Our friend Alex Absalom of Dandelion Resourcing, along with his co-author Bobby Harrington, has written a tremendous new book — Discipleship that Fits — that helps church leaders create a discipleship model that works for your church, your people, and today’s world. They do this by doing a deeper dive into the five different contexts where God disciples us and calls us to disciple others.
Today, we’ll be looking at the area of discipleship that hits closest to our homes and hearts — the Transparent Context.
According to Alex and Bobby, the Transparent Context is where all the masks come off. This is when people are meeting with as few as one other person, making a total group of two to four who represent the closest relationships we have. In these groups, nothing is held back and people are free to communicate with complete openness and candor. It’s the biblical ideal of being “naked yet unashamed”, knowing that these gatherings represent the closest and safest of relationships, such as with a spouse or the most trusted friends. People are not only emotionally close in the Transparent Context, but also comfortable being physically close to each other (0 to 18 inches apart) — so close that the other’s flaws blur away as the eyes can’t focus on them properly. And that’s a wonderful metaphor for what’s happening relationally in these deepest levels of connection between people.
Jesus placed great value on the time He spent in the Transparent Context, even when those interactions didn’t go the way we’d traditionally hope. This is when His small group narrowed from the twelve to the two or three disciples who most closely connected with Him during his earthly ministry. He gave these men — Peter, James, and John — an extra measure of His time and attention, and revealed Himself to them in ways the other disciples didn’t see or experience. He led them up the Mount of Transfiguration, where they saw Moses and Elijah and heard God specifically tell them to listen to His Son (Mark 9). He brings them to the Mount of Olives where He describes the destruction of the temple (Luke 21). And He lets them see Him at His most vulnerable in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His arrest, when His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow (Matthew 26).
Jesus let these men into His deepest struggles, and walked alongside them through theirs. Their relationships were not without tension and disagreements, but ultimately allowed these three disciples to grow in their faith to such a degree that they eventually became the bedrocks of the early church.
The Bible is full of other examples of the Transparent Context — Moses with Joshua and Aaron, Samuel with David, David with Johnathan, Paul with Titus, Silas with Timothy — and each demonstrates the tremendous growth and encouragement that comes when people allow themselves to be fully seen and known in all their sins, struggles, and selfishness. God used these Transparent Context relationships, and uses ours, to reveal blind spots, teach about grace and forgiveness, and show people what it means to be faithful in walking together through all of life’s seasons.
As a church leader, you set the tone for interactions in the Transparent Context — and we know that can be more than a little intimidating! To help you get started, think about these things:
- Set expectations early, and remind people of them often. When you’re creating groups designed for the Transparent Context, make sure everyone knows that what happens between you stays between you. Put this into a printed covenant that everyone signs, if that helps reinforce how seriously you take confidentiality and safety.
- Show up for each other — not only for your group meetings, but for each group member in the good and bad times of life.
- Encourage study and prayer both inside and outside of your group times. The truths of Scripture that are learned, obeyed, and lived out in the Transparent Context have an almost unimaginable impact on others.
To get a copy of Discipleship That Fits for yourself, just click on over to Amazon. Or you can connect with co-author Alex on Twitter. For another look at the five contexts, check out this infographic.
Alex Absalom leads Dandelion Resourcing, which empowers leaders, churches, and denominations to build more effective disciple-making cultures. He is also the leader of missional innovation at Grace Church Long Beach, CA, an avid tea drinker with his wife, and, with their three sons, a huge fan of Liverpool FC. You can connect with Alex on Twitter at @alexabsalom.