Confession, they say, is “good for the soul,” so let me begin with a confession of my own. This is a spiritual discipline that I fail to practice with the frequency and intensity with which I should. But perhaps writing about it will help us both — fellow believer — to be more consistent with it. What is it you ask? Well, as a matter of fact, it’s confession.
The spiritual discipline of confession brings with it some challenges. One of which is our human aversion to admitting we are wrong. We like to think that we never mess up, but in reality, we do more than simply mess up. We sin — we go against the standard of a holy, loving, and just God. Consequently, we must come to the same conclusion that He has already reached about our action — that what we have done wrong is sin. Another challenge to confession is the power that it gives another person over us when they know what we have done wrong. It requires a great amount of vulnerability to let another person know about our hidden sin. God already knows all about it. However, because of the perceived “dangers” of confessing to another person and having him/her hold it against us or spread it to others, we are often scared to confess our sin freely.
These fears can rob us of the great value of confession. It is very beneficial to us to keep short accounts with other people and with God. Therefore, confession can help us remain open and usable to God. Another benefit (especially for ministers and church leaders) is that by admitting our faults, failures, and sin, we are able to be more honest, authentic, and relatable to our church. It shows that we fail, too, and don’t belong on any kind of pedestal.
Three Types of Confession
There are three ways that we can practice confession as we go throughout our lives and even in our worship services. The first is confession of personal, individual sin. These are the things that we’ve done wrong (or the right things we’ve failed to do) and can be confessed in two ways. One, we can confess them to God — seeking His forgiveness and restoration. Two, we are called to confess them publicly “to one another” (James 5:16). This can be done with a Christian friend or to the church family (depending on the sin) and helps us find support and accountability with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
A second kind of confession involves corporate or community sin. We see examples of this in the Israelite community in the Old Testament. Many times, they would gather as a community of faith to seek God and confess the sin that had taken hold in their community. For the present-day church, this kind of confession can take place whenever we have failed as a church to fulfill the mission and purpose to which God has called us. This can help lead to a renewal and revival in the life of the church.
A third type of confession involves national sin, which we again see examples of in the nation of Israel. At times, their leaders would stray far away from God’s law and the whole nation would be punished because of their leaders’ sin. We can do the same thing in our churches today, confessing where the leaders of our nation have strayed, pray for them, and seek ways to help change and shape our community and nation.
Integrating times of confession into our corporate worship gatherings can take place on the individual and community levels. Time can be allotted in the worship service for individual confession of sin — either during an invitation or response time, or as quiet moments of private confession within the service. On a community/church-wide level, these times of confession can be more public. The times could include public confessions by individuals (depending on the nature of the sin) or confessions as a church body of failing to follow God’s plan for the church as a whole.
Ultimately, confession should go further than admitting we are wrong to simply “take a weight off our shoulders.” Confession should lead us to repentance — acknowledging sin, turning away from it, and following God more closely by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though I’m given many opportunities to practice confession, I’m not very good at it. But, by God’s grace, He gives me chance after chance to become the faithful follower of Christ that He calls me to be. (Whew, that felt good!)