At an ordination ceremony the bishop asked: ‘Is this man weak enough to be a priest?’ He meant that only if he was aware of his frailty would he become a man of prayer and live out his ministry in trust and dependence on God.
In our society, exhibiting weakness is often seen as a sign of failure. We are taught from a young age to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient, and to never show any signs of vulnerability or weakness.
It is very rare to hear of leaders in politics, business or even the church sharing their weaknesses. What you do hear, is them espousing the strengths of their positions, opinions, policies and theologies. They also tend to put down their opponents, competitors and fellow pastors on the basis of their failures and weaknesses.
How refreshing it is to hear leaders apologising for mistakes and failures they have made and especially when they seek to recompense others for the trouble they have caused. Turning our mistakes and failures into life lessons and growing through them is the wise thing to do, but not easy.
Self-reliance & Self-sufficiency:
Self-reliance is a sin that I know only too well. I have always enjoyed being efficient with decisions, plans and problems. Usually, I would have a clear idea of what was needed and what the solution to the issue would be, without talking or processing with anyone. I have learned to recognise the importance of team, but it hasn’t stopped me jumping to an expectation of how I think things should work out. The lesson really came home to me when commitments I made, had an implication on the family, and my wife had something to say about that. As a roadblock to self-reliance, we established a process of me asking her about any decision that had any impact on her or the family. Since that time, I have made a commitment to ask her about all major decisions. Her natural response to any decision needed was to pray first – so obvious but often neglected. Praying about everything and getting feedback from others are major keys to overcoming self-reliance.
Having confidence, being responsible, responsive and determined to succeed by drawing from your previous experience and wisdom, seem all positive traits. However, there is a fine line between trusting God for the outcome and working it out yourself. The question we need to ask is: What do I trust the Lord for, what should I be doing and what shouldn’t I be doing? How easy it is in meetings to discuss the decision or plan or problem and jump into what seems to us the best solution without ever pausing to ask God about it. In fact, of all the decisions we make on a daily basis, how often are we aware of God’s presence being with us in those decisions?
When was the last time, you made a tentative decision and then having taken it to the Lord, felt uneasy about it and decided to not move ahead with what seemed a logical step?
Some challenging verses to meditate on:
2 Corinthians 3:5 ESV Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,
Philippians 4:13 ESV I can do all things through him who strengthens me. This verse can be taken in a number of ways. I can be presumptuous and jump into things that appeal to me and quote this verse. Or I can bring a situation before the Lord and respond with confidence to step into the situation with a sense of the Lord’s confirmation.
Romans 12:3 ESV For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Matthew 16:24-25 ESV Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
(Scripture offers guidance on the topic of leadership and weakness. 2 Corinthians 3:5 reminds us that our strength comes from God, while Philippians 4:13 encourages us to rely on God for strength. Romans 12:3 encourages us to think humbly about our abilities, and Matthew 16:24-25 calls us to deny ourselves and follow Jesus.)
If someone had said to me 20 years ago – you are too serious, too intense, too task oriented and too opinionated – I would have been very defensive. I don’t think any of us enjoy challenging feedback but unless we listen, we will remain unaware of our weaknesses. Having come to terms with the qualities mentioned above, I have sought to address them and be more balanced, but they still appear more than I would like, and they will always be areas for me to bring before the Lord and ask for grace.
We like to have
a leader we can trust who is confident and competent and lead us to growth and
development. The real question though is, does this leader blame outside
influences for any loss or failure or lack of fruit? Does the leader look at
their own lives and recognise any short comings that could have influenced the
negative outcomes that everyone is experiencing?
One of the largest and clearest signs that things are not as they should be, is when the turnover of staff is high. You can come up with an excuse for a few people leaving but not when there is a constant revolving exit door or at some seasons, a mass exodus.
We must remember the age-old illustration – when we point a finger in anyone’s direction, there are 3 fingers pointing back at ourselves. So the wise thing to do in any review, evaluation or difficult transition, is to ask ourselves – how have I contributed to the present situation and what do I need to do about it?
A recent Pew Research Center survey cited ‘feeling disrespected at work’ as one of the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year. Other reasons included ‘low pay’ and ‘no growth opportunities’. How are people feeling in our teams? Are they feeling listened to, communicated with and supported by leadership? We don’t receive salaries in YWAM but how are we encouraging our staff, valuing them and helping them to feel fulfilled?
These last few years with the development of online communication and training, I have been on a steep learning curve with new apps and technology to learn. I have reached out for help to those around me to train me in this new area of learning. However, when it comes to areas of experience over the years, it’s very easy for me to rely on the principles I have come to trust and shut the door on any new insights. This is true for parenting styles, leadership styles, theological understanding and so many categories of our lives. There is so much to learn and so it’s vitally important for us to have a teachable spirit.
It’s often easy to spot an unteachable spirit when people:
- Don’t ask questions or consult others in their decisions and plans
- Seem to blame others for mistakes and failures without owning up to their part in the situation
- Don’t feel the need for mentoring or coaching or feedback of any kind
- Don’t read, listen to, or learn anything that challenges existing presuppositions, practices, and prejudices
- Only attempt and accept tasks they know they can do well
- Don’t receive criticism or correction well
In contrast, if you are a teachable person, you admit when you don’t know something, you strive to grow, you ask for feedback, and you respond well to it. You are constantly absorbing new information, asking for help, and looking for ways to improve. Someone who is teachable looks at other’s opinions as valuable learning tools, not a looming possibility of being wrong.
It takes a little bit of work and some self-reflection to be able to improve teachability, but it is possible.
Proverbs 13:18 tells us, “Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honoured.”
No matter how much talent and gifting we have, if we are, or become, unteachable, we will never reach anywhere near our full potential in our careers, our callings, or our relationships.
Let’s recognise our weaknesses,work on them so we won’t continue to damage anyone in our influence and become the trusted leaders we want to be.
Until next month