One of the biggest obstacles (I know it well in my own heart) to living an authentic and open life in ministry is the (at times) overwhelming perception that sharing my hurts and struggles is preparing a gourmet meal for the critics to feast on.
Authenticity is more than mere confession, I know. There seems to be something both arrogant and selfish about using one’s leadership platform as the weekly confessional booth. It can reek of the Regan-esque “Me Monster”–“you think you struggled this week?! Wait til you hear what MY struggles.” Yet at the same time, no confession, no responsiveness to the Spirit’s own working in our hearts is cold, lifeless, and also selfish. Whereas the tell-it-all confessor may leave those he ministers to feeling insignificant or discouraged, the non-confessor may portray the Christian life as something without a need for mercy and grace, a floating 2 feet above the ground where only angels and a few gifted ones are allowed to live, without struggles and ultimately without a real Christ providing real forgiveness and strength. Authenticity is more, but not less, than confession.
So if confession is necessary in leadership, how do we overcome that fear of the critic? We may feel like sharing our struggles is handing a loaded revolver to those who might oppose us. “Haven’t found any new faults in me this week? Here’s a list of ideas to prime the pump!” And yet that’s precisely what we might need. After all, our Biblical examples seem to be full of God’s people handing a loaded pistol of faults to their enemies and saying, “Go ahead and shoot. You’d be doing me a favor.” Jesus handed the Sanhedrin one by speaking of a return on the clouds with power. Paul handed the Corinthians everything his opponents there wanted–“I am weak when among you, but strong in my letters…” or boasting in his ability to get thrown in jail or beat everywhere (not a great fundraising technique).
Fear of the critic is at root the fear of man. It brings a snare (Proverbs); it causes some to even refuse Christ (John 12). And ultimately, fear of man is at root built on a faulty view of God. We don’t trust God to provide (job security?), we don’t believe that His opinion of us (which knows our faults more deeply and truly than any critic) matters, we don’t even (practically) believe in his omnipresence (or we would walk in the light as He does…everywhere). There are countless more we might find. So rather than disarm our critics through perfect living (impossible–everyone knows that “Good can be spoken evil of”) or through a well-placed defense or even an ability to wrest power from their hands, why not arm them? Why not “turn the other cheek” and provide another way for them to attack? Why not lay down our rights (even the right of a good reputation) and follow Christ down the Calvary road?
After all, who cares about being shot at if you’re already carrying your cross?