The discipline of confession points to how we need others in our lives for full healing. It holds such importance that we are advised to make it a "common practice" in James 5:16.
Healing results from confession because the dark areas of a person's life, where sin likes to remain concealed, are exposed to the light of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:5-7). This spiritual practice breaks sin's power, enabling people to respond to God's transforming grace and extend what they have received in Christ to others (Romans 8:5-11; Galatians 5:16-26).
The small-group leader should set the pace for vulnerability in the group. And vulnerability is a necessary ingredient if confession is to become a spiritual discipline exercised in your group. The more real a group leader can be, the more free people are to be themselves and receive the healing God wants to bring. When confession is modeled by the group leader, it empowers others to do the same.
Keep in mind that certain times are more conducive to confession, including breaking up into smaller prayer groups or same-sex breakouts, which can encourage more openness. Be sure to pray for discernment in how to introduce this spiritual discipline in your group.
Two Ways You Can Take the Lead in Confession:
We all need help with confession, and below you will find two ways to approach this discipline in your small group.
First, you might find the encouragement you need to model confession by reflecting on John Wesley's 21 small-group questions and responding to at least one of them during your group's prayer time:
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
- Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
- Do I pray about the money I spend?
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
- Do I disobey God in anything?
- Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
- Am I defeated in any part of my life?
- Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
- How do I spend my spare time?
- Am I proud?
- Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
- Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
- Do I grumble and complain constantly?
- Is Christ real to me?
Recognizing your mistakes, short-comings, guilt, and sin in the presence of God and the community of Christ will help others to do the same. You'll be surprised at how much your example helps people to open up about their struggles with sin.
Second, ask yourself where you are hurt, anxious, passive, or angry; then examine your life in the light of Christ by pondering his teachings. Think of the Sermon on the Mount, for example (Matthew 5-7). Or the words he shared with his disciples in John 14-17.
Reading Paul's prayers for the church in Ephesians 4:13-15 or Colossians 1:9-12 can also inspire you to identify and express how you feel led to grow in your faith. Open up during your group's Bible study or prayer time about how you want and need God's power to live according to his Word.
—Reid Smith is the Community Life Pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and the founder of the 2orMore small-group leadership training and resource ministry.