A Review of "Grace Applied"

On Sunday, January 29th, I attended a special service at Germantown Baptist Church. GBC is the church I grew up in and served for three years as the pastor to college students and young adults. In 2002, I resigned from GBC to help start Highpoint Church. I have many fond memories of my time at GBC and still cherish the relationships I have with people there.

Over the last decade or so, Germantown Baptist has seen its fair share of turmoil and strife leading to the worst church split and church splintering I've ever seen. In response to this difficult history, the new pastor, Dr. Charles Fowler, initiated a special service called, "Grace Applied" as a step to bring forgiveness and healing to the many who were hurt through all the years of strife. Myself, along with numerous former staff were personally invited to this service. I eagerly agreed and was honored to attend. I was blessed by Dr. Fowler's humility and willingness to host such a service. These things are never easy and never perfect, but I applaud anyone who fights for the unity of God's Church. 

Dr. Fowler opened the service with a clear explanation of the purpose of the night and humbly washed the feet of the three former pastors in attendance. This act of humility set the tone for the evening. The congregation of what appeared to be 2000 people or so, was led in a time of personal confession and repentance. They were encouraged to approach anyone in the room with whom they needed to express forgiveness or apology. I was encouraged to see people leave their seats and follow the Lord's leadership to make things right and apply grace to one another. However, as I reflect on the evening, I can't help but think there is still confession and repentance needed by those who were there Sunday night. The bottom line is, repentance is hard. Everything in us fights it. If you were there Sunday night and sensed the Lord leading you to approach someone and you did not respond, please pick up the phone and make things right today. The Lord used Dr. Fowler to create a moment for repentance and any of us are capable of missing the moment in which the Spirit of God is moving. God forbid us to live in disunity or bitterness. After the time of confession and repentance, we moved into a time of public declaration. I've included the "Declaration of Grace Applied" statements below. I believe the practice of public, corporate commitments is a very biblical and unified way to honor the Lord. I believe the Lord holds us accountable for the commitments we make. I hope and pray we all walk in the grace we applied to the difficulties of GBC's history. Finally, we celebrated Communion together and remembered the grace of the Lord Jesus to forgive all our sin.  

I am grateful for the ways God used the Germantown Baptist family in my life. I pray the "Grace Applied" service will truly allow this church and community to heal from all the damage done in the past and usher in a bright future for all involved.   

Declaration of Grace Applied (read aloud as a responsive reading) 

Germantown Baptist Church

January 29, 2012

Pastor                  Bless the Lord, oh My Soul, and all this is within me, bless His Holy name! (Psalm 103:1) 

Congregation      Bless the Lord, or my Soul, and forgot not all His benefits. (Psalm 103:2) 

Pastor                  Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your diseases. (Psalm 103:3) 

Congregation      Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, (Psalm 103:4) 

Pastor                  Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:4) 

Congregation      Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 136:26) 

Pastor                  Just as God’s lovingkindess is everlasting, He calls those who follow Christ to be loving to each other as a testimony of His love to a lost world. 

Congregation      By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35) 

Pastor                  In the past, our Germantown Baptist Church has, at times, acted unlovingly to each other and by doing so failed to provide a faithful witness of God’s love to a lost and watching world. 

Congregation      O Lord of Heaven, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servants, confessing our sins which we have sinned against you.(Nehemiah 1:6-7) We confess that in the past we have been unloving and repent of this sin. 

Pastor                  Now I exhort you therefore brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10) 

Congregation      Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1) 

Pastor                  In the past, our Germantown Baptist Church family has allowed divisions to occur and by doing so allowed disunity to cause broken trust, broken relationships, loss of vision, and a damaged witness to Christ in our community. 

Congregation      We confess that we have not, at times, preserved the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and have allowed the unity of this body to be broken. We repent of this sin. 

Pastor                   With our confessed sins of being unloving and allowing divisions, what is your desire of the future, O Lord our God? 

Congregation       That we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another  (Romans 14:19); that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) 

Pastor                    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised Is faithful. (Hebrews 10:24-25) 

Congregation       And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as your see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25) 

Pastor                    Unforgiveness is often a lingering consequence of being unloving and allowing division. Those involved with the divisions that have affected the corporate unity of Germantown Baptist Church have not been immune. Broken relationships among friends and family sadly exist in abundance across this community, 

Congregation         Jesus said, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15) 

Pastor                      Do you genuinely grant unconditional forgiveness and total release from all responsibility to those whom you feel have hurt and/or offended you? 

Congregation          We do—Grace Applied! 

Pastor                      Do you seek, without exception or excuses, forgiveness from all who may have been offended and/or hurt through your words, actions, or even lack of action? 

Congregation          We do—Grace Applied! 

Pastor                      We have repented and requested forgiveness for corporate sins. The scriptures teach that God’s response is 

Congregation          Grace Applied! 

Pastor                       This Worship Center is filled with believers who both need forgiveness and are willing to grant forgiveness. What is your response? 

Congregation           Grace Applied! 

Pastor                        We all agree that this Declaration of Grace Applied does not change the past nor does it change our interpretation of the past. The purpose is to apply the grace of God to a painful past because we believe that the power of God can redeem it for our good and for His glory. 

Congregation            We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) 

Pastor                        We know this because we believe the Word of God to be True and because our faith does not rest on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5) 

Congregation            Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) 

Pastor                         Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” (Romans 15:2-3) 

Congregation             Finally brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11) 

Pastor                          Grace Applied! 

Congregation              Grace Applied!                  

Everyone                      Now to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen! (1 Timothy 1:17)

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