How Technology has Made Vulnerability a Must for the Church
Vulnerability doesn’t come easily to most of us. Many of us live with the fear of looking weak, being rejected, not having value and countless other forms of weakness, but most of us work pretty hard to cover it up. Going back to the Old Testament, Adam pointed to Eve to deflect blame in the garden. Not wanting to be vulnerable is something that is and has always been core to humanity.
One of the most common forms we see this in is our desire to not look stupid. Today, we have learned that we need to have answers. If we don’t have the answers, we usually don’t broadcast our ignorance. We no longer live in a time like pre-enlightenment, where we are comfortable with the mystery of life. We live in the world of cause and effect. Often our first response when something unexpected happens is to look for the source that put it in motion. That’s because cause and effect, knowing answers, and unraveling mystery are culturally hardwired at this point. Additionally, with the rate of technological advancement, our lifetime has seen unprecedented advances. This has made our world much smaller, both figuratively and practically. Travel is simple and quick, unlike ever before. Seeing the world in all its various contexts isn’t just something for explorers any longer. Many people have stood both on glaciers and the African plains. Due to the internet and social media, communication, interaction, and engagement have never been more available.
The effects of these advances have led to many cultural changes in how we relate to each other. One of the ways that we have to adjust is our willingness to be vulnerable. Everywhere you go, someone is trying to sell you on something. (Don’t assume the irony of that comment is lost on me.) I realize that you are reading this in a blog written by a company that sells a product. I am the first to admit that we would love for you to consider using aware3 to help your church. We love what we do and are proud of what we have built. But one of our primary goals is to be helpful to those we come in contact with. If you find value in something we share, wonderful. Nothing else is expected.
So back to the point: since we are constantly bombarded by agendas and pulled in a hundred directions at once, we have all become a bit weary. This distrust, in many cases, is warranted. That is why in survey after survey, Jesus has a higher public favorability than his church. Many of these ideas have been triggered in me by reading Getting Naked: A business fable about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty. Here are a few ideas of how we, as church leaders, can be vulnerable in how we do ministry:
Who is first?
We all want to see our churches grow. However, this desire can be a destructive force if we want our church to grow more than we want to see people grow. If you have ever grown a garden, it seems like some plants have a mind of their own. They grow this way and that way. People’s faith journeys are like that sometimes as well. Being vulnerable as a church can mean that you put the growth of the people, individual and/or collectively, above the growth of the institution. A genuine posture of desiring the best for someone is infectious.
Show your weakness
The core of the gospel message is a pleading for help because we can’t do it on our own. It is ironic that we, myself included, are so reluctant to own our weaknesses and failures. Social media has been significantly helpful in letting us highlight the best of ourselves and minimize the worst. When you are trying to hold it together and have one of those days when you feel like you’re not being the best parent you can be, you rarely post the Instagram of your kids eating ramen. But there are days, when dehydrated noodles feel like the best we can pull off. At least that is true for me. Invite people into who you are- the good, bad and otherwise, and take comfort in knowing that they are also in the same boat as you.
Putting other’s well being first establishes the trust that you have other’s best interests at heart. Exposing your own weaknesses creates the safety for others to engage. If they think you have everything figured out, they are not going to be very willing to show you that they don’t. Leaning in happens after you have established trust and safety. This is taking the risk to get into the messiness of life with others. Leaning in is less about sharing advice and giving direction, and more about scooting to the front of your seat, putting your chin in your hands and inviting someone with a question. “Tell me more about that”. It is more about empathy than information.
If you are unsure about the cost of not being vulnerable, Brene Brown shares the impact of numbing vulnerability:
How can being vulnerable transform your community and grow connection?