“Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:7)
When I…as an individual…wander away from my “first love” for God, repentance is required. The same is true for families, growth groups, ministry teams, committees, councils, and churches! Corporate (group) repentance is required when a group sins.
Take for example Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Revelation (2:1-3:22). As the Great “Pastor” (Shepherd), Jesus commends the churches for their faithfulness, but condemns their sinfulness where they have failed in their calling and mission. The Lord calls each of those churches to repentance. He does not fail to warn them of the impending doom if they fail to repent and return, but he always holds out to them the forgiving love of God.
Here are Jesus’ condemnations to the five churches:
- Ephesus–departed from “first love”
- Pergamum–theological compromise
- Thyatira–moral compromise
- Sardis–spiritual deadness
- Laodecia–apathy, complacency, and apostasy
Interestingly, the strongest threat to the offenders concerns not their sin (condition) or their sins (actions) but their reluctance to repent! (See for example 2:20-24.)
Individuals can depart from God and sin; so can groups and churches. God’s call is the same: Repent and return to me! How do groups or churches repent? The same way an individual does: humble themselves, prayer, seeking God’s face, and turning from wicked ways (2 Chron. 7:14).
Groups and churches have to get honest with themselves and God admitting that they have left their “first love” and turned toward sin. Authentic and genuine corporate prayer characterize the group or church earnestly seeking God’s presence with a contrite spirit and a broken heart. A group or church must turn away from sin: tearing down “idols” or “sacred cows;” getting rid of traditions and empty rituals; selling property or material things; making restitution for a wrong committed; reconciling with others; and accepting those God has accepted.
Prayerfully consider these questions about our church then ask them of your family, growth group, ministry team, committee, council:
- Can you identify any way our church has departed from God? (e.g. prayerlessness, empty ritual and tradition, spiritual deadness, immorality, apathy, complacency)
- Are there “idols” we…as a church…need to tear down? “Sacred cows” we should sacrifice? (e.g. program, money, place, past)
- Have we ever deliberately disobeyed God? (e.g. mistreated staff member, discriminated against people, neglected to reconcile and make restitution)
- Have we…as a church…ever experienced God’s forgiveness? Does it need to be?
[Click here to listen to Psalm 51, the classic prayer of repentance written by King David.]