by Collin Mayjack & Gavin Bennett
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the last few weeks’ Practice in triads (5-10 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, consider dividing into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
1. A couple weeks ago we began Practices of reading and memorizing scripture. Do you notice these Practices shaping you? What are you learning from these Practices?
2. What are some tangible next steps you can take as you strive to fill your mind with truth in the coming weeks? (e.g. do the listening prayer Practice about truth and lies once a week, start a new Bible reading plan, begin memorizing another passage, subscribe to a good podcast, etc.).
Read this Overview
We live in a culture that deeply values what it calls ‘authenticity.’ Understood in our cultural context, ‘authenticity’ can be defined as the choice to say, think, and do anything that comes naturally without fear, reservation, or shame. In this worldview, we are taught that whatever comes from the inside is good and worthy of celebration, and this message is preached everywhere – whether in a sitcom, an advertisement, or a hot yoga class, we are often urged to “be yourself,” to “live your truth,” or to “follow your heart.”
On one hand, this is not all bad. Human beings are created in the image of God and, therefore, much of what is beautiful in our world flows out of our internal world: art, generosity, music, love, and the like. These things are deeply human and deeply good.
But what if that is only half the story?
Beneath the veneer of the mantra “you are perfect just the way you are,” something haunting remains. We all have secrets. We all have moments that we are not proud of. We all have thoughts, feelings, and actions that we know aren’t worthy of celebration – that fight with your spouse, the moment of anger in the car, the extra glance at the gym, the gossip shared at work, and on the list goes.
Life in apprenticeship to Jesus involves an internal tug-of-war, a battle between our good desires and our broken desires (or what Paul calls our “flesh”). To follow Jesus is to resist the disordered desires of our flesh and to live into the new, redeemed desires of the Spirit.
If we’re going to win this fight, we’ll need to be honest with ourselves, God, and one another. There is no healing in hiding. For thousands of years, followers of Jesus have fought their disordered desires not by hiding them, but by confessing them. By confessing these desires and behaviors before God and others, followers of Jesus are able to find to find freedom from them; it is the truth that sets us free.
Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)
Have somebody read 1 John 1:8-9 and James 5:16.
Talk about the following questions:
1. What do these passages teach us about confession?
2. What has been your experience with confession?
3. What is scary about confession? What could be healthy or freeing about confession?
4. How could we form an environment that is safe for people to confess sin to one another?
Note: This conversation could take up the whole night. If it does, that is okay. The simple act of talking about confession contributes to an environment in which confession can take place. Feel free to revisit the rest of the Practice on a different night.
Do this Practice as a Community right now (15 - 30 Minutes)
When your Community is ready, move on to this week’s Practice.
Exercise 1: The Examen
Let’s begin with a prayer exercise known as the Examen. Each person can spread out and find a comfy space to sit in, perhaps with a notebook and pen in their hand. Then, have the Leader pray to invite the Holy Spirit. After a few moments of quiet, spend time quietly with God doing the following:
Step One: Replay the week in your mind
Take a few minutes to practice active reflection of the last week, allowing it to play like a movie in your mind. Call to mind the highs and the lows of the week and all of the emotions tied to those moments.
Step Two: Invite the Holy Spirit into your reflection
Having the week before your mind, ask the Holy Spirit this simple question: “When did I fail to love God or love someone else this week?” Take a few moments to quietly replay the week in your mind, allowing the Holy Spirit to show you moments where you did not love God or others. (Remember: While the Holy Spirit convicts us in order to lead us into life, shame is not ever the voice of God. So while the Holy Spirit will correct you, the Holy Spirit will never degrade or dishonor you.)
Step Three: Acknowledge those moments before God
Once those moments have come to mind, confess them to God by acknowledging the wrongdoing towards him or towards someone else. After you’ve acknowledged them to God, call to mind God’s readiness to forgive you and thank him for his forgiveness.
Exercise 2: Share the moment(s) with another person
After completing the Examen, split into groups of two to share the moments that came to mind during the Examen. If multiple moments came to mind, share one moment that felt most significant or that you feel comfortable sharing.
For the sharer, this looks like saying something like, “I realized that this week I failed to love God by _________" or “I failed to love (this person) by ________".
For the listener, this looks like quietly listening without judgment. Once the person has finished sharing, thank them for sharing and share your moment in return.
After both parties have shared, spend a few minutes praying for one another and speaking the forgiveness of God over one another in prayer.
Read over this coming week’s Practice before you call it a night: (5 minutes)
Exercise 1: Practice the Examen and Confession with God
Spend some time this week re-visiting the Examen on your own and asking the Holy Spirit that same question: “When did I fail to love God or love someone else?”
Decide on how often you’d like to Practice the Examen. If you decide to practice the Examen daily, spend each time reflecting on the previous 24 hours. If you decide to do it twice in the week ahead, spend both times reflecting on the pervious 48-72 Hours. And so on.
Conclude each time of Examen by acknowledging (i.e. confessing) those moments of sin before God and thanking God for his forgiveness and love.
Exercise 2: Practice Confession with a trusted confidant
If you feel ready and want to dive further into this Practice, spend time this week confessing sin with a trusted confidant. This could look like reaching out to another member of your Community, a good friend, a pastor, or a mentor and doing the following:
- Ask if they are open to being a person to whom you can confess sin and whether or not they would be open to confessing sin to you. (Ideally, there is no hierarchy in confession, so that confession goes both ways.)
- Set up a time to confess sin to one another. This time doesn't have to be long and it could be over the phone, but it should be in a place that is safe and private.
- Meet (or talk) at the agreed upon time and confess sin to one another. If confession is new to you, consider:
- Using the prompt from our Examen exercise: “This week I failed to love God by _________" or “I failed to love (this person) by ________".
- Starting with one or two areas of sin, rather than trying to cover an exhaustive list.
- When (or if) this person confesses to you, be slow to speak and quick to listen. Do not offer advice, feedback, or judgment. Instead, quietly listen until they have said all that they wanted to say. Hearing someone’s confession is different from coaching them.
- When the confessor is finished, point them to God’s forgiveness by reading a passage about God’s forgiveness, praying for them and declaring God’s forgiveness over them, or simply looking them in the eye and telling them how much God loves them and how he is full of forgiveness towards them.
- When both parties are finished, close in prayer, thanking God for his forgiveness. If you’d like to try confession again, consider setting up another time to meet.
Work through these discussion questions (5-10 minutes)
1. How was the Practice of Examen for you? How about sharing those moments with another person?
2. Any thoughts, creative ideas, or feedback on this coming week’s Practice? Do you have an idea of who you might confess sin with?