Counsel on Open Confession -- By: Jim Elliff

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:1 (Winter 1997)
Article: Counsel on Open Confession
Author: Jim Elliff

Counsel on Open Confession

Jim Elliff

I am attracted to this subject of open confession largely because of my own experience from 1968 to 1978. During these six years of university and seminary study and four subsequent years of pastoral work I often participated in extensive periods of public confession. This was the time of the Asbury College Revival and the Canadian Revival, when several schools and churches were impacted by the need to be open and honest before God.

While in the seminary I led nearly 120 church meetings of various types over four years, usually over weekends. It was the norm to have lengthy periods of confession in the churches. Adults and young people were humbled and open to God. Along with this there were many converted, and it seemed that our boldness was greater than ever before. The churches I pastored continued in this vein. Taking communion weekly at night in the churches often provided the setting for public confession, sometimes lasting well into the evening. During the church services, people often went to other individuals for restitution or reconciliation, or made telephone calls from the office to ask forgiveness. They could not take communion without being right with God and man. The presence of the Lord was, to us, almost atmospheric in its intensity.

The growth of the church, even without any unusual evangelistic planning, was exceptional, new people coming to Christ nearly every week. We were confident they were God’s converts because virtually every one of the persons who was converted was retained. As pastors and people from other areas heard of or experienced firsthand what was happening, they wanted to know the secret. Our only explanation was God Himself.

How thankful I am for the influence of those days, yet with all of this I have come to desire something more for our day—something much fuller and more substantive.

Surprising as it may seem, my growing understanding is that public confession is not the sine qua non of revival. Additionally, questions should be asked about the particular methodology we used. I do not wish to diminish in the least what many of us knew during those days or the urgent need to humble ourselves before God concerning specific sins. However, this practice of “open microphone” confession is a relatively modern expression and not without its weaknesses. If all we have are some nights, or perhaps even weeks, of public confession, we have not had the depth of revival this country and the world need. We can thank God for such experiences to the degree they break up the fallow ground, but what is called for is a genuine reformation of the church as we know it, includ...

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