It’s Getting Real
In my line of work I get to spend a lot of time with apologists who travel locally and internationally training men and women to defend the truth claims of Christianity in an increasingly secularized world. I’m in their company quite a bit and so inevitably I get lumped in with them. Each time that happens, without hesitation, I have this almost knee-jerk reaction to point out that I am not one of them.
One time my friends who travels and carries a hectic speaking schedule asked me why I don’t do more speaking. I gave him reasons1 but in the end I admitted that I just do not like being vulnerable.2 Just like New York Time’s Best Selling the author Brene Brown describes it in her book Dare to Lead, I get nervous. Nervous enough that I decline more than I accept invitations to speak. My friend listened and with a supportive look said, “Hmmm, you’ve got to work on that.” Noted.
Just the other day I got to watch one of our ethnic clubs on our college campus put on a cultural show. There was music, dancing and singing. Since I function as the club’s adviser I made it a point to congratulate the leaders for a job well done. I ended up chatting with Ian, one of the leaders who is a senior in his chosen major. In the course of our conversation I learned he was studying as a Christian Ministries major which coincidentally was my major when I attended Biola University many years ago; and I let him know that. There is a strong emphasis in leadership in that program. After observing Ian lead the team that evening I was convinced he was applying much of his learning. So I asked him how he was doing in the program. Without hesitation, but with a shrinking smile he said, “…it’s getting real.”
I knew exactly what he meant. He and every other student who enters and completes the program will at some point be vulnerable. It’s unavoidable. The projects, assignments and other practical activities that undergird the syllabi of the courses are designed to stretch, bend and reach in to the core of any nascent leadership quality in the student. For example, in the practicum course, (a senior level course), each student is required to video record themselves teach a Bible study class to a specified group. The video is submitted to the professor and she gets to thoroughly critique the student’s delivery, mannerisms, transitions and overall presentation of the lesson. Is the student’s use of an attention getter in the opening impactful? Did the transitions move smoothly from point to point? Were the illustrations relevant to the topic and audience? How many “ums”, “aahs” and other habitual distractions were uttered? If you don’t have somewhat of a thick skin, it’s easy to just give up or change majors.
The two stories I share remind me personally of my own need to be vulnerable, especially when I lead. At a time when the church needs brave leaders, we must not back away from our calling to step in the gap. Brown reminds us that it’s okay to be brave and afraid at the same time.3 This is one of the reasons I have adopted the verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 to buttress many areas of life, including leadership:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
It’s a strange passage because it presses the irony in helpful ways. So if I am to seek strength, I must delight in my weaknesses. If we stopped there it would be incomplete and disastrous. Because the point of the passage is to acknowledge we are nothing without Christ; and not to take ourselves too seriously. I believe one of the key point to appreciate and understand brave, courageous and daring leadership is found in humility, knowing who ultimately is the source of our strength.
1 Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religon (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2013), 29.
2 Brené Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts (New York: Random House, 2018), 19.
3 Ibid., 9.
10 responses to “It’s Getting Real”
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Love your Corinthians quote Harry. I think it is getting real for a lot of us at this point in the semester!
I was thinking the same thing Jacob. There’s no turning back at this point.
Good practice, Harry. Putting yourself out there starts with self-awareness and a grounded identity in Christ that works its way into every aspect of our being. I learned that the hard way in the first decade of leadership. I was a master at armoring up and soon found the limitation to my leadership. Your Corinthian passage is right on.
Thanks for this Tammy. For years I was content being all armored up. Then I realized that people couldn’t really relate to me since I wasn’t freely sharing who I truly was.
I didn’t get to add this to my original post, but another factor contributing to my opposition to be vulnerable is pride—something I need to work on daily.
I wonder if Brown would see if there is any connection between pride and lack of vulnerability?
Thanks for the honesty and vulnerability of your post. I agree with your friend, you should start with “yes” to your speaking invitations. Everyone needs to hear more about a renewed emphasis on the biblical humility of leadership.
Hi Harry. Perhaps after we’re done with the program I can realize my new calling. I’ve observed for a long time now that what the church needs is courageous and humble leadership. When I look and survey the leadership landscape today, both national and international, secular and sacred, I’m afraid I can’t easily name one. Here’s hoping and praying our LGP program will produce the next great leader the church needs in our time.
Thank you harry for the illustrations you have used for vulnerability. How true it is that we’re not always upfront in accepting to be vulnerable and that’s why courage is a competence to be developed. You choice of the I corinthians verse is on point and its a great encouragement for us to be vulnerable.
Thanks Wallace. I appreciate the kind words. I mentioned earlier that I can’t think of a great leader today worth emulating–that’s both national and international, secular and sacred. I know you travel quite a bit and so you might be in contact with many more leaders than I have. Are there great leaders in the African church we’re not noticing today? Who are they?
Harry, I guess I am surprised to find out you do not do more speaking because I think you are very eloquent in your speaking. I love the verse you picked since it does let us know that God knows all about our weaknesses and He is showing His power in them. Thank you for the reminder. Blessings!
Thanks Mary for the encouragement. Yeah, like my friend said, it’s something I need to work on. When I reflect on this about myself I know what it is. It’s my pride. I avoid vulnerable situations because it only increases the chances I’ll hear something negative about my talks. Or I compare myself with many I admire and I say to myself, “I can’t measure up.” I’ve been in front of audiences many times but just like Brown, I get super nervous. My solution: just avoid it. Hahahaha!
What keeps me going though is this. If I don’t speak up for I’m convinced is the right thing, then who will? Being a hypocrite to me is worse than being shy about speaking. I’ll have to trust God the way Moses reluctantly did. Hahahaha!