This is not something I’ve done on this platform before but I think you will be able to relate. I have a confession to make: I am a hypocrite! A play actor, a mask wearer, a phony, a fake, and a fraud. The message I’ve preached was not one I lived by or applied to situations in my life. As a leader, I attempted to create a culture in which I, myself, was not willing to participate.
I wanted to create a space where people could be honest and vulnerable, a place where people could come and bear their burdens and encourage one another. At the same time I fell into the mindset of thinking that people around me were expecting me as a leader to have it all together, as if a leadership position somehow meant that you had all the answers to life. How could I expect people to be honest and vulnerable if I wasn’t willing to do the same? How can I encourage people to be open and truthful with themselves and their community if I was faking it?
One day stands out in my mind clearer than any other. I was in a car with a mentee of mine. This was a guy who had poured his heart out to me several times yet I never let him into my emotional world. One day, I did and his response floored me! He said “Man, I am so relieved to see that you can actually have a bad day!” I had spent a lot of time with him but he never saw anything but the mask that I had worn so well. I expected trust that I had not been willing to give.
I share all of this with you because I believe I’m not the only leader who has had this experience. I believe many leaders are weighed down with the pressure of leadership in cultures where not being okay isn’t okay. How many of us have wanted to stand on our platforms and say “I can’t do this anymore! I am going through some shit and I can’t even help myself, how can I even try to help you?” I don’t believe that I’m alone in this!
For the sake of my own internal integrity and emotional health I have resigned my pastorate and stepped away from church ministry. I am perfectly content with being a guy in a pew, just another broken guy with shit going on, safe from the pressures of leadership. For some of you that isn’t so easy. For some of you your livelihood depends on your platform, and I understand. I empathize with your situation, however I also think that if we are living in a culture where we can’t be true to ourselves, the paycheck isn’t worth it!
While I’m not suggesting that you quit your job or that you stand up this Sunday morning and drop a bomb on your congregation. I am suggesting that you take bold action. Be bold enough to share your heart and your pain with the communities you serve. Follow the necessary steps within the context you currently serve. This may mean talking with elders, deacons, and board members. It may mean talking to a senior leader. Whatever that looks like for you, please take these steps with wisdom. Then you can take small steps to open up to the people that you lead and let them see that you have the issues they have, people want to know that they’re not struggling alone! I believe something incredible will take place in the church if we remove the masks and let people into our worlds. As leaders we have a responsibility to examine our hearts. It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright painful but the freedom experienced is priceless!
Over the past few days I have had some difficult conversations with people who depended on my guidance and leadership. Tears were shed and hurt was expressed but truth prevailed and forgiveness was extended. What I lost in a congregation I gained in family as now I can be myself without the pressure of the platform. Now we are free! Now I am free! Now we can truly be broken together!
Anthony currently serves as a co-host on The Alliance Podcast at boldcupofcoffee.com, a public speaker and author.
Anthony had a 15 year love affair with heroin addiction and spent time in prison. An encounter with God, one night, radically changed his life. Since that evening Anthony has had a desire and passion to serve the LORD and spread the message of the goodness of God wherever he goes. Using Biblical insight, his experience, and street knowledge, his heart to reach people in all areas of society. Anthony’s desire is to see those in bondage set free from anything that holds them back from all that God has for them and to build people up into the fullness of that purpose, while manifesting the Kingdom of God in their everyday lives.
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