? Gen 4:6-7

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil… Prov 16:6

The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself… Proverbs 14:14

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up… James 4:7-10

Also, a few thoughts I got from secular shame researcher Berne’ Brown:
the research on guilt and shame suggests that coming away from guilt can actually have a positive affect as it identifies the bad thing thing we did, whereas shame points deep into our personal identity. Guilt says “you did bad” whereas shame says “you are bad” The research indicates shame,has links to mental illness, depression and suicide.

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@LucyG Bless you for wanting to help and the Bible clearly states that we are to help them and Jesus himself gives us the model for confronting sin in a fellow believer.

Hebrews 3:12-14 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Sean has given great resources for when the situation involves doubt. Here is some guidance when it is unrepentant sin.

Whatever you do should be done with gentleness and compassion. Pray and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Circumstances will vary greatly, but for a person who is unyielding and choosing not to repent, expect defensiveness and even anger. Let them know you will be there for them when they choose to deal with this sin, but sometimes, like with an addict they have to fall very far before they are willing to let it go and give themselves back to God. In those circumstances our best tool is continued prayer for that person.

If the person is truly feeling shame and guilt, chances are their heart is ready for repentance even though they may not really know it. That shame/guilt may indicate the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. In these circumstances I think a powerful tool is to ask them to remember and share what brought them to Jesus initially. What was that like? How did that feel? Have there been any powerful moments where they felt God’s presence/closeness? What do they feel now? Why are they choosing where they are now with where they were before in their closeness to God? Do they sincerely desire to know that closer relationship with God again?

Remind them that there’s a vast difference between believing in God and believing God. And if they truly believe then they should take God at his word when he speaks of forgiveness. There may still be consequences for their actions they will need to contend with, but they do not need to carry the burden of guilt and shame with them. If they themselves had a child that sinned against them, wouldn’t they want the child to know the fullness of their love and forgiveness after the child confessed and apologized?

Remind them also that we are ALL broken vessels in need of restoration. We all fall short. We all fall down. It is a far worse predicament to not get back up, to let their hearts become hardened and inured to the sin.

Listen to this person. Pray with this person. Love one another as we are commanded to do. Your gentle ministrations may be exactly what then need, whether they are willing to admit it or not. God bless.


@SeanO @timotto @Jennifer_Judson, Thank you so much for the scripture and references! I recently began helping at a mission for the homeless. I found out that some are believers that are going through a difficult season in their life but still hold on to their faith in God. And some had a relationship with God but somehow fell into sin and are struggling with the guilt and that hinders them from moving towards restoration with God. I genuinely want to make a difference, and your insight is of great value to me and those that need the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. @timotto, I will check out Brene Brown.:slightly_smiling_face:

May God continue to bless all you!!!


We’ll pray that you will be a vessel of God’s blessing for them every day. I have confidence that you will be blessed in return. I’m continually reminded that our God is a God of multiplication!


Amen! Thank you, Jennifer_Judson, for your prayers and encouragement I sure do need them! I will keep you, and RZIM connect in my prayers.

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