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.