I'm a pretty open person. You can ask me almost anything and I will probably answer you fairly candidly. Naturally, I have my limits and certain things I only discuss with people I trust implicitly. However, in general I am very comfortable sharing my strengths and areas of growth, my triumphs and failures, and my thoughts on certain issues. I regularly post on Facebook and Twitter. I have a public blog. When I preach, I am very willing to use personal experiences as illustrations, although I make a general rule of not holding myself up as an example or sharing my failures in the pulpit, unless my congregation knows me fairly well.
While I don't expect this level of disclosure from everyone else, I feel that self-revelation is an important aspect of Christian community. How can we truly be the body of Christ if we are all virtually strangers? If we don't share our stories with each other? If our boundaries are so strict that there is a big "keep out" sign on our life? How can we love and support each other, and be united in working for the kingdom, if we don't know each other?
Keep in mind, I'm not talking about a "festival of over-sharing", or gossip, and I know that both can occur in congregations, and the former can lead to the latter and cause all sorts of problems. However, I do feel like the church should be the one place where we can be transparent, be ourselves, and admit our joys and struggles...and have people to either rejoice with us or pray with us and for us. But that's not going to happen unless we are willing to share, and unless we create an atmosphere that makes people feel like they are in a "safe place".
Part of the struggle I had in the local church (and will probably experience when/if I return) is finding the balance between appropriate self-disclosure and maintaining a professional demeanor. I think it's important that the congregation know part of my story, and that I share increasingly more with them the more we get to know each other. On the other hand, I also realize that I am functioning in a professional capacity, and they need to relate to me as such. That means they probably shouldn't be hearing about my struggles in my calling, marital issues, and my occasional anger at denominational officials. Right?
So, I guess I'm raising two issues here. First, what's an appropriate level of self-disclosure in the local church? How can we be examples of being transparent without compromising our role? Second, how do we create a culture of caring, of comfort, of sanctuary so that people will feel comfortable taking the risk of being transparent?