As a church family, we place a high value on relationships and community. Community can be expressed in a variety of ways—different types and sizes of groups—but we desire that all expressions of community would live out a series of values. Of the seven core values of community that we have adopted at Sound City, one of the more critical, challenging, and misunderstood values is the “commitment to transparency.”
As followers of Christ, we are called to be honest with our brothers and sisters. This transparency allows us to come alongside each other in encouragement and accountability. Without transparency, we would not know how to truly encourage one another towards spiritual growth, or be challenged in our own. This practice is so important!
Biblically speaking, what does “transparency” mean?
Transparent About Our Sin
Ephesians 5:8-9 reminds us that, as followers of Jesus, we have been taken out of darkness and brought into the to light. Because of this amazing gift, we are commanded to continue walking in the light. This means that with full assurance in Christ of the forgiveness of sins, we live truthfully as members of one another (Eph 4:25). God is the ultimate recipient of our confessions, but hiding and and keeping our sins in secrecy goes against the way God has created us to live as part of the body of believers. As James 5:16 tells us, we are supposed to confess our sins to our fellow believers.
Key Passages: Ephesians 4:25, 5:8-9, James 5:16, 1 John 1:7-10
Transparent About Our Weaknesses
But is it only our sins that we are to share? What about other challenges that we face in our Christian walk? What if I lose my job? What if my spouse is very sick? What if I feel depressed or anxious? One of the best examples of this type of transparency is the book of Psalms. We see how the psalmists (King David in particular) write and pray about the hardships they are facing. Take note of how many of the Psalms are about suffering and not sin. Or to use a New Testament example, look at the Apostle Paul’s list in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. The list is full of the suffering that he has encountered, not as a result of his sin but as a result of preaching the gospel! But then he concludes with these amazing words, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30). We confess our sins to each other, but we also share our burdens.
Key Passages: 2 Corinthians 11:30, Galatians 6:2, Psalms
Transparent About Our Joys
Sin and suffering are not the only things that we share with each other. If that were the case, what a negative bunch we would be! Verses like Romans 12:15 tell us that rejoicing is also to be a community project. Christians, our God is a good God and we get to rejoice with those who rejoice! Yes, there must be times we gather to be open about our sinfulness and struggles, but so much of scripture teaches us to rejoice in all the things God has done, is doing, and is going to do!
Key Passages: Romans 12:15, Psalm 32:11
What Transparency Is and Is Not
It’s not just the Bible—our culture preaches a type of “transparency” as well. However, this type of openness often looks a lot like pride or voyeurism, and falls short of the biblical picture of openness that we are invited to.
Transparency is not pride, trying to make every conversation about us. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18)
Transparency is humility, inviting others to know you as you truly are. (John 3:19-21, Colossians 3:9)
Transparency is not a time to slander or gossip. (Ephesians 4:29)
Transparency is living in integrity. (Proverbs 11:3, 1 Peter 3:16)
Transparency does not seek approval of others. (Ephesians 5:8-9)
Transparency is strength is Christ. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Here are some examples of living out transparency in biblical community:
Bringing your trials and struggles to light (James 5:16, 2 Corinthians 11:30, Psalms)
Joe at group opens up about his battle against anxiety and asks for others to speak truth into his life.
While having coffee with a Christian sister, Mary opens up about struggles in her marriage because of the the season of parenting young children. She asks for wisdom and guidance and prayer.
James continues to share about his struggle as he walks through a season of many different health issues. He asks for prayer for healing. He also asks for prayer that he would persevere and honor Christ even in the season of difficulty.
Rejoicing with one another (Romans 12:15)
Sam is filled with joy as she talks about her promotion at work and shares with her group the way God has provided and answered prayers.
Mike shares the way God has strengthened his fight against lust and encourages others to continue fighting the good fight.
Bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2, Psalms)
After hearing of Johnny’s job loss, his group members rally together to support him spiritually through prayer. They also care for him practically by collecting funds and paying for his rent.
Transparency requires vulnerability, which can be frightening. We need courage to live this way. As pastor Aaron reminded us from his sermon on John 18 [Listen Here], true courage comes from true identity in Christ. When we know, unshakably, that we are God’s children—perfectly known, loved and forgiven—then our identity is not swayed by people’s opinion of us. As we practice courage and vulnerably together, we can lovingly encourage each other towards holiness.
Honestly, I’ve never met anyone who has found transparency fun or easy, but I’ve heard countless times how sanctifying people have experienced it to be. And at the heart of the matter, living transparently is less about us and more about God and his work. Loving and encouraging each other through transparency builds up the church body and glorifies God to a watching world! So, Sound City, let us clothe ourselves in humility, take courage, and root ourselves in our identity in Christ as we practice our commitment to transparency together.