See how dangerous this becomes? Congregations can be filled with unrepentant, proud church workers. This isn’t just because we are sinful beings, even though we have been saved. It’s also for a very practical reason: congregations are by and large run by volunteers. Paid staff are there in many places and need to repent as much as anyone else, but volunteers run most of a congregation’s activities. Volunteer workers have a huge spiritual, emotional, social, financial, and hourly stake in what goes on. So, when volunteers clash over priorities in a church, repentance is called for, but, sadly, often not practiced.
Repentance also has to take place at a senior church government level. Think of that elder who was there when the foundation stone was laid forty years ago. He’s seen it all. He’s seen three ministers come and go. He’s seen good times and bad. He’s poured prayer, time, and money into those four decades. All the youth events, communions, Bible studies, funerals—he’s been to them all. So, when he loses his temper at a session meeting because of a new initiative that an inexperienced young minister has launched with unthinking enthusiasm, who really needs to repent? Him or the new guy?
Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve made those mistakes and many more besides. I shudder to think of some of the ridiculous expectations I imposed on my elders and volunteer workers when I first entered my current calling. I will continue to make mistakes. But by God’s grace, I’ve learned the power of saying, “I’m sorry.” I’ve learned, moreover, the great truths of Christian discipleship: denying yourself, loving others for the sake of the kingdom, and living the “cruciform” life (1 Cor. 9).
Have you ever considered why Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 7:10? He wanted the Corinthians to repent and experience salvation “without regret.” Titus reported that they had repented of their sinful animosity and now desired to reunite with Paul (vv. 6–9). It’s a beautiful picture of the Spirit of Christ blessing Christians together in love. The church in Corinth thereby regained zeal and earnestness to share in the grace of God.
Brothers and sisters, repenting of sin to fellow believers affirms the gospel and releases the power of the Spirit in your life and calling. This is a very tangible picture of how Jesus changes our hearts. If you want to experience this, consider what you need to repent of and who you need to repent to.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on November 12, 2018.