Just came from a conference with pastors where we were talking about rethinking leadership in light of the cultural changes that force us back the biblical images rather than those pervasive in the church growth models. I’ll summarize a few take-aways tomorrow but wanted to highlight part of our discussion of humble leadership. I made some comments regarding the need to be leading by example in the area of repentance. I stole someone else’s line: Why is it that those who love the Reformed doctrine of depravity aren’t commonly willing to share their own depravity (and repentance!) with their sheep. One person asked the common question regarding the health of having pastors and christian leaders confess their sins. Couldn’t it harm other’s faith? Here’s some of my thoughts.
1. Sure, having the pastor confess on Sunday am that he just masturbated the night before isn’t a good idea. However, sometimes raising the obvious problem with leader confession causes us to avoid doing much at all in our present life. We might confess our old sins, but less likely our recent ones.
2. The motive for leader’s confession must be more than his/her own benefit. Leader communication should be pastoral to the hearers. This excludes narcissistic, “look at me” confession.
3. If leaders have sins that are too big to confess to their followers, its probable that they either failed to confess and be accountable to more appropriate audiences (mentors, supervisors, colleagues, etc.). We get to the bigger sins because we let the littler ones slide or we deny their presence to self and other.
4. Leaders should begin to confess the sins that everyone knows they have and not get caught up in whether or not to confess the more hidden ones. Your followers can see your failings. Did you promise something and yet fail to deliver (and then blame others for the failure)? Did you show defensiveness in the leadership meeting? Arrogance? Knee-jerk assessment or pastoral care? Did you write off a follower as unteachable without enough time? Did you neglect a follower’s gifts because they threatened yours?
5. These kind of confessions may cause some who want perfect leaders to lose heart. But, I would argue that if not this, something else will cause them to lose heart. The vast majority will feel they have a leader who understands their weaknesses and will be more ready to accept the care offered in the future.
6. Some confessions will lead to being removed from ministry for a season. There is grace in forgiveness and not having a mountain made out of a molehill AND their is grace in forgiveness and being held accountable. We leaders need to exemplify both to others and pray that others will do the same for us.