Life Transparency & Transference

Jesus' plan of disciplemaking was simple and natural ... He just let His disciples literally follow him (Mark 3:13-14). Day in and day out, the disciples were with Him and observed His life and ministry.

"This was the secret of His influence in teaching. He did not ask anyone to do or be anything which first He had not demonstrated in His own life, thereby not only proving its workability but also its relevance to His mission in life. And this He was able to do because He was constantly with His disciples. His training classes were never dismissed."
Coleman, R.E. The Master Plan of Evangelism, p.80
Example-setting is important because it demonstrates the possibility and reality of change and will stimulate application on the part of the disciple (2 Thess 3:9; 1 Cor 11:1). One living sermon is worth a thousand explanations. So much more is "caught" than "taught" in the disciplemaking process, but how do we apply this principle today?

Disciplemaking by modeling through association is difficult in the modern world where we all live busy and segregated lives. A long term residential discipleship program is the ideal. But how many can invest that time with you? And can you invest that time with them ... living together, day in and day out to model the life of a disciple to them? In the light of this, I propose the following:
  1. Spend time together (however short) with your disciples and let them see who you are

  2. Capitalize on happenings to teach

  3. Share your life struggles and victories

    Most of us are not totally available to our disciples at all times. Therefore, the next best thing to do for effective example setting is transparency.
The rest of this article will focus on the last point - life transparency and transference.

Biblical Basis for Transparency
  1. Throughout the Bible, the heroes of faith are presented as men subject to like passions as we are (Jas. 5:17) with strengths and weaknesses. For example, it not only portrays Abraham as a friend of God but also as a liar who jeopardized his wife's virtue.

  2. The Lord Jesus Christ

    • Jesus talked honestly about His sorrows with the Father (Matt 26:38-39).

      "Remove this cup from Me" ... these are Jesus' honest words. Jesus knew He was facing not only (a) the agony of crucifixion but also (b) the trauma of taking on the sins of the world on His sinless self and (c) being separated from the Father. This prospect created overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear and gave rise to an open, honest, appropriate request not to go through with it. But He was "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8).

    • Jesus expressed His emotions (John 11:35-36)

Hindrances to Transparency

There is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) transparency about the characters in the Bible. But many of us go around wearing a mask. Why are we afraid to let others know who we really are?

We are afraid to be transparent because we fear others may not like what they see and reject us. Worse, your words or actions may be misinterpreted and gossip, like wild fire, may spread to many others. Another hindrance to transparency is the "living by faith" extreme of denying our feeling.

Therefore, we put up this "I-Must-Always-Be-Strong" facade such that nothing can go out and nothing can come in. It becomes impossible to "connect" (build close relationships) with others.

Foundation for Inter-Personal Transparency

No one really likes wearing a mask. We need a relationship with someone with whom there is nothing to hide; and that someone is Jesus.
  1. We can always have God's undivided attention (1 Thess 5:17; Psa 34:4,6,15,17 cf 1 Kgs 18:27)

  2. We cannot hide anything from God (Psa 139:3)

  3. We can tell God everything (Psa 13:1-6 cf Matt 26:38-39)
The Samaritan woman, who met Jesus at the well, first parried with Him ... denying that she had any husband. But she ultimately found relief in the light of being known ... that she had had five husbands and that the man she now has is not her husband (John 4:16-18,28 c.f. 3:20).

I believe that transparency with God is the foundation for inter-personal transparency. If we cannot tell God (who accepts us just as we are) what is on our minds and hearts then how can we do the same with another human.

The Apostle Paul shared freely about his past and his sense of unworthiness (1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15). Paul was not afraid to allow others to see him as he was.

Benefits of Transparency
  1. Your disciples will see you as real ... human. Struggles in this life is part of our humanity and any attempt to disciple others without being transparent is being phony. Do not hide behind a wall of superiority.

  2. Your transparency allows your disciples to have a part in your life ... praying for and ministering to you. This creates a two-way relationship which deepens the relationship.

  3. Your transparency will draw your disciples out to reveal their hearts to you. This in turn will enable you to know where the applications of God's word are to be made in their lives.

  4. Your disciples will see how you trust God and resolve problems ... example-setting and the transference of life.

  5. Your transparency will give your disciples the freedom to hurt, permission to fail, and the confidence to rest in the sufficiency of God

Principles and Cautions in Transparency
  1. To be transparent is not to be totally honest in giving your opinion on any subject.

  2. Know the maturity of your disciples ... can they handle what you will be sharing? Exercise caution in revealing feelings or facts that may damage the listener or others.

  3. Know why you are sharing what you are sharing ... focus on Christ in sharing your experiences/struggles and seek to help your disciples to know God and His ways.

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Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © August 2007 by Alan S.L. Wong