Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Embrace Our Vulnerability, Enhance Our Accountability

Written by: on April 19, 2024

The foundational skill of courage-building is the willingness and ability to rumble with vulnerability. Once we start to build vulnerability skills, we can start to develop the other skill sets.

-Brene Brown-


A Pastor in our denomination was very excited – after he had completed his initial ministry of five years in a remote, rural area – when he learned that he had been transferred and sent to serve a small congregation that was being prepared to become an independent congregation in a city. He was very willing to accept this new task. The adventure then began. When he was in the congregation, he realized that the challenges he faced were not the slightest. His main task was to prepare all congregation members to build and organize fellowship, service, and testimony independently without depending on their parent congregation. That means also preparing them spiritually and financially.

Other challenges then emerged. But the hardest thing is when some people prefer to defend their opinions rather than hear other people’s opinions. Small ripples had become bigger, and even open conflict occurred between the administrators. The priest experienced extreme fear and confusion. It was difficult for him to be firm at that time, he avoided conflict because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. This is his weakness, as well as his biggest mistake, he tends to please everyone! He is afraid of being seen badly. He is worried about judging other people. However, he did not realize that as a result of his mistake, the conflict would escalate. This threatens the existence of this congregation.

Unable to withstand such a heavy burden, one day, the pastor put on a priest’s robe and carried his Bible. Then he went into the church building and headed behind the pulpit (churches in our denomination use a permanent pulpit where the pastors preach from that place). What does it do? In his confusion and raging thoughts, he lay down and sobbed and expressed his heart’s feelings before God. What he first conveyed was a confession of sin and a request for forgiveness from God for his failures, his fragility, and his magnanimity in feeling that he knew everything. He then realized that he was nothing at all before God.

Long story short, after this incident the pastor began to change. He grows the courage to be brave. As a pastor, there are times when he must pray gently, but there are times when firmness is also needed. Miracles started to happen. Conflicts were de-escalating, sharp differences of opinion were decreasing, and most importantly, the pastor was aware of his shortcomings and mistakes so he learned a lot about how to mediate differences of opinion, and especially learned to have the courage to express his position if something is not right, even though the risk is for him. He knew, that to please everyone is an impossible thing.

Learning from the pastor’s story and reading Brene Brown’s writing this week, I discovered that vulnerability is a natural and human thing that can be experienced by anyone. Brown explains, “Vulnerability as the  emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”[1]  Everyone, including pastors, has their vulnerabilities. But the problem is whether we, as leaders or pastors, can realize, acknowledge and manage this vulnerability. Most leaders usually find it difficult to do this because leaders follow what other people like about them. We let it be and enjoy it. Brown reminds us that our failures begin when we allow others to determine our definition of success. Most of us are motivated by a definition of success that is the exact opposite of who we are, what we want, or what brings us joy. Little joy, less meaning, but a lot of tiredness and annoyance.[2] Therefore, Brown showed an important discovery in his research. She explains, “Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.”[3]

A courageous leader needs to have values that he holds so that with these values he builds integrity in his leadership and service. Brown insists, “Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so  precise and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice  —they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives.”[4] Without values, a leader will oscillate in uncertainty. He will always say, “yes” to everyone because he wants to please everyone. According to Warner and Wilder in their book, Rare Leadership, that kind of leaders could be classified as “sandbox leaders.” They write, “Sandbox leaders are grown-ups in positions of responsibility whose lack of emotional maturity creates catastrophic consequences for their unsuspecting followers. The higher a person rises in leadership circles, the more devastating the impact of sandbox leadership can be, such as Churches split, affairs occur, leaders burn out, boards feud with staff, a trail of wounded people gets left in the dust.”[5] Therefore, Brown reminds us how important values are for a leader, “Because that is integrity—choosing  courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s  fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just  professing them.”[6]

Brown’s thoughts guide readers to position themselves as leaders who bring certainty and change. To make it happen, it takes courage. Very interesting, Brown came up with the idea of an acronym for the word “BRAVING” (Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Nonjudgement, Generosity).[7] I am very interested in these acronyms, especially Reliability and Accountability, which both boil down to integrity, being a reliable and trustworthy leader. For this reason, a leader must have the courage to step out of his comfort zone, then step forward and face all challenges. This is not easy and requires humility to do so. In his book, Leading out of Who You Are, Simon Walker writes “The choices you make to live an undefended life, to lead as an undefended leader, are not made for the sake of balance or wellbeing; they are made for a greater good. And that greater good is to set people free”.[8]

Brown’s brilliant ideas put us back on our true path of leadership and service. His thoughts confirm our call for us to rise up and have the courage to lead. Brown reminds us to have the courage to face all challenges and overcome them correctly so that we don’t run out of energy to do so “zigzagging,” trying to dodge the bullets of vulnerability—whether it’s conflict, discomfort, confrontation, or the potential for shame, hurt, or criticism.”[9] Brown encourages us, that we have to stop avoiding, pretending, blaming, lying, and “at some point, we have to turn toward vulnerability and make that call.”[10] She even says, “Those of us who are willing to rumble with vulnerability, live into our values, build trust, and learn to reset will not be threatened by the rise of the machines, because we will be part of the rise of daring leaders.”[11]

PS: Thanks for reading my story.

[1] Brené Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts (New York, NY: Random House, 2018), 23.

[2] Ibid, 271-272.

[3] Ibid, 67.

[4] Ibid, 188.

[5] Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016), 41-42.

[6] Brown, Dare to Lead.

[7] Ibid, 225-226.

[8] Simon P. Walker, Leading out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership (London, UK: Piquant Edition Ltd. 2007), 124.

[9] Brown, Dare to Lead, 109.

[10] Ibid, 110.

[11] Ibid, 75.

About the Author


Dinka Utomo

Dinka Nehemia Utomo is an ordained pastor of the Protestant Church in the Western part of Indonesia (Gereja Protestan di Indonesia bagian Barat or GPIB). He has served for more than 15 years. The first five years of his ministry were in the remote area of East Kalimantan, including people from the indigenous Dayak tribe in the small villages in the middle of the forest, frequently reached using small boats down the river. For more than 15 years, Dinka has served several GPIB congregations in several cities in Indonesia. He has always had a passion for equipping Christian families, teaching and guiding them to build equal relations between husband and wife, maintaining commitment, love, and loyalty, creating a healthy and constructive Christian family atmosphere, and rejecting all forms of violence and sexual violence. Dinka's beloved wife, Verra, is also a GPIB pastor. They have two blessed children. Dinka and his wife and children love to spend quality family time, such as lunch or dinner, and vacation to exotic places.

12 responses to “Embrace Our Vulnerability, Enhance Our Accountability”

  1. mm Pam Lau says:

    Telling Your story of vulnerability is a courageous act of Love! There is so much I admire in you as a pastor, father and husband and friend! I learn from you as I hear you share your experiences and what you are gaining from the program.

    You wrote: “Everyone, including pastors, has their vulnerabilities. But the problem is whether we, as leaders or pastors, can realize, acknowledge and manage this vulnerability. Most leaders usually find it difficult to do this because leaders follow what other people like about them.”

    I like the way you say, “Manage this vulnerability” – as if the caring for one’s soul truly is our greatest responsibility. Thank you, Dinka, for writing your post! I look forward to seeing you in D.C.!

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Thank you for your response, Pam! I really appreciate it.

      Regarding my ministry, I increasingly realize that I am just an ordinary human being who has been blessed with extraordinary love by God. There are many ways God has shaped me in ministry.
      This is includes this program. Book readings, class discussions and in the Advance program are fresh dew for the soul, especially for me. I am very grateful for it.
      Furthermore, I also want you to realize that I feel blessed by our cohort, including you, Pam. You are a woman who is both intelligent and also has a noble heart, who is willing to embrace and befriend anyone regardless of their background and origin.
      See you in DC!

  2. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi Dinka,
    Thank you for sharing your story! You are a mentor and a role model for pastors who need someone to follow into spaces of vulnerability, courage, humility, and joy. Your church and family are blessed to have you. Has it become easier for you to remain vulnerable with your church over time? What helps you maintain your humble, vulnerable, and courageous posture in challenging circumstances?
    I look forward to seeing you in Washington D.C. and hearing more about your NPO project. Have a wonderful summer break!

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Thank you for your response, Jenny!
      I appreciate it!

      Honestly, I am just an ordinary human being, who feels and experiences the extraordinary abundance of God’s love. That awareness helped me and reminded me.
      Your questions are brilliant, but not easy for me to answer.
      Honestly, the challenges and difficulties of maintaining humility are increasing day by day. Achievement after achievement often tempts me to elevate myself. But I am very grateful, this program helps me to stay on the right path that God wants. I learn a lot from my great international friends, including you, who not only have a series of success stories but still humble themselves and serve God sincerely.
      See you in DC where we can all share life stories that glorify God’s name.

  3. mm Tim Clark says:

    Wow, what a great post.

    I echo those above: thanks for sharing your story. I wondered if that was you. I believe all good pastors have a moment (moments) where we wrestle with God and come away with both a blessing and a limp. I see that in your story.

    Dinka, what a blessing to know you. Reading your posts and talking with you makes me a better pastor. I love your passion, your perspective, and your perseverance. I know I’ve said it before, but I would love to see your ministry, and I hope I will someday make it to Indonesia to do so.

    See you in DC!

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Tim! Thank you very much for your response. I appreciate it!

      I actually learned a lot from you, Pastor Tim!
      You are a figure of a priest who protects and embraces others. You are a husband and father who loves your family very much. I am sure that you have lived and experienced the Brown’s BRAVING values in our reading book in the course of your ministry life as a pastor. I am very grateful to have a brother in faith like you.

      See you in DC! Blessings!

  4. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    “Because that is integrity—choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them.”[6].

    This is so important! I think integrity is a virtue all leaders need to develop long before they get to the leadership position. I wonder if a lot of leaders get to that position by starting off with a few cut corners, or small lapses in integrity so that by the time they get to leadership their moral compass is skewed? It could be a fallen leader falls a little inside each time they gain more power so that by the time they get to the top they are are already lost?

    Death by a thousand little cuts, maybe its a fall by a thousand little stumbles?

    Thanks Dinka for your story!

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Jana!

      Your response is brilliant! I love it!

      Absolutely! When success is achieved through shortcuts, it usually causes someone, including church leaders, to fall into arrogance because they choose to let go of Christ rather than be embraced by Him. As a result, they forget the meaning of their calling in their ministry.
      Another thing is that the desire to gain satisfaction through praise and respect from others also often causes a church leader to forget himself and forget God.
      Brown’s writing really helped me to see and admit my fragility and it made me always build self-awareness: Dinka, you are just an ordinary human being, who received extraordinary love from God!

      See you in DC! Blessings!

  5. Hey you Daring Leader. Thank you too much for your story and post. I love how your godliness always comes out. I have a question for you to think about but not answer. Which one of the BRAVING is your strength and why?
    I appreciate you Dinka!

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Todd!

      Did you know that I also learned a lot from you? You are a servant figure who in my view has high BRAVING qualifications. You are one of my role models!
      One of the important things I learned from you is integrity. In your writings, I can find how you highly uphold the value of integrity. I learned a lot from it!
      Still, I also find that your values of Nonjudgment and Generosity are very worthy for me to follow. For that, I say thank you very much.

      See you in DC! Blessings!

  6. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


    Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate you Dinka and the way you honestly share yourself through your post. I am so thankful that we are in the same cohort. Looking forward to seeing you in DC.

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Jonita!

      Thank you for your response. I appreciate it!

      I learned a lot from you regarding Brown’s BRAVING values you share in our classes and through your writings! I actually feel very blessed to be in the same cohort as you!

      See you in DC! Blessings!

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