Pastors have a hard time admitting their weaknesses.
In this, I suppose, they are much like other people. No one likes to have their vulnerabilities exposed, their misalignment with God uncovered- but it’s especially true for ministers and other church leaders. The reasons are myriad.
- Many people in the pew like the idea of a flawless pastor – or at least one whose flaws are minimal.
- It helps with book deals and speaking gigs to be well thought of rather than honestly thought of.
- Some church folks use it against a minister if s/he confesses who they really are.
But as real as these reasons are, they are all shadows of the actual reason pastors, leaders, and generally everyone you know stops short of admitting their weaknesses: We don’t actually believe the Bible!
Here’s my proof: The Apostle Paul makes one overarching point in his second (at least third, for folks who know) letter to the church in Corinth. That point? God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Throughout the letter, Paul refers to his own weaknesses and the many ways he’s been accused of not being the best pastor in the world. He also responds to the many ways he’s been criticized. After arguing his case for a while, the apostle burst out the message he has received from God; “But he (God) 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.”
As beautiful – and quoted – as this passage is, in reality no one believes it.
The next time you’re flicking through the channels take note of how many TV preachers are ministering from their weaknesses. At the next large “leadership” conference for church leaders, listen to speaker introductions and see how frequently the strength of the presenter (great leader, incredible communicator, etc…) and the strength of their church (read: numbers) is mentioned. When you peruse the bookshelves at your local Christian bookstore, notice how many bestsellers are written by folks who are writing about how God works through their weaknesses rather than their strengths. There’s even an entire work and productivity trend defined by working from your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. Plus, how many of us blog, tweet and speak in order to “build a platform” (confession)? And isn’t building a platform simply a fancy way of saying, “building strength”? You will find some pastors and preachers sharing honestly, but not most. And overwhelmingly, our talk of weaknesses are simply humble-brags; “I can’t believe I speak to 6,000 people each Sunday after struggling with a speech impediment as a boy….”
Our deeply held conviction is the same conviction at work in all of American life: Strength is better than weakness. The sad truth is that those of us working in and leading churches are no better than the false machismo and pomp we see after a wide-receiver scores a touchdown – thumping our chest, screaming to the world, “Look at me. Look at me. See how strong I am.”
We actually believe that strength is better than weakness even though the Bible expressly tells us that’s not the case. Is it any wonder that churches are losing ground? While the scriptures call us to open our weaknesses to allow the power of God to flow through us, we have knotted the hose keeping the Spirit tied up and safe from exposure.
What would happen if we actually believed that God’s power is not just useful in weakness, but made perfect? What might happen if the next time we saw a church leader carting a truck full of accolades and more franchises than McDonald’s, we became suspicious of whether or not s/he was walking with the Lord or just Donald Trump with a 3-point sermon? What would happen if we saw the fact that the cross left Jesus with a tiny organization of unsure followers as the rule rather than the exception? What if for something to be of God it had to look like weakness to the world? What if we have it all wrong?