God has humbled Southside Bible Fellowship as a church through many sinful choices – and indecision’s. Through seeking God’s heart in Scripture, prayer, engaging in self-examination, and skill training, we now recognize our responsibility for the wounding of many brothers and sisters at Southside Bible Fellowship. We are grieved over our sin. We view our failures as an opportunity to change and grow through confession and seeking reconciliation with those who have been hurt. As leaders and as a church we have prayerfully identified eight overlapping areas as having caused considerable frustration, pain, and relational tearing over the last several years. While we acknowledge that there may be more, the following list seeks to identify what we can currently own. Our desire is to express sincere repentance and by God’s mercy and grace, make the necessary changes and reengage God’s full redemptive purpose for Southside Bible Fellowship.
1. Conflict avoidance
SBF is guilty of having gone to great lengths to avoid conflict. We have practiced “peacekeeping” and not biblical peacemaking. This has created a “false peace” that has regularly erupted into confusion, reactivity, and broken relationships. Our avoidance of conflict also created dissension and withdrawal from dialogue because we failed to learn how to disagree agreeably. As leaders and as a church we have hurt people and allowed others to be hurt through our inability to navigate inevitable conflict. We are seeking to learn how to live in the tension of speaking the truth–in love when conflict arises.
2. Poor processes and communication
Effective ministry begins with prayer and wise planning, which leads to processes that reflect God’s heart for a church. At SBF we have been guilty of poor processes and poor communication, which has hindered the growth and development of both people and vibrant ministry. An ongoing sense of urgency, reactivity, and impatience has contributed to this. We also acknowledge that poor processes and communication have negatively affected relationships at SBF. We will be thoroughly updating our policies and procedures, along with a renewed commitment to pray and earnestly wait on God’s leading for direction, along with our congregation’s affirmation.
3. Subtle pressure/perceived pressure and unhealthy loyalty by leaders
Subtle or perceived pressure occurs when individuals or groups experience implied or directly expressed persuasion to adopt similar values, beliefs, and/or goals, as those of the leadership. In hindsight we, the leadership of SBF, have seen that we applied inappropriate pressure on people. Though it was not our intention to lead in this way, we have seen our sin and acknowledge the hurtful impact of the results. We also confess the sin of an unhealthy loyalty to poor pastoral decisions and demands. We are grieved over how we have let our brothers and sisters as well as our Lord Jesus Christ down – causing misunderstandings, deep pain, and broken relationships.
4. Lack of clear grievance procedures
There has been a lack of a clear and consistent grievance procedure at SBF, which can be defined as a safe and secure process by which members and attenders can bring their concerns to the leadership and be assured they will be respectfully listened to. We acknowledge that our lack of a clear grievance procedure has resulted in miscommunication, mistrust, unresolved conflict, disappointment, heartache, and broken fellowship. By God’s grace, utilizing the principles He has provided in His word, we will be updating our policies and procedures to define and describe a grievance procedure that honors Christ, listens carefully to God’s people, and addresses concerns.
5. Poor discernment
Discernment can be defined as, “keenness in seeing and understanding, good judgment, shrewdness” and in our case, “insight” in the ability to “read the character of others.” As a church we have been woefully lacking in this grace-fueled aptitude. We have allowed ourselves to be misled at great cost to the body. Furthermore we failed to accept the warnings of those who possessed this ability. Our prayer is that God will open our eyes to walk humbly, seek input, and explore due-diligence as we move forward.
6. Lack of training for ministry leaders and participants
We have determined that there has been a lack of training for both ministry leaders and participants. Our lack of training has resulted in behavior that has been confusing and hurtful. We are grieved over this failure because it has resulted in unclear assignments and a lack of good coaching, accountability, and effective evaluation. We want to move forward with God’s help to design a proactive leadership development and training strategy to maximize the servant-leadership potential in and through SBF.
7. Gossip and relational triangulation
We have allowed church-wide gossip and triangulation to hinder the life of our congregation. We view gossip as talking about others behind their backs, betraying a confidence, or stirring up dissension – and we view relational triangulation as speaking with a third party about a person (and problem) before talking to the person we are having the problem with. As leaders, and as a church, we have been guilty of gossip and relational triangulation. Additionally, we have not lovingly confronted gossip and relational triangulation when it has surfaced. We are seeking to restore a safe and secure environment at SBF through confession, authenticity, and humble confrontation as appropriate.
Over the years we have fallen into the trap of theological moralism, which calls for obedience without connecting the commands of God to the cross of Christ and the grace to change. We have, at times, failed to trust that our sanctification, like our salvation, comes by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. We acknowledge that we have allowed moralism to substitute for the Gospel. As a church we are grieved over our sin and we have re/committed to depending solely on the grace of God for sanctification as well as for salvation.
Reconciliation and Restoration
The Greek word for reconciliation in Scripture is an economic term meaning “to exchange.” To reconcile means to make the appropriate adjustments on a balance sheet. This, of course, is what Jesus has done on our behalf – reconciling sinners to Himself as we repent and place our trust in His saving work on the cross. In the New Testament when Paul speaks of restoration he uses a word that in another context speaks of mending fishing nets. These words both point to our hope for recovery of what has been separated or lost through our sin and mismanagement.