Having been in church leadership and seminary for several years, I have seen the backside of leadership. It’s the part that no one talks about, save in hushed, vague conversations. “I’m struggling, but really praying about it,” seems to be the trump card that deflects any further questions that probe beneath the surface.
I have a burden for hurting leaders and I often find myself asking, “What do you do if you look around and all you see are leaders who are hurting? How do we revolutionize the way leadership is done?”
I started by telling my story, over and over. At first, it was by necessity. I was hurting and by the grace of God it was too much for me to hide. I was broken and a hasty spit shine wouldn’t make things better again. I just didn’t have the energy to pretend anymore.
What I found is that telling others about my pain and struggles was akin to knowing the password to the pastors’ speakeasy. There was this giant hidden room full of disappointments and loss where you could only gain admittance with your own story. I found that the more I told my story, the more I heard the stories from others. The more stories I heard, the more anguish and heartbreak I encountered.
Instead of overwhelming me, it energized me. I saw that I wasn’t alone and wanted to tell others that they were not alone, either.
When faced with the prospect of sharing my story, warts and all, with the congregation of my church, I was advised to hold back some of the details. It certainly was a risk to let everyone below the surface. However, one of my professors wisely told me that holding back would perpetuate the leadership lie. The lie that pastors have everything together. The lie that we don’t hurt the way others do.
I agreed with my professor and didn’t hold back. I shared my story, through many tears and it was cathartic. Not only did I feel God use my brokenness to encourage others, I felt the love and encouragement of others in the church. It was real love, too. They saw me and still loved me. A line of people formed to hug, thank, and share with me. I sat in church with some of these people for years and never knew them like I did that night.
Instead of shying away from the truth, people embraced it. People embraced me, warts and all, and could offer forgiveness and redemption like I have never known. I understood God’s grace in a powerful new way.
“Story” is a buzzword in our culture right now. We’ve caught on [again] to the fact that telling stories is one of the most powerful means of communicating truth. I’ve noticed on a personal level that story is one of the most powerful tools for combating unhealthiness in church leaders. I believe the more leaders have the courage to tell the truth, the more we’ll see transformation in our lives and churches.
Stories have the power to not only reveal the truth to an audience; they also have the power to reveal truth to the storyteller.