How Should a Pastor's Confession of Sin Be?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

How thorough should a pastor's confession of sin to his congregation be? Can a pastor damage the authority he ought to maintain by being too humble in this way?

You can't be too humble. But you can be stupid. And you can be excessively introspective, and you can probably be overly detailed, and you can be insensitive to others who would be hurt by things that you would say.

There are all kinds of bad ways to confess sin. But humility is not one of them.

Humility might lead you to be quiet about a sin which, if you said it, would hurt your wife-or your son, or your daughter, or your church, or somebody. It's so delicate how love functions here.

So yes, a pastor should strive towards transparency and humility. He wants a church that doesn't have sham or hypocrisy, where people aren't putting on airs and don't feel like they have to plaster on a fake smile.

We all want churches that are real, and the only way to get that is to have pastors who model that.

Now how do you model it when several thousand folks are watching you?

I think there are enough specifics a pastor can give about flaws in his character-he can speak generally or he can give some instances that don't hurt anybody but him-and there are enough general statements he can make about the broader, more difficult struggles.

I don't think a pastor should probably get up every week and narrate some lustful slip in his mind, for example. Like, "I saw this thing in my mind and I lingered over it 10 seconds too long." But he could say, "I'm with you guys, OK? I'm a human being. I'm wrestling, and God is merciful."

So this is a call for wisdom, isn't it? It's a call for wisdom, both in personal and in church relationships, about how humility gives expression to our own flaws, sins, and failures, so that you don't hurt others and you don't excessively self-preoccupied.

Copyright 2010 John Piper. Website:

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