There is a lot of talk about transparency these days and about being transparent in ministry. The need to “be real” and “do life together.” So we sit around and share about how we don’t clean our house the way we should and are always behind on the laundry. We get coffee and chat about how we have been unkind with our kids and impatient with our spouse or dissatisfied with our jobs. Maybe we share that we spend too much money or fail at reading our Bibles on a regular basis.
We laugh and hug and say it’s OK. We may share a few Bible verses and some helpful practical tips, but this is not real transparency. It’s a spiritual opaqueness that lets only a little light through. This is superficial at best and deceptive at worst. It can be deceptive because we are pretending to be open and honest when really we are sharing what is easy while leaving out the very things we are supposed to lay before each other.
Transparency Is Painful
Real transparency between fellow sisters (and brothers) in Christ is much deeper and much more difficult than what we commonly practice. Transparency is difficult both for the teller and the hearer because we are uncovering our deepest desires and disobedience. James tell us in no uncertain terms that we are to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). While being impatient or snarky is a part of it, that is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to go deeper and get to the root. Being transparent in ministry is painful, embarrassing, humbling work, for the teller as well as for the hearer.
Being Transparent in Ministry Is Profitable
But being transparent in ministry is also profitable, because through it we obey God, mortify sin, seek accountability and bear one another’s burdens.
The best and most important reason we have to be real with each other is that we are obeying our Redeemer by confessing our sins. This is often the beginning of repentance and freedom. As believers, this should be enough, but there is more.
Mortification of Sin
Knowing my mother is coming to visit is all the motivation I need to get some projects done around the house that otherwise would lay unfinished for years. I find that in a similar way, I delay dealing with my sin when no one else can see the mess. We are called to put to death the sins that lurk in our lives, both the big and the small. But it’s easy to get lazy in this area until we share them with others.
Often that is the push we need to start dealing with and killing those dear sins that we have been indulging. Maybe your sins are not yet affecting anyone but yourself. Maybe they are ripping apart your marriage. Both are deadly and coming clean with them before your friends is the first step in putting them to death.
Accountability is so very important. Having someone who loves us, checks on us, who knows where to press in on us, will help us overcome sin and grow in holiness. We don’t need sisters who merely listen to us, but who will speak as well.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Accountability is not about morbid introspection but helpful assistance in believing the gospel and following Jesus Christ.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Your sin must be taken to the cross daily for freedom from guilt and condemning thoughts. But in confessing them to others is another way of finding relief. By no longer pretending to be what we are not, we give our friends permission to see who and what we really are. True friends will gladly bear our burdens with us as we continue to seek God’s grace.
Rules for Being Transparent in Ministry
As important as it is to live transparently among our brothers and sisters, there are some guiding principles that we will do well to follow.
1. Transparency is not about building a life out of glass, allowing everyone to look in and see everything that goes on. Don’t broadcast everything to the world. Social media is relatively new. We are still learning how to handle having “friends” we have never met before, having followers we have never talked to. While there is much good to be found online, and a whole new world has been opened to us in terms of reaching people with the gospel, it is not the place to bear our hearts and lay before everyone the darkness that lies within. Not everyone is wise or trustworthy.
2. Find a church that preaches the word clearly and is made up of biblical community. It is often in healthy, gospel centered small groups that you will have the opportunity to make deep friendships that foster transparency.
3. Ask the Lord to reveal your sins to you, to see if there is any “hurtful way” in you. While we could all list hundreds of ways in which we fail, I have found that God often lays on our hearts one or two at a time that go deep and need to be confessed, repented of and dealt with.
4. Praise the Lord if there are no majorly heinous sins that are plaguing your life. But beware of pride, which will try to make you think you are better than the one dealing with unfaithfulness or addiction. Remember that even that sigh of impatience nailed Christ to the cross.
To wear this jewel of transparency, we must tear away the mask of spiritual pretense. This takes wisdom, courage and a brutal honesty. But transparency comes with a caveat: Vulnerability with other sinful people may mean that trust will be broken, hurt will happen and forgiveness will need to be practiced. But that’s for another post.
We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile …
—Paul Laurence Dunbar