Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Review of "Cultivating A Life For God" by Neil Cole, part 2 of 2

The real topic of Neil Cole's book - confession, rather than discipleship - is something I believe many people are longing for but are scared to death of. I believe that you can see this in the popularity of places such as PostSecret, where people create postcards that are indicative of the secrets that they anonymously mail in.

The PostSecret website picturing the postcards is fascinating. The creator eventually puts enough of the confessional postcards into a book and then goes to signings, where you look around and wonder who wrote what.

Reading the postcards is a surreal experience. You know real, next-door people (maybe even yourself) think those thoughts and have gone through those experiences, but we just don't talk about them. Period. Not in polite company, not in rough company, and especially not to people we are close to. Rather, perfect strangers are preferred in an anonymous setting.

Are confessions really necessary? Can't we get by without them? I suppose so, since millions probably do. But are we truly a community that loves each other if we can't share our problems? That seems more like a community that is friendly as long as I don't have to really expend much energy or compassion.

Here is a confession: there are times when I'd rather see your fake smile than really know what is going on. I think my biggest fear isn't that I'd have to take time off from watching TV to help you (Survivor really isn't that great), it's that I would feel the need to reciprocate and tell you my own problems.

But the healing that could happen! How wonderful it would be to be able to tell people of my struggles, of my broken past, and know that they would love me fully! The monkey removed, the struggle is shared, and real growth could happen.

Where has the church been? Why aren't people making these same confessions in the context of the body of Christ, where forgiveness is supposed to be complete?

Gossip. Condemnation. Feeling like you are a zoo animal.

So, instead, we have anonymous boxes hiding our identity to Catholic priests, we have websites such as which is basically the same as PostSecret but endorsed by a church.

I appreciate for at least making an effort, just don't quote the verse from James when you allow anonymous confessions. In real community, you confess your sins and problems and cares to each other, not to an electronic priest. Otherwise you may feel good for a few minutes, but you miss out on the purpose - community and growth. James says the purpose of the confession to each other, not privately to God, not privately to the internet, is so that we can take care of each other, pray for the other person, and help us to get over and through it.

Thus comes Cole's book, saying let's do it, people are craving it. He suggests groups the size of two or three people. I would add "who you can trust or build a trust" but he doesn't seem to necessarily think that is necessary. He has examples of adding people in within weeks, and in one scenario he talks about people being added to the group and multiple groups forming within one setting. I have to wonder if trust and confession isn't being trampled on at that point.

I love the idea of the groups and I think they are for everyone who has ever sinned. I love his advice about having it spread as a grassroots movement rather than as a program. My own inclination would be to focus the purpose; Cole seems to stress the groups more as a Bible study and evangelism tool than as a confession and healing tool. But here is another confession: I haven't started one yet, but I plan on it. Maybe then I'll have a little better perspective.

You lucked out - I won't post my confessions on this blog.

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John said...

So, did you start the group or did the job take precedence?

John Vaught said...

I have resigned the job I had when I posted this and I'm in the process of getting a new job where this can more easily become a reality (I hope).