The word "leader" conveys a number of images and meanings from person to person. The Christian leader essentially contradicts most of the virtues of our world by insisting that we lead through service, humility, and vulnerability.
Jesus explains this in Luke 9:48: "Then he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.'"
Leaders in this world are typically in competition to climb the corporate, social, or political ladder. Not so for Christians, where the desired role is to have the lesser status and a place of deference. In this way, Christianity takes a radical approach toward leadership.
No Christian leader is immune to the pressure to perform well and hold up a certain image to those that he or she leads. After all, who wants to look bad? However, one of the most valuable lessons we could learn in leading is to be honest about our failings and weaknesses. The people in our care do not need a seemingly perfect angel to look up to--they need someone who regularly submits their struggles and sin to God. They need to feel comfortable confessing their own shortcomings, and the leader must assume full responsibility for facilitating a safe environment for this, be it at the pulpit, in a community group, or in a one-on-one encounter.
Once we do this, we face the prospect of spiritual growth, as we will realize that confessing our sins is actually quite hard. Even in the act of confessing something that we did wrong, we will be tempted to describe it in such a way that it does not sound as sinful or serious as our actions truly were. Instead of saying that I yelled at my mother and made her cry, I say that I lost my temper toward her and felt sincerely guilty about it. Can you detect the subtle but clear difference between those two choices of words? Confession simply does not come naturally to us because of our deeply flawed nature.
Over time, we get better at the biblical practice of confession. We hopefully begin to experience a deeper connection with those we serve by letting down our guard and showing them that we have made the same mistakes and are far from the ideal point of our journey. It serves as a form of accountability that liberates rather than constricts. We no longer have to manufacture a false picture of ourselves that simply never existed. Moreover, it has the power to convict us to engage more readily with God by confessing our sins to Him. This posture of vulnerability can lead to a greater understanding of His grace and how God responded to our awful state by taking the entire weight of humanity's sin upon Himself on a cross. No one will ever lead better than Jesus, as no one can ever empty oneself more than He did, giving up His place with the Father of creation and lowering his status to that of a human, a people with desperate needs and a depraved mind.
What better way to initiate this type of gospel-transforming truth than with the act of confession!
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