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The Power of Authentic Leadership

The Power of Authentic Leadership

I believe there are two great confessions in the Bible.

First, you have Peter’s great confession in Matthew 16:16: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (NIV). Then, there’s another one made by Barnabas and Paul in Acts 14:15: “We are merely human beings—just like you!” (NLT).

I know many pastors who are quick to agree with the first confession but are more hesitant to proclaim the second. It’s easy for many pastors to talk about spiritual topics while ignoring or downplaying their own human imperfections. They try to pretend they’re superhuman or super holy.

Authentic leadership admits weaknesses and limitations. Vulnerability isn’t easy because it’s risky. You may have some people in your church who don’t want you to be vulnerable. They want you to maintain an image of being a little bit above the crass realities of life. But when you succumb to that image, you deny a key truth of life and keep yourself from having a full impact on the lives of others.

Why is it worth the effort to be open and honest about your humanity and your weaknesses?

It’s emotionally healthy.

Wearing a mask is unhealthy. In fact, being out of touch with reality is a characteristic of mental illness. Wearing a mask requires you to expend an enormous amount of energy and produces tension, stress, and even depression. Pastors who worry about maintaining an image are asking for burnout.

On the other hand, being vulnerable is liberating. It’s the only authentic way to live. As James writes, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16 NASB).

Revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. I believe some weaknesses in your life won’t budge until you confess them to your own church.

It’s spiritually empowering.

James writes, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 NLT). What is humility? It’s not denying your strengths. It’s being honest about your weaknesses.

When we’re honest about our weaknesses, we can be honest about our strengths, too.

Pride is usually what causes us to camouflage our weaknesses. That’s why God resists pride. It keeps us from experiencing God’s full power.

God delights in blessing us when we understand and admit how weak we really are.

It is relationally endearing.

Vulnerability draws us closer to other people. When we’re authentic, people gravitate toward us.

Pastor, when you’re open about your weaknesses, it endears you to your people. Vulnerability creates fellowship. When you share personal pain with the people in your church, you’ll discover a new level of fellowship with them.

Your vulnerability will also encourage others to throw away their masks. They’ll realize it’s safe to come out of hiding. They’ll be able to stop pretending they’re perfect as well.

It enhances your leadership.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (NIV). At one time, I thought it was arrogant of Paul to write that statement, but Paul was just pointing out that we learn from models. We’re all a combination of both strengths and weaknesses. Paul could be honest about his strengths because he was honest about his weaknesses. He wasn’t claiming to be perfect; he was just focused on following Jesus as his model.

Every leader has weaknesses, and how you handle them will determine whether they help you or hinder you as a leader. If you understand and accept your natural limitations, they become useful to you. But if you ignore them, they become embarrassments or even liabilities.

It increases the impact of your preaching.

When I first started preaching, I’d ask myself, “What is the most powerful way to say this point?” I no longer ask that question. Now I ask myself, “What is the most personal way to present this point?” I have discovered that the most personal way is the most powerful way. I’m much more effective as a witness than I am as an orator. When I speak out of the overflow of my experience, I speak with more conviction, and conviction moves people.

You add vulnerability to your preaching when you:

  • Share your struggles honestly.
  • Describe ways you’re making progress.
  • Tell your congregation what you’re currently learning.

Vulnerability will do wonders for your preaching if you lean into it.

Rather than posturing ourselves as self-confident and invincible, we need to see ourselves as trophies of God’s grace. I have discovered that the more open I am about my weaknesses, the more God blesses my life.

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