Tag Archives: relationship

Weekend Reflections: Public Confession and Inviting People to Church

Public Confession & Repentance

We had an interesting experience at church a few Sundays ago, and it’s caused me to do a little reflection of my own. We had a member to come before the church and openly confess their sin. I’ve never seen this done before in my 4 years of serving at this church. It was during the invitation time, where anyone is invited to come forward to pray, have prayer, join the church, or receive Christ as their Savior. Theologically speaking, our church understands that this is not the only time God is at work, but we recognize the importance of the invitation because it is a time to respond to what we’ve just heard preached from God’s word. This person came forward, convicted by the Spirit through the preaching of the word, and confessed openly before us what they had recently done. Now, for confidentiality reasons I cannot reveal any more than this. But what this individual did really had me thinking, Is openly confessing sin like this biblical? Is it biblical or even helpful to publicly repent the way they did?

From Scripture, I am familiar with the command to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a). But this verse seems to advocate for a type of confession that is more personal in nature – one that is more along the lines of “man-to-man” confession. In other words, the kind of confession James is talking about is confession of sin “to one another.”  It supports more of a personal confession to possibly one or two people.

At the same time, I think there are times when public confession and repentance are necessary. I think it all depends on how serious the committed sin really is. Here’s the principle I think we should use when determining whether a sin should be confessed publicly before the church:

“But as for confession, I think the principle is that the extent of the confession should match the extent of the sin.” ¹

That’s John Piper quoted above. He was asked the question, “When should we confess sins publicly?” I believe that Piper is on target. If a sin committed is very great, the repentance and confession should also be very great. This is where public confession and repentance comes in.

Not all sins carry the same consequences. There’s a world of difference in the extent of sin, when for example, a leader in the church uses foul language or decides to commit adultery. To the Lord, the sins are equally as offensive; to others, the consequences vary. jimmy-swaggart-crying-sinnedThe consequences of a leader who curses the door upon which he stubbed his toe are far less than the consequences of a leader who lives in an adulterous relationship. You may recall that this exact thing happened with the famous evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. 

So with that in mind, as I’ve studied and pondered this unique experience, I want to say first that it took a lot of courage to do what they did. It’s more courage than I can say that I have. And I think there are times and instances where it is helpful and biblical to publicly repent before the whole church, but other times I think that we should not. I think this particular occasion was very appropriate for public repentance – and I believe that it was biblical and helpful. The particular sin they confessed was one that is far-reaching and has terrible consequences – and I believe they did the right thing. The extent of their sin was very great, so they made sure their public confession and repentance was very great as well. And as an aside, they even demonstrated true restoration the next Sunday – the expected results of publicly repenting before the church. It was truly beautiful to witness firsthand.

If only the rest of us could have godly sorrow and repentance like they did over the sins in our lives. We need repentance and godly sorrow like they demonstrated for every sin in our lives – whether the consequences are great or small. I commend them for their courage and for not harboring sin in their lives, but confessing it openly before us. We’re all broken in different ways – God gives us grace to be restored, and we help each other along in the church. The church is a hospital for sinners – a place where we “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Regularly Inviting People to Church

On this same Sunday, we had a special occasion at our church where we invited at least one friend to church with us. Lately, our church attendance has been down, and our pastor has challenged us to be more evangelistically-focused. Particularly in the area of inviting people to church. Now, clearly inviting people to church is not evangelism, nor is it a substitute for it. But inviting people to church is a practical component for faithful evangelism. It’s part of the way we build relationships with those we evangelize – and relationships are essential to discipleship.

We got on board with a program known as Invite Your One, directed and founded by Thom Rainer², the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. invite-your-oneIt’s a church-wide campaign that focuses on inviting at least one person to church with you on a designated Sunday. It’s a practical way to get church members to be more evangelistic and regularly share Christ with people, and invite them to worship at their church. Needless to say, our church was loaded that day – and all of the guests present were friends or relatives of those who invited them. What is truly praiseworthy is that many of the guests returned the following Sunday.

This experience was memorable and it confirmed a belief that I have deeply held for a number of years: building relationships with those we invite to church nearly guarantees they will come. I truly believe that if we will befriend people, saved or unsaved, the likelihood of their church attendance at our churches will increase greatly. People don’t stumble in to churches by random choice these days. In fact, it’s likely quite trustworthy to say that the reason a person goes to one church and not another is because they were invited and welcomed by a friend or relative. They know they will see you when they come – you are the bridge they’ll cross in order to come to your church. They won’t cross a bridge they don’t know.

Once again, this doesn’t replace evangelism – we should preach the gospel relationship or not. But people are more receptive to the gospel when they see it’s transforming power in the life of a friend or relative. And those same people are more receptive to invitations to church services when they are in the life of a friend or relative. So who will you befriend this week? Who is God laying on your heart to evangelize? Who is coming to church with you on Sunday?


  1. Piper, John. “When Should We Confess Sins Publicly?” Desiring God,  19th of May 2008. Accessed 26th of September 2016.

  2. Thom Rainer has a plethora of resources on church growth. Check out his blog here.

How We Have Been Created: For Personal Relationship

Developing friends in grade school. Falling in love with our high school sweet heart. Marrying our spouse and having children. These are all things that we’ve experienced, and things we cherish. It’s because of the way God fashioned and created us. God created us for personal relationships and fellowship with one another, it’s in the very fabric of our existence. And the reason for this is chiefly because we have been created in the image of God. That is, we have been created in His likeness—we are in many ways like God, and we represent Him in various means. But having been created in the image of God reaches a high peak in that we have been created in God’s image as both male and female. Genesis 1:27 reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”[1] According to this verse, man was created in the image of God as male and female. But what does it mean to be male and female? What does this mean for our relationships, our marriages, our church ministries, and the way we raise children? Discovering these answers will come from an analysis of the doctrine of man as created male and female.

An examination of this doctrine should include a study of three essential components that are derived from Scripture concerning our having been created as male and female. First, we have been created for personal relationship. That is, we image God by existing in fellowship with other human beings, just as God eternally exists in fellowship within the Godhead. And this reaches its climax in the marriage of a man and woman. Second, we have been created with equality in personhood and importance. Expressly, both male and female are equal in value and importance in God’s sight and as God created them. We image God in this way because all the members of the Trinity are also equally important in personhood and existence. Third and finally, we have been created with differences in role and responsibilities. Namely, we have been created by God as male and female to complement each other by our difference in roles—they are by no means equal roles, but different roles that complete the other. Some of these will overlap, but each of these aspects of the doctrine have their foundation in having been created in the image of God. We image and reflect God in all of these three ways. The first of these we will expound on is how we were created for relationship.

Created for Personal Relationship

God did not create us to be alone. It is truly praiseworthy that God also did not create us in total uniformity, but that He created us in such a way that we can reach unity together in all forms of human community. He formed Adam and Eve together and also commanded them to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28a). Since the beginning, there has been community and the command to multiply human persons by procreation. We have not been created as isolated persons, but because we have been made in the image of God we can attain interpersonal unity. Just as there is eternally perfect fellowship among the members of the Trinity, we have been created to reflect the plurality of persons within the Godhead. In Genesis 1, we see this clearly revealed: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (v. 26a). Grudem rightly observes that in this passage “Just as there was fellowship and communication and sharing of glory among the members of the Trinity before the world was made, so God made Adam and Eve in such a way that they would share love and communication and mutual giving of honor to one another in their interpersonal relationship.”[2] We have been created for community and personal relationship with one another, just as God exists in fellowship and community in the Triune Godhead.

Unity and personal relationship can be attained through the human family, through societal means, and also through the church, but this interpersonal unity is most fully and brilliantly expressed in the ordinance of marriage. There is no greater exemplification of human unity and personal relationship than in marriage, where “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The reason for this is that, at the heart of having been created in the image of God, we have been created as male and female. When the two beings, which are biological opposites, come together in the God-ordained ordinance of marriage, they reflect the oneness of the Trinity because God is able to exist in three persons but also in complete oneness and harmony. The persons of the Trinity are distinct but never divided. So when two people join together in holy matrimony, they reflect to some degree the perfect oneness of the Godhead—and this is fundamental to the reality of having been created in the image of God. David Horton rightly observes, “Human beings were created by God as male and female (Gen. 1:27), meaning that what is said generally of humanity must be said of both the male and the female, and that the truest picture of what it means to be human is to be found in the context of man and woman together” (emphasis mine)[3].

Man was created to reflect and image God, and this is evidently seen in that man was created for unity and personal relationship—most completely expressed in the coming together of man and woman in marriage. But this facet of the doctrine of man as created male and female has suffered much rejection and distortion as in our day today. According to David Myers, the human biological structure has been created by God with the capacity to sexually desire either men or women, regardless of your gender. He notes, “The persistence of one’s sexual attraction to either men or women suggests that sexual orientation is, for most if not for all, an enduring disposition.”[4] Some, like Myers, believe that this unity can be attained through the joining of the same gender (ex. Male and male, or female and female). However, from the overwhelming biblical evidence, since man was created male and female instead of completely male or completely female, personal unity can be attained because the two complement each other in every way and make possible the multiplication of the human race by procreation. Hence the words of God after created Adam; “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). In summary, it is imperative to recognize this feature of the biblical doctrine of man as created male and female.


[1] All italicized emphases in Scripture references are my own.

[2] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 455.

[3] Horton, David. The Portable Seminary (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2006), 162.

[4] Myers, David. What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage (Kindle Edition. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2005), Location 1057.