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Summer 1996



The Day Our Church Repented

The man at the microphone began to sob. "I've got to confess my critical spirit," he said. "For years, I've griped and found fault with everything that went on in this church. The music, the sermon, the attitudes I perceived in others . . ." He searched for words. His grief was palpable.

"All this time, I thought the problems in this church were out there," he said, pointing all around him. "God has finally revealed that the problem is in here," he confessed while thumping on his chest. After several stumbling attempts, he asked in a barely audible voice, "Can you . . . will you forgive me?"

Three people immediately came forward, embraced the man, and knelt to pray with him. The pastor, long since resigned to tears, vocalized the congregation's response: "We forgive you, John." The next confessor stepped up to the microphone.

A scene from your favorite daydream? Close. It's a snapshot from a solemn assembly.

What is a solemn assembly?

The Old Testament records at least twelve times when Israel's leaders called the nation together for reflection, confession and repentance. These were usually predicated by judgment from God on the moral laxity and spiritual apathy in his covenant people.

Leaders of every period of spiritual awakening and renewal have used these examples as a template for restoring groups to a right relationship with God.

Today, church leaders have become reacquainted with the concept in books by Richard Owen Roberts, David Bryant, John Dawson, Tom White, and Neil Anderson. Several denominations now have staff trained to lead churches throught times of corporate repentance.

The solemn assembly has become a tool to heal and restore some troubled churches, as they come to terms with ...

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