Recently, a friend and fellow pastor’s wife asked me, “How do you cultivate a culture of confession and repentance among the women in your church and in your own life?” She shared that she had battled a particular habitual sin for years at the start of their church plant. It wasn’t until she openly confessed this sin and repented that she began to see the stronghold loosen, and ultimately, a slowly won victory.
Confessing our sins to others contrasts with our natural desire to hide our failings. But God lovingly calls us to reject our flesh and embrace his ways for our good. He tells us to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), and he promises that when we do confess them, he is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Our enemy tempts us to silence and acquiescence, but he only wants our destruction. Scripture says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Concealing our sins doesn’t benefit us, but confessing and repenting of them leads to mercy.
Isn’t this what we all want for ourselves and the women in our church plants? How, then, do we become the kind of women who cultivate a culture of confession and repentance to God’s glory? While not an exhaustive list, here are three steps we can take, each one requiring both courage and humility.
1. Be women who remember we need Jesus.
The need never stops. Regardless of where we find ourselves on life’s journey, we need our Savior. It is grievous that many churches are filled with people trying to convince everyone they have it all together. We must champion the truth that when we confess and repent of our sin, we rehearse the gospel—both to ourselves and to those around us.
Many times, I’ve sinned against my children and had to tell them, “Mommy needs a Savior as much as you do. Please forgive me.” What if we approached every relationship with that same courage and humility? Let’s be women who gladly boast in our weaknesses because we know that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
2. Be women who walk in the light.
“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). There is often fear about confessing sin—fear of bringing shame on ourselves and our families. A friend shared that she was terrified to confess her sin because of what it would mean for her husband, his ministry, and their role at the church.
But Scripture teaches that when we confess our sin and live in that light, sin loses its hold on us. May we be women who cling to this truth and refuse to believe the lie our enemy whispers, that when we are hidden, we are safe. Sin is destructive, and it grows and festers in the dark. Only when it is brought into the light through confession and repentance will we experience true freedom.
3. Be women who prioritize community.
We must resist the temptation to hold others at arm’s length to protect ourselves. We were made for community. Jesus surrounded himself with a community of men and women who knew him, and he had closer relationships within this community—an inner circle of trust. If Jesus modeled for us that community is vital, then we must prioritize it, too.
If you believe you’d rather be lonely than be hurt again, bring that hurt to Jesus. He knows what you’ve experienced. His friends abandoned, denied, and betrayed him. He knew they would, yet he still befriended them. Jesus knows that you need friends to help you live a life of greater repentance. So ask him to bring trustworthy people into your life. Ask him to open doors of relationships with other women who can stir you toward greater holiness.
These are not easy things to implement. If we want to become women who cultivate a culture of confession and repentance in our churches, then we must create environments where we are quick to confess our own sin. What if we, like Paul, considered ourselves chief sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)? And as chief sinners, we can model what it means to be chief repenters. We can leverage our roles of sometimes living in a fishbowl to show what biblical repentance and confession look like.
Ladies, let’s get loud about our need for a Savior, choose light over darkness, and do this together in Christian community. This is the work of cultivation.