I visited Jim Gunther today (not real name). We were best friends throughout elementary school, played YMCA sports together, and eventually partied together in junior high and high school. Jesus rescued me from the drug/party scene during my senior year in high school, but Jim continued down that road for another thirteen years. In 1988 I had the opportunity of leading Jim to Jesus, baptizing him and his girlfriend, and then marrying them.
Ten years later Jim lost his only son and was overcome with grief. His grief and addiction to pain pills caused Jim to turn inward, become depressed, and eventually led to a heart attack. During his hospital stay and open heart surgery, Jim was able to withdraw from his over-dependency on pain pills and renew his commitment to Jesus.
Today at his house we had a great time of fellowship and prayer. He confessed his desperate need for a small group. He realized he couldn’t just sit in his house alone, but that he needed to talk to others. I live 1.15 hours from Jim, and it bothered me that I couldn’t recommend a church in the area that prioritized holistic, weekly small groups. I’ve been reminded today that one of the primary needs of cell ministry is open sharing and transparency. People need a safe place to share their grief and problems.
Cary Sove understands the power of transparency in the small group. It saved her life. Listen to her testimony:
â€œI went through a horrible divorce,â€ she said. â€œMy husband, who professed to be a godly Christian, turned out to be a con artist and drug addict. He preyed on people like me. While we were in Israel, he stole all my money to purchase drugs. And then he left me. He shattered my dream of being a missionary to Israel, and his actions caused intense devastation and shame.â€
Cary was so hurt and embarrassed by the situation, she wouldnâ€™t come out of her house. Her lonely, dark thoughts â€”spurred on by demonsâ€”drove her into an emotional death grip.
Spending time alone didnâ€™t help Cary at all. Her individual thoughts, rather than being a comfort, confused and tormented her. Cary needed other people to help untangle her web of confusion. Someone invited Cary to a small group. She felt warmth and love and was able to share her hurt, struggles, and problems. â€œThey didnâ€™t judge me or try to correct me. They just allowed me to share. I realized I wasnâ€™t alone in my struggles. I slowly began to understand that perhaps I wasnâ€™t abnormal.â€
But it wasnâ€™t human warmth or psychology alone that helped Cary. Yes, her brothers and sisters in the small group used plenty of that. But the small group centered on prayer and the Word of God. Godâ€™s Word began to speak truth into her life and guided her onto the right path (this illustration appears in my new book, Relational Disciple in chapter six).
One reason that both Mike and Cary Sove love cell ministry is because of the power of transparency. What about you? What is the role that transparency plays in your group? Can you share a testimony?
4 thoughts on “The Power of Transparency”
My pastor says “trust is the currency of a relationship”. Something I’ve noticed in a small group environment is that nothing expedites trust like being painfully honest and vulnerable yourself, within the first few meetings. If you are the small group leader, even better!
Small groups can often be superficial and take years to mature to the point of potency, where God can really do his work. I’ve seen early transparency expedite this process. It’s for this reason I am quick to confess my faults when I start in a new group. It helps me be accountable and it helps everyone else know they are in a safe environment. I’ve often referred to this as putting stones in everyone’s hands the first night. It’s like saying, “Here is something ugly about me that I struggle with. Here is a stone that you can use. I trust you not to use it.”
I have yet to see one person throw a stone I’ve placed in their hand personally. In fact, the typical response is for others in the group to follow suit and start distributing stones of their own.
Trust is the currency of a relationship. Spend it fast and spend it liberally.
peace | dewde
I love this comment, Dewde! I’ve noticed the same exact thing. The more transparency the better. People normally err on not being transparent enough–especially the leader. Granted, there’s a time to talk and a time to listen. Some “transparent” people talk to much and need to make sure their testimony stirs others to share their testimonies, while they listen.
I have seen often, when i was pastor of a church transitioning from a traditional church to the cell church, that people who refused to be accountable and transparent in a house church where very vulnerable to the devil when the enemy would strike in their life. I have seein it at least a dozen times. One after the other, without exagerating, they would fall away from their allegiance to Christ because they kept away from a transparent and regular relationship to a house church. I found so often that Proverbs 18:1 is a reality : He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire, And rageth against all sound wisdom.
When we relate to each other, this is there, that real changes occur in our life. I would compare that to someone who has been a bachelor all his life because he has not found a partner. I remarked that oftentimes they develop bad habits, just because they have no one with which to interact profoundly with. In a couple, there should be plenty of time of personal interaction. I contrast the bachelor exemple to the apostle Paul, who being single because of the call of God and the gift of continence, even as single, was always involved in intense personal relationships. Working as apostolic team, being together often, exhorting day and night the elders of Ephesus, living the christian life wiht them. That’s the plan of God. I am often surprised how vulnerability opens the heart in my house church. Just yesterday i was exhorting my assistant in the house church that his leadership was not followed by people of the house church because people did not see his humble transparency. Just because he was afraid of being vulnerable. Lord, open our hearts to one another.
Wow, I am so flattered Joel. And true enough, transparency is not only vital to healthy spiritual growth(and healing) in individuals, it is really a mandate from the Lord! If we cannot be transparent in cell group, are we really being transparent and honest with ourselves before God? Something to think about anyway. Transparency is the life blood of the cell group and what makes it all the more precious, and I believe it pleases the Lord immensly!