NYC North New Jersey Sector Sunday Service
March 9, 2003
(notes by a current member)
Sheridan Wright, former elder and current evangelist, preached to his sector in North NJ yesterday. His sermon was honest, vulnerable, and inspiring to everyone there. He addressed the recent letter by Henry Kriete, as well as the need for change many of our congregations are beginning to recognize.
These are some of my notes from the sermon. I've included only some of the most general apologies he offered personally, but these don't even begin to reveal the humility and resolve to change Sheridan expressed. North NJ is definitely a great place to be in our churched right now.
Sheridan, if you happen to come across this website, know that North NJ loves you and Deb, and that, one way or another, I'm certain everyone here wants you in our fellowship.
2Cor3:7 The Old Law, the ministry that brought death, was glorious! It told us a lot about who God is and how he expects us to live, But how much greater us the Ministry of the Spirit, which brings righteousness?! The old covenant was given to prepare a people, a means to point us to Christ and the need for a savior. It told us how to live, but the only real hope it offered was the promise of a savior. Other than that, it really just brought condemnation, because no man could live up to it.
But the New Covenant is even more glorious, because it offers salvation. Freedom to grow. It leaves us free to escape judgment, as well as the day-to-day judgment of not measuring up.
We live in the day of the New Covenant, but, unfortunately, for many of us, it's been like the covenant of death. Many people have felt only what they are not, and not who they are and who they can become. The Bad news is: this stuff has gone on in our church.
He explains the letter Kriete wrote, and urges anyone who hasn't read it to get a copy. We need to make everyone aware and get them up to speed about what's going on. Kriete sees a lot of things wrong in our movement, and he is right. A lot of individual situations are going to have to be examined all areas: finances, hierarchy, authority, and everything else.
This church started out as an 18 person mission team. Our structure worked fine for that. But Paul sent Titus back to his plantings to appoint elders, structuring them into churches. The formative stage was only supposed to be temporary, but it's been this church's permanent emphasis, and it's a very unbiblical way of leading. Sheridan apologizes as one who whole-heartedly supported that leadership, doing nothing to dismantle it.
He said he knew some things needed to be done differently, but didn't have the courage to make them different. When he was an elder, he says he should have stepped in more. He fixed problems, but didn't go after the underlying infection. 1st Timothy talks about people who are always approaching the truth, but never acknowledging it. Sheridan said that's been the problem in leadership here all along.
Whenever he saw harshness, he tried to go after it. But he says he didn't go after the cause of it: The System. When Kriete wrote about the system, Sheridan's first instinct was to get defensive . . . systems aren't evil, people are. But now he says he was wrong; systems can be evil, too. If elders aren't leading, and one man is, we have a problem. The system is set up such that evil people can get in it real easily. So why try to justify it? It's not in the Bible anyway. People have felt shut down, ingnored, and marginalized in this system.
He said he dismissed others' concerns by saying, "well, we're growing." But the problem is that while we're growing, people are getting hurt all over the place. Sheridan said he wanted to apologize for his part in all of that. There's no excuse, he said. Leaders have supported that system, and there have been casualties. Our kids are a casualty of this system. He said in an effort to accomplish the mission we obscured the man.
Agenda's were passed down the hierarchy, with no regard for what was best for people to whom agendas were assigned. Evangelists lead mission contributions, and didn't instruct people to give as their heart freely dictates as the Bible does, but instead asked, "what can we do to meet this goal."
Discipling Partners - It is not the evangelist's job to make sure individuals fulfill the one-another relationships. He thought it was his job. He's told people if they didn't want to have a DP, they needed to go somewhere else and worship because this is the way we do things here. He called this horrible and inexcusable on his part.
One another relationships need to be preached and taught, but in the end, we're responsible for them ourselves. We have not been allowed to choose that in the past. We need to get to the point where we just "disciple" each other because we love each other. We have the Holy Spirit, not a system or law.
He admitted he's talked about things in Kriete's letter all these years, but, like Jonah, was not eager to preach them boldly. "I appreciate Henry's guts," he said.
The ICOC is basically no longer. We are an autonomous congregation. Legal stuff will hopefully be sorted out quickly.
There has been an arrogance and a disconnect in leadership - "we know best", "you don't know all the facts", and other thought-stoppers have been common leadership tools.
Sheridan said he started off as a Christian with little interest in responsibility. As he grew, he started to change and have a heart for more responsibility. Eventually, though, that became "run your ministry", and maybe even "run your ministry into the ground" at times. It's been a pattern in leadership
Anyone who feels shut out has a reason to feel shut out. Now's the time to open up and talk in freedom. Freedom to talk, freedom from discipling partners. We'll take care of ourselves with love in one-another relationships.
There is One True Church (caps my emphasis ;). That one church is not defined by labels or by political entity. It's defined by the Word of God. Wherever there is a group of people that meet together and live their lives by the Word, there is the church. He explained he has always taught this in denomination studies, too. But he didn't preach it from the pulpit. That silence lead people to picture the church as a real small circle, and many in the church have taken that on as a doctrine, roping off everything else. Sheridan said he should have public ally stepped up and made sure that did not happen.
From now on, We go when people are ready to go, not when the leader doesn't want to stop and deal with things. We have trusted our leaders to lead us this way. He apologies for betraying that trust for so long.
Sheridan specifically said in the sermon that this part should go out on the internet (LOL!): Everything going on now is especially devastating to our young leaders. They've resigned not because they sinned hideously, but because they were put in an impossible situation. They did what they were taught to do, and they got fried. Leaders need to get what's coming to them, but Sheridan's appealing to us that these young leaders don't deserve this. Sheridan said he deserves it. People who have been on staff for 16 years deserve it. The older, more experienced leaders who had the power to do something, but not the guts, deserve it. It's just a shame. Some of the things said to those young Manhattan leaders who resigned shouldn't have been leveled at them, but at the more experienced leaders behind the scenes.
Sheridan's initial response to all this was to resign, but instead he's leaving it in our hands. We have to decide who's going to lead us. He won't abandon us, but won't take it personally if we don't choose him. He'll feel hurt, but he'll feel hurt because it had to come to this.
We need to voice what we feel as a church and be real up front about it. This won't be the last sermon like this, either. We have a lot of work to do.
The women's ministry as we've known it is over. The pressure put on women was ungodly. However, there'll still be a need for women to counsel women (because the men aren't going to do it).
He didn't get a lot more specific in most of these changes, but we're trying to figure this out together with Sheridan in our sector.
He commented he's reading a lot of documents on the internet about the church.
Mt 9 - New wine has to go into new wineskins. This old structure has to go, because the ancient blood of Christ is always new wine.
The elders will be here this Wednesday, and we'll start talking about where we'll go from here.
Eph 4:1 The One's. That is what we can agree on. One faith - we all have it. What does that mean? Who knows?!
Sheridan said he's not worried about us, other than that he's worried about anyone who's afraid of all these new changes, because then you may be addicted to the structure. Let the Hand of God sweep away whatever it will.
He then read an announcement asking us to select non-staff men from among ourselves who we can send to the elders to help oversee this painful but necessary transition time. They'll be appointed to review salaries, structures, elder and deacon qualifications, and when we get more elders and deacons appointed, we'll have the structure God desires for us.
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