The idea of transparency and authenticity has received a significant amount of attention recently as people search for meaning in life. Consequently, the loss of transparency in the church is loss of vital power in the community. To revive the effectiveness of the church, building (or rebuilding) transparency can be an important step.
The most serious issue in the Christian circle is the lack of transparency among leaders. As Robert Coleman said, “Followers must have leaders, and this means that before much can be done with the church membership something will have to be done with the church officials.” 1
The longer I am in ministry, the more I understand that sermon prep and content is not nearly as important as the transparency of the person delivering the message. Someone perhaps may comment, “Well, this Jesus thing is private to me so I keep it to myself. I don’t like sharing.” No, not true. Following Jesus may be personal, but it’s never private.2
Following are three ways to be authentic with yourself and others.
1. Encourage people to be open, honest, and direct. But also set an example to them. As a leader you also need to be honest and transparent. And you need people who respect you enough to tell you the truth. As leaders, we have to first be willing to share things that make us uncomfortable for the gospel to begin to transform our lives. I want to be remembered at the end of the day as someone who was authentic and transparent. In fact, I would rather be known here on earth as an honest sinner than a lying hypocrite.
2. Build trust and confidence in your relationship with one another. Keep in mind that we’re not speaking of reputation because your reputation is who other people think you are. Your transparency is who you really are. People will to pressure you to be something that you’re not. Your congregation will push and expect you to preach your sermon like John Piper. Colleagues will pressure you to stay in the confines of your job title. Friends will try to convince you to be “fun” and “entertaining” in your fellowship. You will feel pressured and you may feel like caving in. But don’t do it. Just be you. Figure out how God has gifted you, wired you, and make that the emphasis of your ministry!
“Transparency means that the appearance and the reality are exactly the same.” —Oswald Chambers.3
If you want to be trusted, be honest.
If you want to be honest, be true.
If you want to be true, be yourself.
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway said Mother Teresa.
3. Keep your church relevant, realistic, and flexible.
One of the main purposes of the church is to serve as a community in which disciples of Jesus can give and receive support when needed. The first step in giving or receiving support within the church is developing honest communication among church members. You can’t offer prayer and practical support to fellow disciples of Jesus if you’re unaware of their needs. Similarly, you won’t receive prayer or practical support if you continually hold your struggles and challenges close to the vest.
Jesus: The Countercultural Model
In a world where everything revolves on a “work hard and get ’er done” philosophy, I’m glad Jesus was so different from us. The good news is that the Creator of the universe looked upon guilty, needy, perishing sinners and was so moved by compassion that He sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Word, who became flesh and dwelt amongst us (John 1:14). Talk about countercultural!
What if we brought this 1st century principle of living in a transparent lifestyle into the 21st century? We would be modeling real, authentic, transparent care for one another by genuinely living out the gospel as Jesus did.
“We need a young generation and others who will be willing to stand in the gap. A generation that will go counter cultural in loving confrontation with the gospel in which discipleship is an automatic mentality through transparent relationships.”4
Isn’t it ironic when one stops to think about it? In an age when facilities for rapid communication of the gospel are available to the church as never before, there are actually more unevangelized people on the earth today than before the invention of the horseless carriage.
If we were left to ourselves with the task of taking the gospel to the world, we would immediately begin planning innovative strategies and plotting elaborate schemes. We would organize conventions, develop programs, and create foundations… But Jesus is so different from us. With the task of taking the gospel to the world, He wandered through the streets and byways. Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of just being with them. This was the essence of his training program — just letting his disciples follow him.
This is the way the Master has set before us, in contrast to the constant accommodation of the world around us today. We are to live in transparency in sharing the gospel, so many will come to know the greatness of our God.
1. Robert E. Coleman and Billy Graham, The Master Plan of Evangelism, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2010).
2. Lifeway Adults, Disciples Path – Complete Boxed Set, Ldg edition (LifeWay Press, 2015).
3. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, ed. James Reimann, Value Edition edition (Discovery House, 2016).
4. David Platt, Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015).
Jonathan Hayashi is a music and worship pastor at Troy First Baptist Church, Troy, Mo.