Confession of sin in corporate worship renews the church for the mission of Christ. It hardly needs stating that confession of sin in corporate worship is out of fashion in most church traditions. Yet Christ commands that we confess our sins in the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘pray then like this… forgive us our sins.’ (You will recall Lord’s Prayer is a prayed in community, spoken as it is in the plural.)
Confession of sin renews the church for the mission of Christ. Within the arc of the biblical story, God has called a people to live as a sign, instrument and foretaste of the restorative reign of Christ—we are a ‘sent’ people (Jn 20:21). The first, second and third petitions of the Lord’s Prayer ask that the Father would advance his Kingdom. The fourth, fifth and sixth petition ask that the Father would equip his church to play its part in promoting the goal of first three petitions! In other words, it is through daily bread, forgiveness of sins and protection that the church is equipped to advertise Christ’s sovereign, saving rule. So through our confessing our sins and receiving ‘daily more and more assurance of forgiveness’ (Larger W Cat. 194) the Spirit empowers and renews the church for the mission of Christ.
Both personal sins and also sins of the worshipping community are confessed. Confession acknowledges the destructive impact of our sin, upon the earth, upon other people, upon those we love, and upon our relationship with God himself.
A ‘confessing church’ also confesses the shared sins of the society in which it resides. A church I am associated with recently lamented Canadian refugee legislation. Such a church is mindful of ‘the communal sin manifested in the social structures designed to privilege some at the expense of others.’ (see my blog on this)
Here are five strategies for engaging a congregation in confession of sin:
1. Take time to explain the purpose of confession to the congregation – do this a number of times.
2. Ensure that a transition to confession of sin is clear and not obscured within a ramble of liturgy.
3. Practice silent confession – our worship services are overly full of words, words, words…
4. Find liturgies of confession that are both serious and creative.
5. Use a song of confession that moves from contriteness to the joy of forgiveness.
My current favourite song is ‘Let Me Hear Joy’, by my friend, singer/songwriter, Daniel opdeVeigh. Based on Psalm 51 it moves from contrition to joyful reception of forgiveness and I have used it many times in cooperate confession. Daniel is a Christian leader of the highest integrity – important for a song such as this. He has given me permission to offer you his song for free (audio below). If you use this song in your church, would you please purchase the album to support this ministry?
 Miguel De La Torre, Latina/o Social Ethics, Moving Beyond Moral Thinking (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 84.