LifeChurch.tv does church differently. It's one church with multiple locations connected through satellite and its messages are unapologetically straightforward. LifeChurch.tv also does confessions differently. The growing church is now giving Christians and nonbelievers alike a way to confess their sins anonymously and virtually.
The LifeChurch founder, the Rev. Craig Groeschel, launched a new website called mysecret.tv. There, devoted churchgoers, happily married Christians, ministry leaders and preacher's kids confess their secrets - from drug addictions, eating disorders and sexuality to past humiliations, regrets and shame.
In Groeschel's 16 years of ministry work, he saw a lot of pain behind the smiles he was met with each week, according to The New York Times.
"I can't tell you how many hundreds of times people have told me that 'I'm going to tell you something, Pastor, I've never told anyone before,'" said Groeschel. "I realized that people are carrying around dark secrets, and the website is giving them a first place for confession."
The interactive website which ties to Groeschel's sermons on the need for confession already has hundreds of postings - postings that have "stunned him." Some speak of real struggles and confusion with the direction of their lives and with faith and some ask for prayers as past sins and continuing struggles eat at them.
"Sometimes I just want to hurt myself," said one posting. "I see no reason not to, other than I've been taught it's bad. I don't want to seriously hurt myself, just to think about something else ... anything to take my mind off everything I go through ... I know all the 'right answers' and the 'Christian thing to say' but sometimes I just want to give in ... and I'm only 20."
Another anonymous writer simply stated, "I have verbally and physically abused my wife."
And then there was the confession of a person raised in a Christian home who knew his sin and wanted help, like many others had written. "I am a Christian since I was kid. I was raised in a good and Christian family ... I've been faithfully ministering in church for about 18 years. From outside, I am a 'nice' guy, no drug, no smoke, no alcohol, nor violence. But, I have problem with pornography.
"I'm sinning before God. I want to stop...Please pray for me, I want to be free of this bondage."
Many confessions revealed regrets over having had abortions as well as struggles with homosexual inclinations and relationships.
"We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing," said Groeschel, according to the Times.
Some Christians criticized the mysecrets.tv website, saying it's "ridiculous" and that believers would think they're absolved through the virtual confession. At the same time, others had praised it for giving people the first stepping stone to coming to full confession before God and being changed.
Groeschel made clear that "this is just Step 1" to absolution.
Nevertheless, the anonymous writers expressed their appreciation to LifeChurch for providing an outlet for people, especially Christians, to share their struggles.
One person wrote, "First, thanks to LifeChurch for giving us a place to share our struggles. It hurts so bad to hold this kind of shame and regret inside, sometimes for a lifetime, because our fellow brothers and sisters might not really accept us for the broken people that we all are. Christians are not supposed to lust, to steal, to be adulterers, to be alcoholics to use drugs, to be gay, right? The world labels us this way and holds us to a standard that was only possible for one man to actually fulfill, and that is why he is a savior. But, we rub salt in the wound when we let the world's standards apply within the church. If we can't turn for help here, where can we really go."
The site has received more than 150,000 hits since its inception and more than 1,500 confessions.
Since its birth 10 years ago, LifeChurch has grown to nine sites across the country and draws 18,000 people to weekend services.