Doug Tegner tells the story of attending a one-day leadership retreat called to deal with his church's current crisis. Redwood Chapel was founded in 1962 and has since hosted the Bay Area Sunday School convention (BASS), had strong music programs, planted vibrant churches in other communities, had dynamic youth ministries, a strong missions program, and an exemplary educational program for more than 50 years. They were the second church in the nation to have its own cable TV station and broadcast services. But after experiencing two difficult pastorates, the church was reeling from the loss of nearly half of their church family, losing more than 500 people between 2000 and 2006. Their ministry had been significantly diminished.
They spent the morning recounting the significant events in the church's history. But they also listed many downers and hurtful situations: occasional moral failures among church leadership, decades-old conflicts that continued to fester, messy tensions between elders and staff. What they saw were recurring negative patterns which had become obvious and systemic. And most importantly that day, they called them what they were: sin.
By the end of the leadership retreat, they named four sins that had ebbed and flowed through the church over the decades: (1) Arrogance, boastfulness, and pride, (2) Avoiding difficult issues; (3) Gossip, and (4) Gracelessness. The report was brought to the congregation by the consultants and then given the next steps to be taken in healing and rebuilding the church, including a Solemn Assembly for congregational confession, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, and open conversation. At that service they named their sins. It was only then that the church could move forward.
And then he writes, "As a congregation, we are still repenting.... At times we have to confront such (sinful) behavior, much of which has persisted for years without being addressed honestly and directly..... We are learning to live humbly, truthfully, and graciously with each other. But repentance is not a one-time event; it needs continual attention."
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