Cultivating a Culture of Transparency in Your Church

Article
10.30.2018

“James, would you pray that our church would be willing to have awkward conversations with each other?”

“Huh?”

Seriously, that’s what my pastor asks members to pray almost every week at our Sunday evening gatherings . Together, we pray that our members would understand the need to make our relationships transparent—to share embarrassing things about ourselves, to speak honestly, and to ask one another careful, loving questions as a way to cultivate a genuine culture of discipling .

WHAT IS TRANSPARENCY?

The word transparency isn’t found in the Bible, but numerous Scripture passages exhort Christians to live holy and blameless lives. [1] Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Transparency is living our lives reflecting Jesus’s light as we acknowledge our need for gospel reminders, accountability, and repentance.

THE PORN PROBLEM

Nevertheless, transparency is difficult because Christians still sin and feel shame. Pornography is but one significant example of humanity’s ongoing struggle with darkness. Sadly, countless Christians succumb to pornography on a regular basis—and pastors aren’t exempt. The consequences of this sin in the church are devastating: pastors disqualified, marriages destroyed, families divided, and missions deterred.

TOWARD A SOLUTION

How can a local church guard those who are under her care from this grave epidemic? Let’s consider transparency as a posture, a practice, and a prevention against pornography.

Transparency: A Posture of Humility

When it comes to pornography, pride has a way of causing people to overestimate their strength. Pride makes you think you are in control. It keeps you from admitting your problem or installing internet filters. Pride is the reason you’re hesitant to confess your sins to God and others. Pride makes you stubborn. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace…”

Hence, the Bible gives us an alternative, “…but with the humble is wisdom.” Transparency requires humility.

From the pulpit, our members are taught that biblical love involves confrontation. Just as Jesus in his humility confronted us in our sin ( Phil 2:5–8 ) we are taught of the benefits of formative and corrective church discipline . Additionally, our elders model giving and receiving godly criticism and encouragement, especially at our weeklyservice review . Put together, these disciplines cultivate a culture of inviting feedback and criticism for purpose of growth and godliness.

What a gift of God it is for us to have people in our lives who love us through teaching and correction. Is there a better way to wage war against pride and pornography in the local church than to foster Christian humility through biblical teaching and modeling? A posture of humility is the first step toward fighting the porn problem in the local church because humility leads us to confession ( Matthew 5:3–4 ).

Transparency: A Practice of Accountability

Transparency is a means and a fruit of godliness. This means you need to develop the “muscle” of transparency (Ephesians 4:29 ). What good is humility if you don’t persevere in accountability ( James 1:3 )? So press on! (Philippians 3:14 ).

Thankfully, we find true accountability through the local church. Does your church take responsibility for your profession of faith? Does it help you to confess your sins?

Meaningful church membership is God’s design for Christian accountability. [2] Church members are covenanted to you, and biblically qualified elders are accountable for you ( Hebrews 13:17 ). Consider the benefits of church membership: a local church affirms your profession of faith; invests in your discipleship; teaches, corrects, and counsels you through difficult seasons; loves you; and prays for you.

This is at least one reason why our elders regularly lead our members to reflect on and recite our church covenant before every Lord’s Supper and Members’ Meeting. We want members to be reminded of the covenant they’ve made before God and one another.

Does your understanding of “accountability” include church membership? Furthermore, is your church’s membership structured in a way so that it’s appealing for non-Christians, annoying for nominal Christians, and appetizing for hungry Christians?

Accountability via church membership is an extremely important step in fighting the porn problem. It helps Christians to walk in the light and in fellowship with God’s people ( 1 John 1:7 ), which both enables genuine confession and ultimately leads to genuine repentance ( 2 Corinthians 7:10 ).[3]

Transparency: Prevention through Loving Correction

So how does a local church prevent pornography from taking its full effect in the lives of her members? How does a local church guard one another from the deceitfulness of sin?

Some may be surprised to find that the Bible provides a clear answer. First Corinthians 5:4–5 instructs us what to do with man in the church in unrepentant sin: “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

This passage teaches us that the church is to judge those who are inside ( 1 Corinthians 5:12–13 ) through a process of loving correction ( Matthew 18:15–18 ). Why do we do this? So that their souls will be spared on the last day. For the sake of love, local churches should exercise loving corporate correction as a means to prevent unrepentance.

At our church, we’ve seen loving correction produce glorious fruit. We’ve seen members humbly confess their sins and take steps toward repentance. We’ve seen brothers decline a deacon or elder nomination or dating opportunities; we’ve seen brothers step down from eldering for a season because of their struggle with pornography or other sins. In doing so, they’ve modeled transparency through discipling and accountability. These brothers are recipients of God’s mercy ( Proverbs 28:13 ) and a grace upon grace ( John 1:14, 16 ).

After all, the benefits of repentance far outweigh the consequences of sin. If you’re struggling with pornography, know that Jesus’ forgiveness is true and available to you.

CONCLUSION

Jesus gave himself up for the church ( Ephesians 5:25 ). He died to sanctify the church ( 5:26), and he will present her in splendor without spot, wrinkle, or blemish ( 5:27).

Therefore, Jesus isn’t shocked by the porn industry’s rampant reach; he’s not shocked by your sin. In fact, he offers forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love to all. I pray you will experience this through his church.


[2] Reference: https://www.9marks.org/article/journaltwelve-reasons-why-membership-matters/

[3] For a very helpful talk on Confession by one of our elders who helped me think much on this topic: http://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/sermon/elders-talk-transparency/