I was struck by a recent article in Leadership Journal called A Repenting Church. The author, Pastor Doug Tegner, chronicles the story of his large successful evangelical church entering a season of confession and repentance. Redwood Chapel is a 53-year old church with a “glorious past.” In the 1960’s this church hosted the Bay Area Sunday School Convention (a big deal) and was one of the first churches to broadcast services on radio. In the 1970s and 1980s Redwood planted other churches, was known for its strong missions program, and had an “exemplary educational program.” Two difficult pastoral transitions and a host of other factors (some still not identified) led a season of decline in which hundreds of church members drifted to other congregations.
Recently, church leaders were called to special retreat where a consultant facilitated the conversation. They recounted the highs and lows, joys and defeats of each year in their history. They listed the major breakthroughs, the launching of new ministries, and the attendance spikes. They also listed the conflicts, tensions, and awkward departures.
Tegner describes what happened at the end of their retreat:
After a half day together, all 25 current and former leaders ended up on our knees, many with face in hands, some quietly weeping. We saw ourselves clearly: joys and defeats that cycled and recycled through our half-century history. We had been humbled together. Recurring negative patterns had become obvious and systemic. Most importantly, we called these patterned what they were – sin. It was obvious that we had become practitioners of some “worst practices.” Instead of bringing glory to God, we had repeatedly shamed the reputation of Christ, skirted over touchy issues, or attacked the reputation of other local churches.
The group identified four sins that ebbed and flowed through the church in recent decades:
- Arrogance, boastfulness, and pride;
- Hydroplaning over issues; sending them underground;
To see what the church leaders did next, read the whole article at: (http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/communitylife/discipleship/repentingchurch.html).
What “recurring negative patterns” (sin) have ebbed and flowed through our church in the last decade? What corporate sins need to be confessed? How is Ward’s story similar to or different from Redwood Chapel’s story? Is Ward Church healed? Should we move forward, no looking back? Or is there a need for further reflection (and maybe even some confession) before we can move forward well?
I would love to hear your thoughts.