Evangelical Confession Booths


A heart-probing article by Jonathan Dodson, subtitled: “Why Many Christian Accountability Groups Don’t Work.” His article starts out:

Put ten bucks in the jar. When I recall some of the popular discipleship disciplines I espoused
and practiced in college, I shudder. Did I really think that they were biblical or even helpful? If
one of the guys I was discipling caved into a particular sin he was “being held accountable” for, he had to put ten bucks in the jar. Sometimes the accumulated cash was put in the offering, other times it was used to celebrate “not sinning” over dinner. Somehow, this practice was supposed to motivate holy living.

[HT: Pilgrim in Progress]

Comments 7

  1. Hey Matt, I deleted the initial comment I made here and turned it into a blog entry of my own regarding the subject. I would have left the comment, but I gave too much context to the identity of an individual who “confessed sin to me” in the original comment on your blog that someone might’ve figured out. I’ve got my entry now linked to yours, which in turn is linked to another :-)

  2. But that confession remains between me and God. And for the large majority of what I need to confess, that’s where it will stay.

    Is this really the conclusion we should come to? I suppose without a sacrament of Reconciliation, most Christians are left with confessing sins only to God, but I have to ask if that “just me and God” approach allows for the kind of accountability we need. We can be pretty darn good at convincing ourselves that certain sins aren’t really as bad as our conscience (and the Holy Spirit) originally tells us, so without a pastor or some equivalent to keep your conscience in check, over the years we will start making God in our own image instead of allowing God to shape us into his image.

  3. i love confessing my sins to my priest(in persona christi) and the church actually having the power given by christ to absolve my sins. finally, its not just a bunch of guys being “honest” and “confessing struggles”. it changes my life everytime. just the power of confessing is not enough, the sin must be absolved by the proper authority.

  4. Jason, you imply that we might begin “convincing ourselves that certain sins aren’t really as bad” by keeping them just between ourselves and God. While I guess that’s possible, I don’t know if it always follows–at least not in my case. My point is that the accountability groups can seem artificial and I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to tell my peers my sins. If anything, this swapping back and forth of sins can desensitize us to the reality of sin.

    And Sean, if confessing your sins to a priest is meaningful to you, I encourage you to keep doing that. Despite what I said in my blog entry, there can be great value in confessing our sins to one another–as long as it’s in the right context. That was my point. I don’t feel that accountability groups as I’ve experienced them are always the right context. Further, I believe people should have some discretion in what they reveal publically about their struggles.

    While I certainly believe it’s biblical for the church (and by extension members of the church) to proclaim forgiveness of sins, 1 Tim 2:5 remains: “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus” (NLT). Further, while I must seek forgiveness from anyone I have sinned against, ultimately, I know that I can go directly to God for forgiveness for all sins: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, TNIV).

  5. I’ve never been involved in an accontability group, mainly because it wasn’t required :) But I have done stuff like meeting with a campus minister every week or going to community group that has provided some accountabilty.

    From my own experience over the past few years, it’s been the sins that were most difficult to break that I tolerated, telling myself (and God) that they weren’t really “bad sins,” as long as I kept them in check. Well, that lie eventually broke down and I believe it’s the grace to humbly seek the sacrament of Confession that finally broke Satan’s hold on those parts of my life. Of course, the sacrament isn’t the only means to receive God’s grace, but it sure feels good!

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