If all believers are commanded to confess sin in order to walk with God, how much more is confession necessary in the lives of pastors?
By Mike Keahbone
Confession: an act of confessing, a session for the confessing of sins, a written or oral acknowledgment of guilt. While Merriam-Webster captures the human perception and definition of confession, the Word of God is much more profound in declaring the believer’s need for confession and the consequences of ignoring God’s call to repentance.
Notice I said “believer,” not “pastor.” This may seem misleading when the title of this article identifies pastors and our need for confession, but allow me to clarify. Before I was called to ministry, I was called to be a born-again believer. I was saved.
As I began to take my first steps as a baby Christian, I was introduced to the basic disciplines of our faith. I was taught how to read the Word of God, how to study the precious promises of God, how to pray and seek the heart of God, and how to listen for His voice.
I learned very quickly that walking intimately with the Lord was only possible when my heart was right with Him. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8, CSB). In Psalm 66:18 the psalmist writes, “If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (CSB).Our hearts are unrepentant when our sins go unconfessed. In this state, the believer is powerless. — @keahbone Click To Tweet
Our hearts are unrepentant when our sins go unconfessed. In this state, the believer is powerless. We don’t recognize the voice of God; His voice gets jumbled up with all the other voices crying out for our heart’s attention. We’re impaired in our ability to discern God’s leadership in our lives and there’s no power or unction in the ministry of the believer. The answer? Confession.
We must humbly ask the Lord to search our hearts for unconfessed sin. We can echo the words of David: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 130:23-24, CSB). And as John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, CSB).
Simply put, we should ask God to search our hearts. Then, concerning the sin He uncovers, confess or agree with God in our guilt and ask Him for forgiveness. True brokenness over sin leads to true repentance, turning away from the sin we confessed. We are then restored by His promise and His hand. Hallelujah!
A higher calling
So, what about pastors? In a letter to Titus, Paul teaches that “as an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless…” (Titus 1:7, CSB). Pastors are called to a higher standard—to be above reproach or above criticism. If all believers are commanded to confess sin in order to walk with God, how much more is confession necessary in the lives of pastors? As a pastor, I take this discipline very seriously. Every week I stand before my church family and proclaim the Word of God. I will preach either with the assurance of His power that comes with a clean heart, or I will hope for the best and give a powerless sermon with an unconfessed heart. I’ve done both, and I assure you the assurance of His power is far superior.Every week, I will preach either with the assurance of His power that comes with a clean heart, or I will hope for the best and give a powerless sermon with an unconfessed heart. — @keahbone Click To Tweet
I shepherd my flock by tending to their spiritual needs. A confessed heart declares the wisdom and discernment of God, His love, His mercy, and His tenderness. An unconfessed heart depends on human wisdom, human discernment, and imperfect and insufficient love, mercy, and tenderness, or the lack thereof.
A broken spirit
Unfortunately, I am writing this from a place of brokenness. Recently, at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, I was forced to publicly wrestle with this very issue.
The entire morning had been dedicated to dealing with the delicate and serious issues of sexual abuse and abortion. The beauty of our convention is also the bane of our convention—our polity. After several rounds of weaponized parliamentary procedure battles, my heart was spent. I became angry at individuals and groups there. My heart was in an awful place. I became angrier when we were called to worship. I saw the same hands that had been pointing fingers now raised to heaven proclaiming praise to God. It sickened me. I knew that in a few moments I was to lead our convention in prayer lamenting sexual abuse.May the Lord keep us in a place where we are constantly seeking the heart of God and allowing Him to scour ours to reveal our sin and convict our souls. — @keahbone Click To Tweet
So, I wrestled within my spirit all the way to the podium. I could not speak. The Holy Spirit of God would not let me say a word until my heart was right with Him. I had to confess. Everything in my flesh screamed for another way, but my flesh was defeated. The Lord led me to confess my sin on the spot. It was embarrassing, ugly, and right. It was what had to happen before I could pray. I then prayed with confidence, strength, assurance, and power. My heart was clean before God.
Dear pastors, may the Lord keep us in a place where we are constantly seeking the heart of God and allowing Him to scour ours to reveal our sin and convict our souls. May He lead us, pastors, to confession and repentance. Then I believe the presence and power of God will be unleashed among us. Hallelujah! Amen.
Mike currently resides in Lawton, Oklahoma with his wife and three children and serves as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Lawton.