“I was afraid to meet with you because I still had so many struggles and didn’t even know where to find things in my Bible,” Steve said as the waitress cleared the table. “But, as we spent time together, you shared your own struggles and I realized you were just a guy like me.” He went on to share how that gave him confidence that God could use him in someone else’s life, he could be a disciple-maker. Just a few years ago, I had the privilege of seeing Steve come to faith in Jesus then discipling him and now we were having lunch to talk about his future in a high-level leadership position at the church.
Steve’s words helped me realize the importance of transparency in disciple-making. Sadly, many leaders are tempted to continually portray themselves as if they have it all together. Unwillingness to be transparent is a dangerous and damaging habit. It is dangerous because it does not paint a realistic picture of life in Christ. Instead, it communicates that to do be able to disciple others you have to have attained some special level of near sinlessness. It is damaging because by not being open and honest you can never truly be known and those who follow your example will never truly be known. Not only does this open the door for the enemy to use guilt and shame about sin and struggles to hinder one’s work for the kingdom, it is simply a lonely and miserable way to live.
In some ways, transparency comes easily for me. I am direct, a straight shooter. I tell it like it is. I despise fakeness and have no real desire for simply surface level conversations or relationships. If you ask me how I’m doing I’m going give you an honest answer; even if it isn’t pretty. This part of me that says, “There is no sense in trying to hide something. The truth will come out eventually. This is who I am, take it or leave it.” It is this part of me is often willing to be an open book.
There is, however, another part of me that often makes being transparent a major challenge. This other part of me longs for the approval of others. I am tempted to hold back from sharing because I fear they will lose respect for me and no longer see me as the “good” husband, father, friend, neighbor, pastor, etc. I desire to be seen as. It is something I’ve battled my whole life and God is continually working on in me to this day. Through this process, I have come to see that the need for approval is the enemy of transparency.
In The Choice, the authors point out that Jesus had “only one source of affirmation, the voice of His heavenly Father. In order to hear that voice, Jesus rejected the desire to pine after any other.” In our pining after other sources of affirmation we shy away from transparency and instead we pridefully portray an unrealistic picture.
There are many examples of transparency in the Bible: Job, throughout Psalms, Paul’s repeated requests for prayer. But perhaps the greatest example is when Jesus says to His disciples, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death,” He then asks them to pray for Him. If Jesus, the perfect Son of God, felt the need to be transparent and ask for the prayers and support of others how much more do we?
So, how do we begin moving towards transparency?
- Remember the Gospel. Never forget that you need the Gospel as much today as the day you began following Christ. You are still in process. You need to continue being changed to be like Christ until you meet Him in heaven. There is no reason to act like you’ve got it all together, because we all know you don’t. I often say, “I’m not perfect, but I am being perfected.”
- Model it. Leaders have to go first. Set the tone. Whether you’re a parent, leading a small group, ministry team, staff, or elder board, you will set the tone. You must be the culture you desire to see.
- Appropriate levels of transparency. Consider the setting, consider the audience. I may share about something I am feeling, a temptation, or sin that I am facing from up front; however, it will not be in the same level of detail that I would share with my men’s group, and I know I can share at an even deeper level with my accountability partner.
- Learn to share briefly but deeply. Being transparent doesn’t have to mean being longwinded. Just as above, sometimes the setting will dictate how long you are able to share. Learn to let people in on what’s happening without having to go into every detail.
I hope you will be brave enough to take steps toward transparency. I am convinced that growing in transparency will lead to deeper relational connections and result in even more potential transformation in your life and in the lives of those you are leading.
Charlie Turner – Lead Pastor
River Rock Bible Church