The honest part of the worship service

I’ve heard that including a time for the corporate confession of sins is becoming increasingly rare in worship services across denominational lines. I suspect for some, it’s difficult to integrate into a service filled mostly with praise. Perhaps others fear that dwelling on our sins will frighten away seekers who were not expecting to be reminded of their mistakes.

The fact is that any relationship will not flourish without honesty, and that’s true for our relationship with God. Things go best when we can freely express our hopes as well as our fears, our praise as well as our lament, our gratitude as well as our guilt. Confessing our sins both privately and corporately allows us to bring out into the open what everyone already knows: The God we worship is holy but we are not.

Even though he wrote it in Calvin Seminary’s Kerux student newspaper over a decade ago, my colleague Craig Hoekema made an analogy that sticks with me to this day:

When we don’t confess, I think we are ignoring who God really is and the seriousness of our offense. It is a bit like going to a Presidential Ball in jeans and t-shirt. And even though the President himself has a suit/dress waiting for us, we just proceed with the evening and never take time to change. I think that if we’re gathered as a sinful people in the presence of a holy God, then we are lying to ourselves and each other if we don’t explicitly and intentionally address our sin every single time.  (Kerux, 21 Oct 2004, pp. 1-2)

Recognizing something is wrong is the first step the Holy Spirit uses to move us to do something about it. How can we want something to be fixed if we don’t even acknowledge that it’s broken?

Confession graphic found via Google

Our time of corporate confession in a worship service enables us to honestly assess who we are and where we fall short. But even better, it sets us up for hearing the best news of all: that God is eager to clothe us with His mercy. (More on that next time…)

4 thoughts on “The honest part of the worship service

  1. Carla Walhof says:

    Oh, this is good!!!!!!


  2. […] not sure how well known this is, but as God’s people, we don’t actually confess our sins in a worship service so that we might be forgiven. As Arlo D. Duba writes in Reformed […]


  3. S. Jodie Zimmerman says:


    Thank you for this post and the next one too – on Confession. Glad to see you believe that way too!!

    S. Jodie


  4. Stanley J. Groothof says:

    Thanks, Jodie, for your comment! I’m encouraged that we share this common perspective. ~Stanley


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