written by
Jonah Jeremiah

Eldership: The Confessing Leader

5 min read
grayscale photo of woman doing silent hand sign

Would you prefer to follow a confessing leader?

Most initially would not. One expects that a confessing leader is one who's already done wrong. Therefore, a confessing leader is an outgoing or disqualified leader.

I would say the opposite is true - that a sign of a qualified leader is one who is confessional.

Approving a leader who does not confess their own sin and struggle within their teaching and prayer may signal a teacher who has not been regenerated, who lacks power in Christ, whose prayers will be limited in their impact.

I'll share a story and then illustrate what I think some of the issues were.

So there was pastor to Church, and after several years turned to my wife and I was commenting about how he had been divorced, and she was surprised to find out that he was, in fact, divorced. And so this isn't a topic about divorce. It was a topic about how can someone go for years and not know something about that?

The converse is actually what's true. How can someone go for years for a very defining moment and not reference it at least once or twice throughout a number of years?

I’m not saying every conversation and every message needs to reference this.

But consider the following: if someone believes God can take them out of the despair of their sin, is not that journey of his work in us the richest source to illustrate the Gospel at work? If so, why not share?

So let's take a look at why a confessing spirit is important and why I believe it is an essential hallmark before you approve of someone as a leader.

Confession reveals a repentant heart

So the first one is one that is confessing is one who must have at some point repented. Now it doesn't mean that one who is not confessing has never been repentant, but certainly one who has never been repentant is likely to never be confessing. So this is the first thing our ability to access God and come before him relies upon a sorrowful, repentant heart. But the way the Church has evolved is that there are many who don't even realize that that is a part of being born again is being sorrowful for our sin.

And so when you have a non confessional leader, that could be a signal that they are unrepentant.

Confession leads to rich teachable content

The second one is, as I've mentioned, teaching is super important.

It is the criteria beyond just normal behavioral standards that is important. And I think many people get stuck on teaching as being a professor or someone who knows Greek or deep theology. But teaching a large part of it is to look at the role of Jesus in their own life and to share that.

And so if you aren't confessing, they aren't going to share your sin. You're not going to be to share how, despite your sin, you have been saved, redeemed, and born again. So the non confessing person isn't going to be an effective teacher either.

Doesn't mean that all teaching must be confessional.

But it also doesn't mean no teaching is confessional either.

The following, however, is true: one who can confess their own sin and disobedience, and how they have depended upon salvation through grace alone, is more likely to be one who teaches the Gospel.

Confession reveals power and trust in God; guardedness reveals unbelief

The wholly guarded heart and perhaps the lack of the spirit and someone who's completely non-transparent non-confessional when we truly believe that we are made right and that anything that's in the dark would come forward the light and in Christ we've been justified then no problem and no sin really has an issue being shared now.

It doesn't mean from day one the deepest and most darkest secret needs to be shared in public.

But if there's no confession, then there probably is a lack of power. If we look at James, he talks about the healing nature of prayer. I think most people will acknowledge, oh, yeah, prayer is important, but when we read it closely, nestled within that ability to heal, which is to save, someone must be able to confess.

The one who's not confessing by definition is not as powerful. Perhaps, I would argue, even powerless in their prayer being a mistake.

And they may be very good at prayer, but they're also very good at hiding who they are because that is what confession is.

Many places play such a great priority on someone's qualification based on the publicness or the vigor or the emotion behind their prayer. But we can see that Jesus himself warns against displays of prayer as a sole qualification. And in fact, those can be faked.

There's not saying that all public prayer is faked, it's just that it is necessary but insufficient for someone's turn of heart.

This is why James talks about praying. I believe in the context of a confession. So if you don't have that, then your leaders prayers could be potentially weak or as I believe, ultimately powerless they become show that too is not that effective.

So if you're evaluating, elders leaders a Church tune in for the confessional leader for there and there is power and there is trusted on the nature of repentance and their birth again.


When you develop as a leader and grow spiritually, have you been comfortable confessing sin?

This can start 1:1, and then expand into your teaching. How well are you able to illustrate the true gospel through this?

When you evaluate a leader, how upfront and transparent have they been? Do they do so in their teaching? Do they do so in their prayer?

If not, why not? Do you sense that they don’t know to do this, but are willing?

Or are they guarded and likely to not do so?