In every sermon I preach there will be a casual reminder of some area of struggle. And often, my confession is funny. Humor gives the congregation some relief and increases their receptiveness to my teaching on a touchy topic. Someone compared humor in preaching with using a rubber sword. It should make a point but not draw blood.
Who Needs to Know?
Years ago while speaking at a men's retreat, I confided that there was a time in my ministry when I chose not to turn on the television in the hotel rooms when I traveled out of town. "Hotels have movie channels that I don't get at my home," I explained to these Christian businessmen who travel a lot.
"The reason I didn't flip on the TV wasn't because I was so strong a Christian—but because I'm so weak," I admitted. "I've talked to plenty of men whose lives were ruined by slowly lowering the moral standards of what they allowed to come in their eye gate. My refusal was motivated by a fear of where inappropriate viewing could take me."
Such an admission isn't easy to make. It implies a weakness and interest in that which is sinful. In a worship setting, I might expect to hear someone whisper, "A preacher shouldn't have those types of thoughts." But in that gathering of men, I felt safe saying it and encouraging those men to stand firm. My admission motivated one man to get involved in a support group and another to start an accountability group.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Even where I feel safe making such a confession, I am reminded to choose my words carefully. Our struggles and temptations should be acknowledged, even confessed, but not detailed.
The goal in confession is not simply to show the congregation that we have weaknesses. They know that. The goal is to show our dependence on the Lord because of our weaknesses, and by our growth in some areas, to offer an example.
Too many confessions will raise eyebrows but not the commitment level of the people. Discreet, occasional acknowledgements, if handled delicately, can have a long-term positive impact.
Christ promises that his power is made perfect in our weakness. If our struggles motivate us to rely on him, they can lead to life change, for the church—and even for the preacher.
—Dave Stone; adapted from our sister publication Leadership Journal, 2004 Christianity Today. For more articles like this, visit www.Leadershipjournal.net.
- Do our leaders admit their struggles? Do we encourage one another to confess?
- What can we do to foster a safe environment to speak honestly about our struggles?
- Do we want to be honest with one another? Or would we rather not know when our leaders are struggling?