I’ve been working with someone in our church to take a long hard look at the culture and practices of we’ve developed in our church around the issue of spiritual formation, spiritual direction and discipleship. In this, I’ve been doign some reading about how other denominations and traditions have approached this topic throughout the history of the church. One book that has been immensely helpful is Gary Moon and David Benner’s book Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls. In this book, they give an overview of how spiritual direction is approached from different traditions.

One thing that has surprised me has been how almost every tradition has a strong emphasis on some form of confession. Now, this probably shouldn’t have surprised me. But, its no secret that evangelicals are not known to place a high emphasis on confession as a regular practice in the Christian life. Perhaps we think we will become catholic or something. But, while it was talked about on some level, it was not and has not been something strongly emphasized. This is true for us at The Well. We don’t, not talk about confession. But I am realizing we aren’t intentional enough about it.

David Fitch in his book The Great Giveway writes about this a bit in his chapter on spiritual formation. This is a long quote, but i think he hits the nail on the head…

“But we cannot do therapy like this sitting in the pew. Because evangelicals are so sermon-centric, we are tempted to think that good therapy happens by taking good notes in the pew. But ironically, the more we concentrate on good biblical instruction as central to the Christian life, the less we talk to each other about our lives and especially about sin. MOst of our small group processes are either inductive Bible studies or involved more intense, scholarly study of the bible that never deals with the emotional and character issues that are destroying our lives. It is a testament to how unsafe the church has become for sinners that we rarely discuss with each other our sin and failures and seek the healing of the HOly Spirit. Rarely do we have confession and repentance in our small groups. We need to find safe places where we can share our lives, confess our sins, receive scriptural wisdom, and be prayed for. To do this, we cannot just get together and simply share our sins and quote bible verses at each other. We must retrieve from therapy the needed skills to practice biblical confession and bring it under the lordship of Christ. This is the utmost of importance to the future of spiritual formation in the evangelical church.” (195)