Reading Tom Camacho’s Mining for Gold was refreshing, encouraging and challenging all at once. Refreshing because it locates leadership within each of our strengths (ironically, this means relying on our weaknesses); encouraging because Camacho reminds us that our identity is in Christ; and challenging because it requires full reliance on the Holy Spirit for results, nothing less will do.
I appreciate this book very much because it affirms a lot of what I’ve thought was essential to leadership. In that sense, it’s gratifying to know that my ideas about it aren’t that far fetched. As much as I enjoyed the reading, the questions it generated were thrilling at the same time. A couple of those questions are what I’m interested in covering here and hope to gain some answers from my readers. If not, then perhaps careful reflecting on these might bring some benefit.
The first question is related to the apostle Paul’s admonition to rely on our weaknesses.1 Because in our weaknesses we are strong. This is not some nice religious platitude that we simply tell one another for comfort. Yes, it’s that, but it’s more than that. It’s real power. It’s the dunamis from the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8 where we get the English equivalent of dynamite. This is the same power that enabled the Apostles to perform miracles to help the church. This is the power behind the “greater works”2 Jesus promised his followers would posses.
Camacho said “God is offering us that same power today. He loves to give us His power in place of our weakness. He loves pouring out His strength through weak people so that He gets the glory.”3 So the question is: “How exactly is this power manifest in our weaknesses?” It just seems counter-intuitive to expect anything of value coming from weaknesses. Here are some conversations that run through my mind. “You want me to preach? Me? Wait, I told you already that I don’t have the gift of speaking, and you want me to speak at your church in a couple of months?”
Alistair Begg has taught on this topic and challenges his audience by repeatedly asking this provocative question throughout his talk: “Have you ever considered the possibility that your limitations and your handicaps may prove to be the key to your usefulness in the service of Christ?”4 While it’s unsettling, I’m convinced this is the secret to effective leading. Begg is asking the right question. But how do we operate from our weaknesses? That’s like saying “I’m going 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and clinch the heavy weight title, oh, but I can do it 3 rounds.” Picturing that makes me chuckle. Of course that’s crazy—on the human level that is. But we’ve read and heard sermons on this, i.e., David and Goliath, Gideon and his 300 against 135K, etc.
I’m not sure how I can apply this “weakness to strength” principle in my current leadership role, but I can take a stab at it. Perhaps it’s during the times when I admit to my staff that I can’t perform this task without their help. Maybe it’s rejecting the temptation to be wracked with anxiety over a project I have no control over, after giving my best effort, knowing perfection is unobtainable. Or maybe it’s in being more vulnerable in my speech, not afraid to share personal pain and struggle with colleagues. Again, I’m not sure, but perhaps those are good starting points.
Another big question I have is: “Should leaders expect to be led by the kind of leaders that employ these “weakness to strength” principles?” We may be laboring under a boss who does not care about good leadership, routinely makes unwise decisions and demonstrates no care for the wellbeing of direct reports. What then? Perhaps we can imagine this happening in a secular work place but think nothing of it because we expect that. But in a Christian work environment we expect our leaders to be more Christ-like, don’t we. And if they are not, then we are sorely disappointed and disillusioned. What do we do then? I don’t think this is part of the “warning lights”5 Camacho alerts us toward the end of his book, but perhaps there should be a section addressing these kinds of issues. It’s one thing to observe yourself struggle through your own immature leadership skills, and quite another when you are being led by one with the same challenges. I don’t have an answer to this one.
I feel the reading has been affirming and at the same time left me with some questions. But in the end, in the midst of these questions and doubt, we must hear the words of our Lord afresh: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
1 2 Cor. 12: 10.
2 John 14:12
3 Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders Through Coaching (IVP, 2019), 80.
4 The Power of Weakness – Truth For Life,” Archive – Truth For Life, , accessed June 20, 2019, https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/power-weakness/.
5 Camacho, 119.