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How to Lead Out of Weakness (Part 3)

Part One, Part Two

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. —2 Corinthians 12:9

When we talk about leading out of weakness, sometimes it can come across as a cop-out for poor leadership.

In the dirt and blood and tears of pastoral leadership, we need called, qualified men who can take a hit—because the hits keep coming. And that’s our tension with weakness-talk in leadership. We know the Bible puts forward this idea of leading out of weakness, yet we also know that the church needs strong leaders.

Paul, who embraced his weakness (Part One) by the grace of God, could also say, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).

As pastors and church planters, we don’t use “leading out of weakness” as a get-out-of-jail-free card to exonerate habitual sin or poor leadership. The weakness paradox of 2 Corinthians 12 means by God’s grace we can boast in our weakness (Part Two) and lean on Christ for power to grow in holiness and wisdom.

Simply put: Leading out of weakness is paradoxical. This means we lead in a tension—we don’t deny or despair over our weaknesses, but we depend on the Lord.

Brothers, Denial is Dangerous

We don’t deny our weaknesses, acting like we’ve got it all together. Jesus told us:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

—Matthew 20:25-28

In leadership, the denial of our weaknesses and limits is a damned attempt to be first. The Lord of Creation knows this, and He instructs us to follow His example.

Leading out of weakness means we know our weaknesses and limits. We’re open to talk about them, and we stop playing at being the Messiah for those we lead.

If we view leadership as a show of brutish strength, we need to stop pretending and get real with ourselves and others. Through our service, we need to lead others to the Savior!

Brothers, Despair is Dangerous

We also don’t despair in our weaknesses, becoming consumed with our limits.

Despairing leaders struggle with comparison (Read: The Comparison Game). They can also deal with their weaknesses by looking for unending affirmation from those they lead. 

If this unending search for validation characterizes you, remember that Paul knew he wasn’t cut out to lead the church. He said, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

Trust in God’s grace, brothers! You are breathing and bearing your pastoral work because of God’s gracious choice. Rest in Him. Let your weakness drive you to depend on Christ.

As long as we depend on the people we lead to affirm our calling, we will drown in our weaknesses and inabilities. Their affirmation will never be enough in light of our weakness.

The truth is we don’t need more people in our churches being real about their weaknesses. That’s just half the picture. We need more weak people clinging to Jesus! As leaders, we simply get to limp ahead of the rest.

Brothers, Depend on the Lord

Paradoxically, our greatest strength can become our greatest weakness, while our greatest weakness can become our greatest strength.

I mentioned in part one of this series that I daily feel my emotional weakness—I don’t like saying it, but I’m a sensitive person. However, that sensitivity makes me a better pastor while simultaneously humbling me. My weakness is my strength.

On the other hand, the Lord has given me strong ambition and drive. I love starting new projects and having lots of irons in the fire. However, unchecked my ambition as a lead pastor can create a leadership culture of haste and biting off more than our church can chew. My strength is my weakness.

Imitation matters (Jn. 13:12-15; 1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Thess. 3:7; Heb. 13:7).

People do what people see. Do people see us leaning on our own leadership strengths, or do they see us leaning on the Lord as we’re painfully aware of our weaknesses?

Because at the end of the day, Jesus builds His church with weak people.

And if the Jesus we love and praise and honor and serve gets more credit through our weaknesses, then shouldn’t we boast all the more in them?

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