21Mar

snapshots from the Cove: is transparency really possible?

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.   – Romans 7:15, NIV

by Tami Heim
There’s a tension in the body of Christ around words like confession, transparent, holiness,  acceptancegrace, and forgiveness. Passions easily ignite when these words arise among believers. Core beliefs and life experience determine how each word ranks in the conversation and how deep that conversation will go. As we engage a needful world in increasingly public ways the question becomes even more imperative: Is transparency in the Church really possible?

It’s a topic we feel compelled to examine deeper. Last week, March 14-16, transparency dominated discussions in small meeting rooms at The Cove in Ashville, North Carolina. Ruth Graham, daughter of the Reverend Billy and Ruth Graham, personally invited pastors, academics, and other Christian communicators there for a 2-day intensive on the topic.

The desired outcome: to tackle the issue transparency in the Church, test its relevancy among diverse minds, identify the barriers to it, and align participants on its significance in reaching the lost. Ruth was in search of feedback and input that would influence, shape, and advance the development of  her new initiative, Transparent Ministries.

Graham: the need for outrageous grace

In Ruth’s own words, “My vision is to collaboratively come alongside the Church to help it become a safe place for people (Christians and non Christians) to come just as they are, find a community in which to repent of sin without condemnation and be lead to the next step in their faith journey—basically, a place of outrageous grace and transparency. I believe as people see a transparent community of grace, being real about who we really are, others will see and be drawn into it—the next phase of evangelism.”

Her carefully researched guest list included leaders from different denominations across the country. The intentional diversity was all part of the plan as participants dissected the topic from early morning until late into the night. By the end of the 2-day intensive, new friendships and bonds were formed.

the eclectic Body of Christ

On the last day, everyone shared about their experience. Brian Zahnd, pastor and author confessed to everyone he had to send himself a text message as he sat between pastor Ted Haggard and Father Nick Mormando to assure himself he wasn’t dreaming.  His conversation with both men was deeply relevant and exactly what he needed to hear. Brian read the text he sent himself to the group straight off his phone.

@stickyJesus was honored to participate and witness all that God was doing in and through this eclectic assembly of Christ followers. The conversation around transparency aligns powerfully with our hearts on this blog as we learn how to live out our faith online (and off).

We’ll be sharing some of the holy moments and conversations from the days at The Cove. We’d love to hear your thoughts as we dive into the complex topic of transparency.

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It’s when we come to the end of ourselves that God ‘s glory shines brightest in us. #LiveSticky

What does transparency mean to you as a Christian? Do you see it in your own church?

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  • Kate Mantegna

    Transparency is needed, but this requires humility, grace, and acceptance. In our self-righteous pride we often forget all that Christ cleansed us from when we hear of the sins of others. We show disdain rather than love. In this environment it becomes difficult to be honest.
    Are we ready to hear of the struggles others have in their relationships and addictions? Are we prepared to get our hands dirty as we come alongside our brothers and sisters? And are we prepared to be honest about our own issues?
    I’m so grateful to God who undertakes the work and for those precious people He’s put me with!

  • Nancy

    Transparency means I know and admit I am a sinner, saved by grace. 50 yrs ago when Christians were asked how they lived their faith, they responded “caring for the hurting”. Today the response is ” not sinning”. Like Paul I do sin when I don’t want to. Only by being transparent, will I build the credibility necessary to be a witness for Jesus and truly bring glory to God.

  • Tami Heim

    Excellent points Nancy. What is it about being transparent that makes you a credible witness? How does it come into play when you are sharing Jesus? It may be obvious to you, but I think it would be helpful to others if you explained it a little more. Thanks for being here and in the conversation.

  • Tami Heim

    Kate – you are right, humility, grace,and acceptance are all needed. I often feel like self-rightousness moves in and tries to consume/fully occupy the space where forgiveness should live. Forgiveness is like a valve that releases everything you mentioned. Being open about your own struggles and getting involved in others’ lives is messy, hard, and requires extraordinary love. Like you, I am grateful to serve a God that is with us and for us through all of it.

  • http://twitter.com/SandraHeskaKing SandraHeskaKing

    Transparent: From the Latin meaning to show light through, to come into sight, appear.

    Transparency to me means to risk dropping the mask, dropping the pretense. Being willing to risk sharing my struggles, my pain, my fears, my doubts–yet all the while letting His light shine through. We can’t be transparent without standing in the light. If we wallow in our dark messes, there’s no transparency.

    Another meaning of transparent is to be easily understood. We need to make the message simple and not cloud it with a lot of big words, rules, preaching at, and judgments–while also diluting it.

    To be transparent, we need to focus on Him.

    Therefore, there is no condemnation . . .

    I’m rambling. I’ll be pondering this all day!

    From the Message: “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

  • Tami Heim

    Love it when you ramble Sandy and love the Message translations of that verse in Romans. Thanks for working through the definition. As you ponder – please come back and share what else comes to your heart. I’m curious how you see transparency working in the church and online…just a little more for you to think on today, friend.

  • Teasicannon

    Transparency equals intimacy (into-me-see) and a willingness to ask questions…questions about ourselves. For example, asking my child, “How am I doing as a mom?” – and being willing to hear the answer. Allison Allen, former dramatist with Women of Faith, recently taught on this topic of questions. She pointed out that Jesus himself was willing to ask others to speak into His life. He asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” and then, “Who do you say that I am.” He was opening himself up to hear the truth…truth about his reputation! If we’re going to be transparent as Christians, I believe we’ve got to be willing not only to share openly with others, but to hear openly from others. We’ve got to be open to receiving the truth in love as well as giving it. Transparency is definitely NOT for sissies:)

  • http://twitter.com/SandraHeskaKing SandraHeskaKing

    I meant NOT diluting the message. 😛

  • Tami Heim

    Teasi – I’m so glad you brought up the point about receiving the truth from others. When something is transparent – you can see through it from both sides. So it is with feedback and how we need to be when we get it and when we give it. When we are at the end of ourselves, there is very little that someone can say to us that we don’t already know. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Anonymous

    We need more leaders like Ruth Graham talking about this subject in the church. Transparency is what is needed in churches large and small. We need to continue to reach those that are lost and hurting and lead them to a cross that is transparent. Where you will find grace and acceptance.

  • Tami Heim

    Amen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671101964 Jennifer Adams Klein

    A friend of mine and I just had a “cleansing” exchange through email, dumping all of our junk on the table about things we had against each other and things we had thought about the other person which may/may not have any grounds in reality. I felt that the Spirit had prompted me to do it and I can’t tell you how He used that exchange to free us both of so much junk. So many lies we believed, frustrations harbored etc. I think a lack of transparency is definitely a tool of the devil’s to keep us separated, break up the unity in the Body of Christ. But when we are open, speaking with humility and genuine concern for the other person (without a shade of self righteousness!) God heals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671101964 Jennifer Adams Klein

    A friend of mine and I just had a “cleansing” exchange through email, dumping all of our junk on the table about things we had against each other and things we had thought about the other person which may/may not have any grounds in reality. I felt that the Spirit had prompted me to do it and I can’t tell you how He used that exchange to free us both of so much junk. So many lies we believed, frustrations harbored etc. I think a lack of transparency is definitely a tool of the devil’s to keep us separated, break up the unity in the Body of Christ. But when we are open, speaking with humility and genuine concern for the other person (without a shade of self righteousness!) God heals.

  • Anonymous

    I shed tears as I read this post. I’d have loved to have been in that room and look forward to hearing more from your time at the cove.
    I do have thoughts regarding transparency. Unfortunately, my handicapped body is running between two houses right now, so I don’t have time to share. I went to bed thinking about it last night. So this is timely.
    No, I don’t see transparency in my church. Thus the tears. I see what the lack of it has done and it hurts.
    I’ll look forward to hearing more on what I believe is a very pivotal issue in the Body of Christ.

  • Anonymous

    Be encouraged Melinda, God will multiply your personal transparency. He says that “every” knee will bow and confess that He is Lord—sadly, that includes people who have been in the church a very long time and are still under the yoke of legalism and judgement. What you can do (handicapped and all) is plenty in God’s economy. He loves your aching heart and your desire for transparency and love for the wayward. He will meet the desires of your heart–because it is a carbon copy of HIS. You are lovely, brokenhearted saint. Praising God that your heart is ready and willing on this issue! XOXOXO

  • Anonymous

    Jen – now that’s transparency in action. Thanks for sharing that. When we begin to trust God’s healing hand more than our fancy words and abilities, we will see true relationship (discipleship x10) emerge. Cheering you on in this new “fresh” transparent relationship!

  • Tami Heim

    Yes, be encouraged Melinda – we will take you there this week. First things first. God knows your heart and He knows the need in your church. Follow the links in the post to Ruth Graham’s website for Transparent Church Ministries. Her desire is to provide the support pastors need to make transparency a reality in their life and in their churches. She is using gatherings like the one last week to find out just want is needed and what is getting in the way. You are so very loved! Know we are standing in prayer for you.

  • Tami Heim

    “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36
    Celebrating this victory with you, Jennifer – Praise God!

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  • Anonymous

    Intimace = into-me-see. That rocks!

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  • Lisarmrj

    I have been transparent , many many times with the “Body of Christ” particularly sisters. About various struggles, about life. What happened? They cut me off afterward. Yes. They talked about me, and they shunned me. I have had this happen many times, which is why I stick to the BIBLE about not trusting man, but GOD and Him only. This transparency stuff to me it from the pit of Hell because I know too many folks wounded and burned by it