February 27, 2011

Church in Recovery?

James 5:13-20

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
James 5:16


People often complain that the church is full of hypocrites. They’re often right. Every member of every church is a sinner. The only question is whether they might be trying to pretend otherwise.

The only remedy for denial is confession, but confession isn’t very popular. Nobody wants to admit they’ve failed. That’s why there’s such a strong emphasis today on churches and pastors that help people feel good about themselves. After a while this can all start to sound like Garrison Keillor’s description of Lake Wobegon, where all the people are strong, good-looking, and above average.

What if your church was run like a recovery group? Imagine a Sunday morning beginning with your pastor or worship leader announcing, “Hi, my name is , and I’m a sinner.” Imagine everyone else responding, “Hi, .” Then imagine everyone else taking turns sharing their stories of falling and being lifted up by God’s grace. Imagine if each song was followed by someone else stepping to the front to share a struggle with temptation from the past week, with someone else offering gospel-based reminders of what it means to live as recovering sinners.

How would that change worship in your church? Would you consider joining that kind of church?

Lord, help us to dare to claim your grace together. May we have the freedom to say to you and to others, “My name is , and I’m a sinner.” Amen.

About the author — Ron Vanderwell

Ron Vanderwell recently became the senior pastor of New Life Church in New Lenox, Illinois. He has been a pastor for 22 years, serving as a church planter for the previous 12 years at The Gathering in Sacramento, California, and before that as a pastor in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ron and his wife, Deb, have three sons: John, Adam, and Jake. Ron shares more of his reflections on “squinting” for God in his blog at www.squintforgod.com.

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