We’ve invited a guest speaker to our church next month. His bio says that he’s a “husband, dad, friend, big sinner enjoying an even bigger grace, unlikely pastor, wanna-be-musician, writer-at-times, a guy with an odd sense of humor (ask my wife).”
When I sent out an email with the bio to our church, I received a confused response. “I noticed that you wrote, after saying he is a great dad and friend, that he is a big sinner. I think you want to say singer?”
He may indeed be a big singer, but what I wrote is no mistake. His bio says that he’s a big sinner. And I love that about him. As Nate Larkin wrote of his ministry, he “talked about his own sin in the present tense and celebrated the mercy of God every Sunday.”
It seems that some of us aren’t used to leading with our sins and our failures. Not everyone writes a bio like our guest speaker, or, as another example, this one:
Jared is not a catalytic “agent of change” or a visionary anything. He is a failed church planter and once made a mess of his marriage. He likes food too much and worries way too much about what people think, and he’s definitely not all that he’s cracked up to be. After 20 years of ministry, he’s mainly learned that he’s kind of a nincompoop. But he knows Jesus loves him.
A Princeton professor is in the news this week because he posted a CV of failures. He listed all the “degree programs I did not get into,” the “academic positions and fellowships I did not get,” and the “paper rejections from academic journals.” It’s a CV of setbacks and failures. It sounds like something the apostle Paul did (2 Corinthians 11:30). And I love it.
Dan Allender once wrote:
To the degree you face and name and deal with your failures as a leader, to that same extent you will create an environment conducive to growing and retaining productive and committed relationships in ministry. Sometimes the quickest path up is down, and likewise, the surest success comes through being honest about failure.
Let’s start being honest with our failures. It’s a good antidote to image management, and a great door to creating safety and honesty for others.