Is Confession Still Good for the Soul?


Is “confession good for the soul” still true in today’s society or for that matter in the church?   Two out of three churches I attended recently did not contain “ a Call to Confession and Words of Assurance” in their order of worship.  In fact two out the three churches seldom if ever have it in the order of worship. 

As a child (many decades ago) I was well aware of the commandments that God gave his people.  During most of my ministry, some form of “Call to Confession and Words of Assurance” where included in the order of worship.  Why do some of our churches fail to place emphasis on this portion of the worship service?  Do we think that confession is not necessary in our day and age and that we should only emphasize what is positive about God’s love and concern for our welfare?  Obviously if we fail to acknowledge that we are sinners than we fail to recognize the need for God’s grace. 

We live in a society today that takes little blame for anything and believes it is entitled to any lifestyle they choose without anyone questioning if it is moral.  We are quick to point our fingers at others for our failures and immoral activities.  For example, if I question whether homosexual activity is moral, I am called a bigot.  If I disagree that illegal immigrants should be able to remain in our country ahead of a list of folks from other countries (including Mexico) who are attempting to immigrate legally, I am a bigot and must have a prejudice against illegal immigrants.  We fail to separate our actions from natural consequences of doing the wrong.  It is always someone else’s fault that we have bad results in our life.  Confession is a foreign concept in our society.  Do a crime and you get an attorney and plead not guilty.  Have an accident and find as many ways to grab as much money as possible without admitting any fault of your own.

In that kind of trend in our society have we decided that our order of worship should have praise songs, prayer and a sermon only and delete “a Call to Confession and Words of Assurance”?  I think just the opposite.  I still believe that Jonathan Edwards sermon title, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” has some merit.  We may have change our attitude toward sin as a society but I do not think God has.  As much as any time in history we need to call individuals to live responsible lives that make choices directed by God’s will for our lives.    As elders who supervise worship services, what do you think?

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Very well said, Al.   We cannot come to Christ if we are not willing to confess.  Jesus came to save sinners, not the righteous who think they do not need salvation.   The other side of the coin is that sometimes I hear people being so willing to confess they are sinners (in general, on principle), that they forget that we are made new in Christ, that we can no longer continue to live in sin, since it is the spirit of God that lives in us now.  The assurance of pardon is not a license to continue to sin, but an assurance that we are no longer slaves to sin.   A reminder of this is as important as anything else in the worship service.

I think you are mixing your political leanings with your Christian morals. You mentioned two very different examples. First just the way you write the words "homosexual activity" puts a negative spin on it. Homosexuality was never mentioned by Jesus. If it was sin, then I am sure Jesus would have mentioned it, as he so often talked about being rich. That sin he mentioned over and over again. So this leads me to believe he just wasn't as concerned about what went on in the privacy of one's bedroom, as he was in the public areas of ones life. Which leads me to so called illegal immigration. If this was truly a Christian country, as so many like you are wont to point out, then there would be no such thing as illegal immigration because Jesus calls all to him with open arms. So before you point out the splinter of sin in our eyes, might you not look at the log in your own?


I would argue that confession is still necessary for the soul, however the perfunctory and typically generic or casual time of confession that is so often included in the order of worship without much careful thought is not necessary.  We need worship leaders to give some careful thought to our practices and make them richer expressions of confession and worship.  In some ways, I think the Catholiic tradition of confession is meaningful in that people are held accountable to someone, but the practice of absolution after a few hail Mary prayers lacks the integrity.  The epistle of James says, "confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed."  I suspect there is something of accountability built into James' admonishment.