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Posts Tagged ‘vulnerability’


In his chapter on Local Knowledge in The Imperfect Pastor, Zack Eswine uses the unusual phrase “the gospel waltz”. He is talking about theological culture of your congregation before they got there. This could be when you arrive to a new congregation, but it is also seen when a new person shows up. I found his concept helpful, even if the phrase didn’t quite connect.

The waltz speaks of “three movements in gospel life:

  • confessing our mess (sinning and being sinned against),

  • receiving Christ’s love (turning to Jesus as forgiven and dearly loved children),

  • walking his paths (conforming our lives to obediently following Jesus).

Eswine notes that individuals, and congregations, can miss steps. As a result their whole theological perspective is warped. One of the results is that they avoid talk about the movement they have not embraced. He notes that congregations have various two-step emphases. Conflict revolves around the third. This helps shape the pastor’s teaching and personal ministry.

  • Some are trying to confess and walk without receiving. These folks work hard. They frown on grace, joy and rest. When you talk of grace, they get concerned about you.

  • Some are trying to receive and walk without confessing. These folks stay strong. They frown on appearing needy for forgiveness or imperfect. So when you talk about humility, sharing burdens, feeling emotions, and not trying to keep up appearances, they get concerned about you.

  • Some are trying to confess and receive without walking. These folks want to relax. They frown on obedience. When you talk about the change in direction that Jesus’ grace makes upon our actions and way of life, they get concerned about you.

Their concerns are well worth noting. This gives direction to pastoral ministry. It may not necessarily make it easier. Note the sanctification debate in Reformed circles a few years ago. The “grace guys” were leaving out the 3rd movement (in my opinion). They were reacting against those who left out the first movement. Leaving out either of these three movements leaves your Christian, or gospel, life unbalanced, distorted and less fruitful than it should be.

It is important to note that you, as a pastor or layperson, have a default. There is one you tend to neglect.

mushroom cloudI have found that congregations are generally concerned if the pastor confesses his mess. There are sins a pastor can confess publicly, like impatience. Generally people don’t want to know that their pastor struggles with the same kinds of sins they do: lust, greed, profound self-centeredness etc. Sin stays underground. There it can fester until it eventually explodes in a huge mess.

The other night a member and I were commiserating that as a congregation we weren’t very vulnerable. This is not just about sin, but also burdens. I find that people have been struggling with horrible things but not reached out for help. I have to help us put all these things together: confess, receive and walk. The gospel is our only hope in this. We need to see the goodwill of God toward sinners so we confess; the sufficiency of Christ so we receive His fullness; and the power of the new life the gospel produces so we can walk in a manner pleasing to Him (though imperfectly).

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In the second chapter of Love into Light, Peter Hubbard shifts his attention from the gospel to the heart. He does this as he grapples with the ever-elusive cause of SSA.

One of the battles going on in our culture is the cause of homosexuality. Slogans on both sides of the fray over-simplify and mislead. “Born that way” is not scientifically tenable. “Choose to be that way” doesn’t really capture the experience of many homosexuals.

What is often told to young people is that you should experience the fulfillment of their desires. Most teens are curious and confused, especially if they have been exposed to porn or abused. Strange thoughts enter their minds. While it is usually not a good idea to act on all the odd thoughts that come into one’s head it supposedly is good to do that with sex. Soon these desires become labels (the subject of a later chapter).

The APA has found that “no findings have emerged to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.” In other words, the “professionals” have no earthly idea.  The 2010 Swedish Twin Registry study only found that 10% of identical twin pairs with one homosexual had two homosexuals. Genetics is not the (complete) answer. If it was, then you would expect something closer to 100% of identical twins to have the same orientation.

“Our hearts are constantly interpreting information, expressing feelings, and making decisions.”

(more…)

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The 4th chapter of Roger Parrott’s The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders gave me plenty to ponder.  I’ve been mulling over it for a few weeks now.

It is entitled Vulnerability May Get You In, but Humility Keeps You There.  He there outlines some of the differences between transparency and humility which can greatly affect one’s ability to lead a group of people.  I’m part of that transitional generation when transparency began to be advocated after generations of a lack of transparency from leaders about their shortcomings and mistakes.  Parrott writes some things to challenge this.

“But (a pastor) exposing himself in order to demonstrate vulnerability diminishes his ability to be sought after as a counselor who can be looked to for advice.”

At first I am thinking, they need to know I’ve struggled and God has been faithful.  They can’t see me as impervious to sin or above struggling with things.  I’ve talked about my struggles to put unrighteous anger and selfishness to death.  But there are struggles I’ve not shared publicly.  I may share them in private ministry, but not for everyone’s ears.

“While pride is an unattractive quality in leaders, humility is a strength that compels others to follow.  In an effort to be seen as humble, many leaders have wrongfully substituted vulnerability for humility, and in doing so turned a self-centered spotlight on themselves, laying the groundwork for leadership deterioration.”

This is the key thing, substituting vulnerability for humility.  They are not the same thing, and sometimes vulnerability is driven by pride.  Either pride in wanting the spotlight, or in manipulating others to follow through the sharing of secrets.  Parrott notes that many a vulnerable pastor had bigger secrets that lead to a public moral collapse (think Jim Bakker & Jimmy Swaggart).

“Leaders who purposefully expose their liabilities limit their sphere of influence and often forfeit their long-term viability. … Humility and vulnerability are two different things, and the first must be established without offering the second.”

Vulnerability makes you vulnerable, in the wrong way.  You are not merely accessible to others, but leave the gates open for the hordes to attack and oust you.  I’ve experienced this as some people have turned the table on my transparency.  They hide behind the claim that I will get angry and yell at them, without any prior evidence for this.  I have been yelled at many times- no one seems to be afraid to yell at their pastor.  As leaders, we must remember that people are not basically good.  Some people will use the truth against you.

Humility is the most important element of leadership.  Humility means being willing to listen readily instead of thinking you have all the answers.  They think about, and talk about others more than they think and talk about themselves.  But this humility is combined with an “intense professional will”.  This person keeps others focused on the organization and its goals, and how they fit into the plan rather than how the leader fits into the plan.  Most often, effective leaders are able to influence people without direct confrontation and exercising power.  As Mark Driscoll talks about, control and influence are inversely correlated.  The more control you exert, the less influence you will have.

One way in which humility fits in here is the teachable spirit.  A teachable spirit, a willingness to listen to one’s critics, minimizes power differentials.  Unteachable leaders maximize the power differential and reduce their influence over others.  This fits well in the longview.  To remain longterm, you must be humble and teachable.  This means you will learn to work with others in light of eternal perspectives rather than using powerplays to achieve short-term victories.

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