Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Many Evangelical churches do not often include a time of corporate confession as part of their weekly services. This is, I believe, a weakness of our gatherings.
Most of our service – singing, praying, greeting, sermons, etc. – reflects an overrealized eschatology. We speak and respond and expect as if the kingdom is already fully here. The emphasis is on the now of the kingdom. Much of the sharing of life together reflects the now of the kingdom, as if troubles and trials are unexpected, and marriage and parenting are all perfect. What this creates is a false exterior and a heavy heart because it does not match reality. There is seldom a place to share hurts and pains and struggles. It is as if there is no not-yet of the kingdom.
And yet we know doctrinally and experientially that we live in the not-yet-fully-realized kingdom. There is sin, ongoing struggles of sin, suffering, trials, lament, etc. In the midst of these existential realities, God’s kingdom has truly broken in, and the way in which we live in and through these matters reflects the now of the kingdom. The kingdom is truly here, even though not in full, and the presence of the kingdom is manifested in the way we live under the Lordship of the King, the Lord Jesus, and the way in which we live a life of faith and trust.
And yet, the kingdom is not yet here fully. We await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to make all things right, and all things new, when there will be no more sadness, sorrow, weeping. But not yet.
The strong bend in most Evangelical churches is to emphasize the newness of the kingdom, which is right, but they do so at the expense of the not-yetness of the kingdom, which is wrong. Too many have imbibed too much of the prosperity gospel, or an Americanized version of the gospel, and not enough of the true, biblical gospel.
In every corporate gathering, there ought to be a confession and manifestation of the now of the kingdom, where we hear and see manifestations of the work of God in our midst. But there will also be manifestations of the not-yet of the kingdom, where we hear and see manifestations of life in this fallen-redeemed-not-yet-glorified world, and yet in the mist of that reality the now of the kingdom manifests in a life of trust, crying individually and corporately, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Hab. 3:17-18). This is why the early church cried, and we ought to pray regularly, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!
In this link you will see an example of a corporate confession: A Corporate Confession of Faith Based on the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Repentance is not only the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s life that bears fruit in confession of sin and profession of Christ resulting in new spiritual life (Mk. 1:14-15), repentance is also a mark of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, a bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8). It is important we live and lead a life of repentance.
Might this be one resource of helping you to do this. It is through repentance that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20). May it be so!