“Leaders who are looked to constantly, who give our answers competently, who everyone assumes are living what they are saying often have acute experiences of dissonance. Who I am and what people think I am isn’t anywhere close to being the same thing.”
From Eugene Petersen : Christ plays in 10,000 places
Another danger of itinerant (and even regular) speaking is that people form opinions of you that are based on a ‘charicature’ rather than on really knowing you. Because the up front persona often neccessitates a level of competence and confidence, its possible for people to see you as someone you are not and to have expectations that are neither true nor fair.
There are times I like up front speaking because it makes me look different to the person I really am – I look like the ‘all together guy’. And its even nice to feel like people think that!
However I think as I’ve got a little older I’ve come to realise there is always a dissonance between the ‘profile’ and the person and these days its not so much because I want people to see me as something special. Its more because people actually want someone to look to – someone who is a picture of spiritual vitality and competence in discipleship etc etc. People want to know there is someone out there who can actually live the faith – even if its not true!
What would it do to the folks in our churches if we as leaders were to admit that we are no more competent than them in our discipleship?
Would they believe us?
I reckon if we are gifted public communicators they will struggle to believe that. There is a vibe that often goes with good communication that makes a person seem to have it all together. If we fumble over words and are boring then people might see us as other mere mortals. Such is the power and deception of public presence. And yes – I do believe its possible to be a gifted public communicator and also genuine in discipleship.
I think one of the strengths of the smaller church / network structure is that its quite difficult to hide behind ‘knock em dead’ public persona. You don’t ‘preach’ to 12 people! You can’t. It’d feel dumb. So leadership and inspiration occurs more thru the true reality of personal influence and integrity rather than the imagined reality that ‘my pastor is a spiritual superhero’.
I remember at a YS conference Mike Yaconelli saying that ‘we (ministers) impersonate ourselves’. I didn’t get it for quite a while… But I reckon its a great description of what we fall into as spiritual leaders – putting on the appearance of the person we want people to think we are.
The flip side of this is that there is power and value in the sermonic form to inspire and encourage people, as well as to provide some aspects of visonary type leadership. The difficulty is in doing it all while retaining an accurate perception of yourself and while helping others not to depend on your own charisma.
Anyway that’s my Monday morning reflection!
Now I’m off to start that SCUBA course.