(In order to get a better understanding of what is to follow, I suggest that you read Pt 1 & Pt 2 first)
The morning of April 10 dawned bright. "What did God have in store for us today," we wondered. Soon we were to find out.
Following a message based on the key words 'Forgiveness', 'Surrender', and 'Confession', the service moved to the public confession stage. The vice-chairman of the Local Board of Administration moved to the platform and brokenly began to read...
Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God 6 and prayed: “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. 7 From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.
I stand in front of our Lord and this body of believers today with a contrite spirit and a deep longing for a cleansed and healthy church!
As a sitting member of our Local Board of Administration for the last 15 years; I confess the sin that has emanated from the leadership of Ridge Road Wesleyan Church, for more than two decades.
In his report to us, Dr. Borden addresses the sins of the tongue; both the sins of commission and the sins of omission. This day the Local Board of Administration confesses and repents of both of these types of sins.
I confess that the LBA has not always been easy to work with for Pastors. I confess that at times the LBA has “Lorded it over” pastors and not behaved in an appropriate spirit of cooperation with pastors and in a spirit of seeking to come along side and support, but with a mind to stop “uncomfortable” change and control the church.
I confess that the Local Board of Administration has swerved from the focus of representing the mission and vision of the church; to focusing on making sure certain groups in the congregation were represented. We have most often been inwardly focused, with little focus on our responsibility before God to take the transforming message of the Good News to our community.
James 4:17 - Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. I confess that the Local Board of Administration has been largely negligent in the principles spoken to in Matthew 18. Whether it was due to being uncomfortable with confrontation, or fearful of fallout in the church; we have been woefully inept at appropriately dealing with Church discipline.
As leaders; we have failed in effectively modeling and instructing people on how to apply the principles in Matthew 18; as often times reports came from individuals in the congregation, but we did not insist or most often even encourage people to go and seek restoration with the other party.
On those rare occasions when the LBA has been involved in addressing behaviors which were sowing disunity in the body; I confess it was not done effectively; with too much anger, not enough prayer, and not enough seeking to understand before attempting to be understood.
Today, the LBA confesses these and any other sins. We humbly ask the Lord, the church and the community to forgive us for the devastating affects our behavior has had on the Kingdom. May God have mercy on us and reach out to those who were deeply offended and wounded by our behavior and thus driven away from our Lord.
A hush had settled over the congregation. He sat and a lady representing the congregation took his place...
In Matthew 12 versus 36-37, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.” Jesus reminds us that what we say reveals what is in our hearts.
I am here this morning to represent the people in our present congregation as well as past congregations to repent for the sins of this church and ask forgiveness from our Father in heaven and from all those who have been hurt by us in the past. The word Repentance means to experience sorrow for and seek to change wrong behavior. We have certainly caused much sorrow and engaged in years of wrong behavior. We will not let our pride keep us from admitting our sins this morning.
We ask forgiveness for not trusting in the leadership of our former pastors, for not giving our support even though they are clearly men of God. We ask forgiveness for not showing grace to the wives and children of our pastors. We feel great sorrow for the pain and alienation these families must have experienced. Beyond our leaders and their families, we have spread our gossip and negativity for the sole purpose of hurting others. We ask forgiveness for the times we were not transparent in our motives, the times we did not communicate or communicated in such a way to be hurtful and deceptive. We ask forgiveness for putting our personal preferences above God’s work, for being resistant to change even though it would have meant reaching others for the Kingdom. We ask for forgiveness from all those who have been hurt by our quickness to judge and our self-centered actions to the point of exclusion. We are deeply saddened by our words, thoughts and actions that have caused so much pain for so many people throughout our community. We are truly repentant for all the times those of us stood by and allowed the sinful behavior of a few to continue. Because of our tolerance and complacency, many have been hurt.
And still, as I stand before our Lord God and all of you, my heart has only these words,
Dear God, as your sinful people, we come before you now and we cry out for your forgiveness and the forgiveness of those we have wronged through our thoughts, words and actions. Please heal us and all those we have harmed so that we may be the congregation you intended.
A song gave all time to breath. Then we were back to the confessions. It was my turn!
As District Superintendent of the Eastern New York/New England District of the Wesleyan Church, I stand before you with a broken heart. I repent of the spirit of pride that has permeated our district and our churches. We have been proud of longevity while ignoring our lack of fruitfulness. We are in danger of hearing Jesus say, as He did of the fig tree, "Where is the fruit? Cut it down and cast it into the fire."
I am distraught over the fact that many of our church are full of disease and disobedience; making very little difference in the lives of these they serve and minimal impact on the communities in which they are located.
I repent for allowing a spirit to prevail that would allow the Ridge Road Wesleyan Church to become a disobedient, sinful church--one full of gossip and slander, so much so that the witness to this community has been damaged almost beyond repair.
I repent for tolerating a spirit of rebellion that had manifest itself, a spirit that clamors for MY WAY!
I repent for the communications that have come from my office that have been heavy-handed and destructive, rather than redemptive and missional.
I repent for allowing individuals who should know better to muddle, interfere, and sow seeds of discord and negativity in a church that God was trying to bless.
I am heartbroken over the manipulations, the attempts to control, the desire to return to the past and the refusal to cooperate with leadership as they sought to lead Ridge Road to become a purposeful, outreach-driven church.
As district leader, I repent for myself and my Board, for our prayerlessness, for our lack of spiritual concern and for allowing secular business to come before spiritual, life-changing business. May God forgive us all.
I sat as Pastor Dean rose to take my place. He represented pastors, past and present...
It was Isaiah the Prophet, who, upon seeing God in His holiness, exclaimed, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isa. 6: 5)
I stand before you representing the cadre of Wesleyan and non-Wesleyan pastoral leaders who have served this congregation since its founding in Glens Falls, New York.
I confess that we have felt like Moses of old, who must have wailed, “This people is a stiff-necked people whom you have asked us to lead.” As a result of those feelings, we have sinned against You, O Lord, by not upholding Your holiness among the people (Deut 32:51). Because we’ve held improper attitudes and done wrong deeds, we pastors have not seen the Promised Land of spiritual growth, the lush valley filled with saved souls, nor climbed the mountain of true numerical blessing. Instead, we’ve only seen the land of promise from a distance; we could not enter it because of our sin (Deut. 32: 52). Forgive us, O Lord!
Like Isaiah of old, we should have asked You for the seraphim to fly to us with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar, and received the gift You had prepared for Your preachers: “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isa. 6: 6). O Lord, we, instead, trampled on the holy and abused the sacred honor of declaring Your Word. We used our mouths to utter sinful, unholy things to the sheep that had been placed under our charge. Our words have caused great hurt and deep wounding to the people. We have sinned, O God, against You and Your people. Please forgive us, I pray!
I confess that though we were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we did not throw off everything that hindered and the sin that so easily entangled. We failed to run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. We did not endure the cross You gave us, nor did we consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, but, instead, grew weary and lost heart. Forgive us, O Lord!
I confess that we have talked badly about the people and acted as if we had had an injustice done to us because we were called to serve at 543 Ridge Road. We have complained about the hardships, resented having to put up with the continuous grievances, mourned the loss of income, and wished that we could move away and be free of this lot. For our sin of ingratitude and indifference, we ask for Your forgiveness, dear Lord!
I confess that we have sinned against our leaders, as the people have sinned against us, by not following them as we are called to do in scripture. We confess that we have been critical and worked against them by not helping them advance Your Church. We repent of our sin today!
O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have not lived up to our true leadership calling but have, instead, embraced the methods of the world in an attempt to manipulate the people into doing what we’ve wanted. We’ve deserted Your proven tools of prayer, fasting, scriptural study, and spiritual admonition and, instead, taken the easy route of growth seminars, downloadable podcasts, and packaged programming. We, and the people You’ve given us, have grown fat on programmed fast food while becoming ill from not ingesting the health fruits and vegetables found in the Word of God. Forgive us, O Lord, we pray!
As Moses declared so long ago, I too, declare today, my Father: “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Ex. 32: 31-32)
You, alone, are God and we are the under-shepherds called to lead this flock. We humble ourselves before You, and them, and ask for Your cleansing healing to come upon the pastoral-congregational relationship in this church. We thank You for hearing our confessions and forgiving our sins. Amen!
At this point, he turned to address the former pastor and family who were seated in the congregation...
Marc and Becky, we have invited you to return to our church today because we know that we have sinned against you by the way we treated you while you were our shepherds. We spoke ill-will to you in front of your children. We misjudged your intentions and criticized your decisions, and failed to do God’s prophet no harm.
We did not live up to our calling to honor God’s servant but instead made your time with us unpleasant and painful and burdensome. We believe you left us wronged, hurt and grieving your time here. It is not right how we’ve acted. We ask you, Marc, to please forgive us for our sins!
Becky, we treated your husband with disrespect and failed to honor you as our Pastor’s Spouse. We have brought tears to your eyes and sorrow to your heart and we are so very sorry for the wrongs that we have done to you. Please forgive us our sins!
Kids, we were not good role models to you while you were here with us. We know your Mom and Dad loved us but we spurned that love and resisted their influence in our lives. We stood back and let others hurt them and we did nothing to stop it. It must have hurt you to see your parents hurting so much. Kids, we did not act like a church should act towards its leaders and their children and we ask you to please forgive us for our sins!
After the church had given Becky a bouquet and gift, and each of the kids had received a card with a check in it, Pastor Marc was given a Nook, a Barnes & Noble reader, something pastor Dean said that he wished the church had given to him. Can you imagine shamelessly using a prayer and repentance service for hint-dropping?(LOL)
Marc and Beck addressed the congregation, asking for forgiveness for words, deeds and attitudes that they had exhibited during the days of stress.
Later that afternoon, I received a text message from Marc...
Pastor Paul, We are almost to Buffalo...Becky and I have been sharing how this has been a Great Day...a Life-Changing Day. What a difference God can make when His people seek Him (Forgiveness, Surrender & Confession).
I don't know what the future holds for Ridge Road Wesleyan Church, the District Transformation Project or the ENY-NE District, but one day at a time I am enjoying watching God be God and one step at a time I want to follow Him.
"He is God," Rick Warren said, "And I am not".