As a whole, we typically do not like to deal with our own mess. I don’t think anyone truly loves admitting that they are wrong. I hate being the one to raise my hand and say, “Hey, I’m sorry – please forgive me for ______.” Just this weekend I remember thinking/praying – “Really God, I’ve done this, this and this and still I messed up? Really?! And now I have to apologize?!” Here’s the thing: not dealing with our sin IS THE THING that’s causing the most destruction in our homes and churches today. We hear “confess sin” and we automatically think some booth with a priest or some scary concept that we read briefly about in the Celebration of Disciplines in the later half of the book and just didn’t really want to deal with. Confessing sin is a strange concept. Telling someone what you’ve done wrong doesn’t feel safe, it doesn’t feel natural. When I do something out of line, not part of God’s desire, will or best plan… I don’t want to run to someone, especially someone who matters to me and tell them. The thing is, this is a normative practice of every believer. Or to restate it, this is supposed to be a normative practice of every believer, but a lot of us either quit doing it or we’ve never done it. If we can’t name that last time that we confessed sin to the Lord and then to those who know us best, then something is very wrong in our heart. Confession is not a one time, between you and God concept. It is an ongoing practice that brings healing in your heart and freedom in your life from those things that grip your heart.
Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” James 5:16
“The man who conceals his sin does not prosper…” Proverbs 28:13
Are you wandering why things aren’t going right? Are you a pastor and your church isn’t experiencing the amazing movement of God that you first envisioned when you accepted the job and came in with your ideas and dreams? Those dreams that your church would be the one to change the community? It may be. It just might be that you haven’t dealt with your sin yet. Just to be clear. Things don’t go the way we want them to all the time. That’s life, especially church life. I’m not preaching that if you deal with your mess then God is clearly going to blow the doors off of your church with growth. I don’t know. God chooses to move in special ways at times and place His favor where he decides. However, it always seems to be at a church where his people are “all in” — which means they confess their sin on the regular. What I am saying is that if you haven’t dealt with your sin = you’re in the way. If you don’t practice confession in your life as a norm, then the first thing you must evaluate is your heart.
What typically keeps us from confession is fear. This is the part of this read where you feel uncomfortable. Where you are getting distracted by that thing you don’t want someone or anyone to know. If you think it’s hard to read this, if you are moving around in that “ah sheesh I don’t want to think about this…” you ought to try writing it — again this is a continual thing. The same thoughts of fear roll through our minds every single time:
“What’s is this going to cost me?”
“What will people think?”
“If my sin is public it would ruin my testimony… so it’s better for the kingdom if no one knows.”
What is so interesting to me is that anytime I bring confession to the table. When I am the one to tell on myself, I’ve always found grace, mercy and not shame from others but respect. Confession is a humbling act. There is no way around it. If you confess sin, you are in a humble position — and humility is respected by others. That’s a normal response.
“…humility comes before honor.” Proberbs 18:22
1 John 1:9 — “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” Jesus forgives us, that’s why He died for us! But confession helps us deal with our sin. John writes this letter to his church and says, “I’m writing you this letter my children so that you might not sin, but when you do…this is how we deal with it.” (1 John 2:1 — obvious paraphrase at the end)
When we begin agreeing with Jesus that — yes, my sin is sin, we not only get to experience God’s grace in removing that burden (the same burden Adam felt when he was hiding in the garden, the same burden David felt as he wrote Ps. 51). That burned of knowing I’ve done what’s not right, but am experiencing forgiveness as I agree with God about it, but it also makes my next step clear.
James 5:16 — once I confess my sin to God, I can see it clearly. John wrote in that same letter that when we bring our sin into the light we can see it for what it is. We can truly deal with it. When I was a kid I used to love going out to the garage with my dad as he would work on our cars and trucks. He is a phenomenal mechanic and as a kid I wanted to be right in the action with him, doing everything he did. My job however was typically… “hold the light son.” — I hated holding the light. You know where this story is going. I wanted to be the one turning the wrench and doing the cool hand wipe thing with the red rag when we finished up. But first you have to hold the light. Before we can do the work, we’ve got to be able to shine the light on the problem. Confession is shining the light on a dark heart so that it can be made clean. You’ve got to be able to see the problem to fix it. Confessing to Jesus makes it clear what needs to be confessed to those we live in community with. I’m defining “community” as = those who know us best, and who agree to this idea of how we follow Jesus and why. (This is the verbiage used at Watermark and a concept I not only learned there, but had engrained in my mind because of who well it is practiced there.) Those people who love you but love Jesus more, have both celebrated victory with you and also given you a couple of good shots to the jaw along the way. When we do this. When we confess to God, when we confess to each other, and then begin to pray for one another…we find healing. It’s that simple, and it’s stupid repetitive. But this is how it works. This is not a crazy concept. Jesus was not trying to rip us off or weird us all out in a small group. No! He was giving us the secret to freedom from sin through confession to him and to those he calls his church.
The problem is: we do not do this. This is not normal. Why is it not normal? — Because our pastors don’t lead us to. And what I mean is that they don’t do it first. (Do this if you really want to know) — Go have coffee with you pastor and ask him,
“When is the last time you confessed sin to the elders and/or your small group/community group/etc… If he says, ‘Well we have a list of questions we can ask, etc… No, not do you ask each other hard questions. What I asking is, when was the last time you walked in, sat down and said, ‘Guys there’s something I have to tell you…”
Then ask him — “What was it?” (Things are going to get real thick real quick)
I used to work with a good friend of mine who would always lead out the beginning of a meeting with a new guy saying “Alright guys, we are going to go around the table and confess our last sexual sin.” — It was a joke, but it was always funny how the air got sucked out of the room for a brief moment. That’s going to happen. The way he responds is going to tell you everything you need to know about him as a leader. It just got real! Heck yes. He’s the leader, he goes first, he sets the tone. If he isn’t willing to share with you, why in the world would you ever tell him anything you needed healing for. Don’t. He’s not your guy. (Yes i get it. You don’t want to just tell some Rando your junk…and at the same time, you are a pastor. If someone has cared enough to sit down and start digging, might be a good time to take some notes. If you are actually in this meeting, the guy across the table is not Rando Jo.)
Pastors — You must teach your people how to practice confession. Not in a sermon, but by practicing it regularly yourself. Not with the entire church, but with your elders and your small group or whoever it is that knows you. If you don’t, your people won’t…and according to Jesus it’s a pretty big deal. This is one of the 2 biggest reasons why there’s no need for Satan to attack the church right now. We render ourselves completely ineffective all on our own, and it starts at the top.
If you have a thought, a question, an argument, a whatever — I’m more than happy to engage in a conversation with you. You can reach me at [email protected] (Use subject line “Casey I’d like to talk to you about ____________.”)
My name is Casey Hubbart – (“Case”). I am a former pastor living in Texas. I own a business with my wife, coach high school football & pole vault, and I write about: Faith, Family, Fashion and Fitness. I believe those of us who say we know Jesus are in desperate need of a change in the way we do things. I’ve spent my entire life as part of the church in some capacity. I met Jesus when I was 18 and have spent the last 20 years serving in the church in some capacity. 13+ years of that was as a paid staff member or “professional Christian” — The last 4 years of my life I’ve been trying to process what it means to not be on a church staff and still hold that as such a vital part of mine and my family’s life. It’s been educational to say the least having lived on this side of the table now for a few years, giving me a better understanding of what I was truly asking the people who sat in the churches I served in. Trying to find a way to appropriately handle all that I’ve experienced in the church I decided to begin to write.
More articles and podcasts at: www.stellofello.com