two women praying on a couch

Confession is a big deal to GOD.

In fact, GOD says that in order to have our sins forgiven, the Christian must confess his sins to GOD.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:8-10 NIV)

The Greek word that is translated "confess" in verse 9 is a verb that literally means "I confess, profess, acknowledge, praise."

Since GOD is present in all places at the same instant, and because He knows and sees everything even before it occurs, He already knows not only the sins we commit in actions but also the sinful thoughts we had beforehand and even the motives in our heart.

So in reality, when we confess our sins to GOD, we're simply acknowledging or agreeing with what He already knows to be true.

When we confess our sins to GOD, we're merely acknowledging or agreeing with what He already knows to be true. Click to Tweet

Confessing Sin to One Another

In addition to confessing our sins to GOD, He also wants us to confess them to each other.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
(Jam. 5:16 NIV)

Why does GOD want us to confess our sins to each other?

I can think of several reasons:

  1. Confession helps us get to know people better.

    Christians are to be a family—GOD's family. When I confess my sins to my family, it makes me more relatable to them because we our temptations aren't unique to us. Not everyone can relate to the struggle of each temptation, but some can and will.

  2. Confession helps create accountability. 

    Accountability is crucial to overcoming recurring temptations.

  3. Confession helps prevent us from improperly elevating a person in our mind as some form of "super-Christian."

  4. Confession helps us remain focused on the importance of living a holy life.

    Discussing sin when it needs to be discussed helps prevent us from losing sight of the significance of sin.

I am fascinated by the process by which Christians confess sin to one another.

It seems to me that there are three general approaches:

  1. Each time I sin, I can seek out a Christian(s) and go and tell them what I've done.

  2. When the church meets, we can call anyone who has sinned to come confess their sin to the church at a designated time.

  3. We can incorporate confession as a normal part of our conversation when Christians are together.

Which of these three would you prefer to do/have?

For me, option 3 sounds a lot more appealing.

Confession During Church Meetings

Many churches are terrible at facilitating confession.

The desired outcome is to have a family of Christians who love and care for one another and who know each other very well.

Ideally, people should feel invited and comfortable sharing their faults and confessing their sins with each other because, after all, they know people love them and because others are sharing their flaws and trespasses, there is little risk that anyone will feel looked down upon.

So, since this is the desired outcome, what do we have people do?

We make them walk what I call "the green mile"—a long trek down the aisle of pews to the front where the entire congregation's eyes are focused on us, feeling as though they're burning a hole through our head.

Then there's the awkward moment where someone greets us, listens to our confession, and either they or we then get up and make a statement to the congregation informing everyone of what's going on.

This is an intimidating process that has the exact opposite effect of what's intended.

And I believe it's one reason why congregations who use this approach as their primary means of facilitating confession between brethren typically struggle in creating an open and warm environment that encourages active confession.

Sadly, many churches do a terrible job of facilitating confession. Click to Tweet

In our congregation, we've chosen to handle confession as a natural part of the dialogue during one of our assemblies.

Because our assemblies are interactive throughout, as we study, if someone feels moved to confess something, they can do so. It happens naturally.

Other times, someone might bring a letter or some written thoughts they ask to share with the group.

There are times when something is very pressing that we stop what we had planned to study or discuss and we just focus on the confession or prayer request.

This approach has worked well for us, and I'm confident if you asked anyone in our church they'd tell you they feel very close with one another, partially because of this open culture we've created.

It's not that we're uniquely great at confession.

What I think we're fairly unique at is focusing on being Scripturally-effective—following the Scriptures as closely as possible in what we do and emphasizing being as effective as possible at how we do what we do.

But I want to know what you think.

How does your congregation facilitate confession? Do you think it's effective?

Have you used other techniques that have been successful?

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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