Transparency for an Older Generation

20 12 2011

Tuesday Re-mix -

“The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship.” Muriel Barbery

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Oscar Wilde

One of the trends I believe we will see in the church over the next 20 years is its people growing increasingly comfortable with genuine transparency in their relationships…knowing each other more fully and having fewer and fewer deep dark secrets. I believe this because our younger generations (generation X and millennials) just seem to hold genuine community as a much higher value than those of us who are baby boomers and older. If you don’t believe this, spend about 30 minutes on your college student’s social media pages. OMG…LOL! On the other hand, go to their respective grandparents’ facebook pages (if they have a page at all) and you’ll find an utter vacuum of any personal information. These older generations, after all, are the generations who brought us firewalls and the right to privacy and LifeLock and gated communities. For our generation, the walls are up and the shades are drawn! Transparency, it seems, is just difficult for those of us over 40.

If I am right about this trend, then that means we still have about 20 years or so of having to teach the importance of being transparent…the significance of truly knowing each other and of being truly known. Being the New Testament church demands that we live in relationships of accountability and that we learn to be involved in one another’s lives. I suspect I will spend the rest of my ministry life finding creative ways to teach this to my generation of church leaders. Then, by the time my work in this world is done, a new generation of church leaders will be in place and they will have a whole other set of issues to complicate their lives!

The protests I hear from my generation of leaders sound something like this:

  • It’s just not safe for a leader, especially a pastor, to share too much personal information with his congregation…it will always lead to his undoing.
  • There have to be limits…you have to be careful to whom you show your faults and flaws.
  • My people don’t want to think of me with flaws…that is not the leader they want to follow.
  • My accountability is to God and God alone. He is the only one with whom I can be that transparent.

And by the way, it’s not just the leaders who feel this way. It is two entire adult generations of church members.

Here is what I say to those of us over 40 and struggling with all those troubling scriptures about confessing our sins one to another and holding one another accountable and being transparent with one another: everything in moderation… including transparency (with apologies to Oscar Wilde).

You see, scripture does not demand that every member of my church know every sordid detail of my life. Surely, the vast majority of my acquaintances at church would never want to know those details. So, while I may show only a measured degree of transparency in the larger congregation, I might be a little more transparent in my Sunday School class, and a little more transparent yet in my home Bible study group, and even more transparent yet in my addiction support group, etc. The bottom line to transparency in our Christian relationships is simply that we have somebody (i.e., some small circle of friends) who know our deepest struggles and who carry those burdens with us. In effect, we have “levels” of transparency, depending on the group and the circumstances. And for me, that squares quite nicely with scripture.

So, to my baby boomer friends, take a deep breath and find a support group ministry you can plug into in order to learn what genuine Christian relationships look like. And for my daughters and all their friends…quit laughing at us. We’re trying!

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com

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2 responses

20 12 2011
Monty Dicksion

I don’t know if this sounds like it pertains, but I think it does. Re being transparent, sharing personal information and social media pages: Many of those whom you say are transparent are promoting increasingly popular paganistic and atheistic content. I tried to be “transparent” to the point of telling the Christian side with the result of cyber-mobs calling me intolerant, bigoted and closed-minded.

I have learned to realize that I will bring that on myself when I take a stand for Christianity.

What concerns me is that I know that other Christians see the thrashing I’m getting but none come along side with me.

Sure, let’s be in favor of being more transparent, but consider the small, separated group of Sidonians (Judges 18:7). They were comfortable, they were contented. They were transparent. They were not prepared for anyone to come along and overcome them.

Are there limits to transparency? I don’t know. I think of Jack Nicholson’s famous quote in >i>Mars Attacks, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

That sounds like a great idea. See what the Danites thought about it.

20 12 2011
Derrick Shezi

Enjoyed the article on transparency. I fully agree with you that the younger generations do not have problems sharing intimate information with complete strangers. We will always find it difficult to break down those old walls we were brought up in and it will take some courage and a little bit of vulnerability on our part to embrace this biblical transpareny you talking about.

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