Our small group is unlike any other group I’ve known. It’s not because we all get along (though we do), nor because we’re like-minded (though we are). And it’s certainly not because we have it all together.
Actually, the fact that we don’t have it all together is the reason I love our small group. Confession marks our time together, and it has changed at least three things: the way we interact, the way we pray, and the way we pursue godliness.
1. Confession changes relationships.
In a small-group setting, walls come down when everyone walks in the light. But this doesn’t just happen. We must choose to set aside our pride and talk openly about sin. Initially this talk feels uncomfortable, but the sooner we confess to one another, the sooner grace-fueled relationships characterize the group.
Honest confession melts away the mirage that certain people are “better Christians.” It enables us to live on the level ground of the cross, rather than in the false worlds of comparison, guilt, pride, and condemnation. Confession—or a lack thereof—also flows from each person’s walk with Christ. If we walk in the light before him, we’ll feel more comfortable walking in the light before others.
God has a unique plan for every small group, so confession will look different for each one. But do your group members trust each other? Are your relationships grounded in the truth? Or are you skirting around issues—especially sin? Pursue grace-fueled, honest relationships by praying about and practicing confession with greater intentionality. Our small-group members have learned to trust one another as a result of confession. Our interactions, both during group time and outside of it, have greatly benefited.
2. Confession changes prayer.
Scripture gives many examples of how we can pray for one another. Regular confession in our small groups enables us to make these prayers specific.
For example, I can pray for my sister in Christ from Psalm 119: “Lord, turn her eyes from looking at worthless things, and give her life in your ways.” That’s a wonderful prayer! But knowing her specific struggle in comparing herself with a coworker, I might pray: “Lord, turn her eyes from comparing herself to Karen and her accomplishments, and give her life in Christ’s finished work on her behalf.”
Our group typically ends the night in prayer after discussing and applying God’s Word. Some of our most specific, Word-filled times of prayer have followed humble confessions and the conversations they stir among the group.
Leaders and facilitators can get the ball rolling by setting an example. Take the first step. Confess genuinely to your brothers and sisters. Then ask for specific prayer around your confession and have the group pray for you. See if it changes the dynamics of group prayer.
3. Confession changes us.
Most importantly, confession spurs spiritual growth as Jesus forgives and cleanses us from sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” the apostle John writes. “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9). As we confess our sin, we remember the gospel—that Christ lived, died, and rose so we would be forgiven and cleansed by his blood. We then walk in this truth, putting away sin’s deceitfulness before God and others. Confession and repentance are an integral part of making progress in the Christian life.
Confession breeds a holy discontent for our present spiritual state and a desire to be more like Jesus. We help one another grow in godliness by confessing specific sins and being open to feedback, teaching, even grace-filled rebuke. When we value small-group confession, we ultimately value Holy Spirit transformation. He produces conviction over sin, and he yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness in us as we’re trained by God’s loving discipline (Hebrews 12:11).
In our age of “authenticity” and “vulnerability,” let’s delight in biblical confession rooted in the cleansing gospel of Christ. Without it—and especially when we avoid it—we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But with it, we enjoy grace-filled relationships, Word-filled prayer, and Spirit-filled lives.
Confession points to Jesus and ultimately changes each of us.