Why It's Better to Be Real Than Good in Ministry

Your congregation would much rather see authentic leaders than those who are performance-driven. (Geralt via Pixabay)

Sometimes we look for professionals to help us learn things.

I was once on a flight that was diverted from John Wayne Airport to LAX, which prompted a wave of sighs from passengers as well as a conversation between me and the guy seated next to me on the plane named Steve Springer.

He happened to have a pretty cool job helping major league baseball players become better hitters. He had text conversations going with some of baseball's current stars and household names. All-Star player Paul Goldschmidt says, "Steve connects the dots for me."

Steve runs a pretty cool website—Quality At-Bats—where he offers his training to anyone from Peewee to the pros.

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If you want to be a better hitter in baseball, you need a pro. You need someone with skills and knowledge you don't currently possess who can show you the exact steps you need to take to improve your game. You need Steve Springer.

When I started out in ministry, I thought what I needed most was this kind of specialized knowledge and training. I needed skills. I needed to know more about theology, about leadership, about church systems and structures, and about how to manage a nonprofit organization.

Then came the day my life was falling apart.

It's actually possible to be highly-trained, highly-paid and highly-regarded in your leadership role and to be absolutely crumbling to pieces on the inside.

We see it all too often, don't we? The headlines read something like ... "Super Dude [Insert Name], Pastor of Awesome and Huge Megachurch, Author of 83 Books and Host of Syndicated Christian Television Program Resigns, Confesses to [Insert Crime, Scandal, Cover-Up]."

I wasn't super successful. Nor was I involved in any newsworthy scandal. But there was a widening gap between who I really was and who I wanted everyone else to think I was. And it was leaving me in pain and shame.

So, I went to see Bob.

Bob was on our church's staff and offered to other staff members (there were about 500 of us) his counseling services with the promise that, unless legally necessary, he would never share our struggles or pain with anyone, even our supervisors.

Bob was trained. And he was smart. But Bob was something else, too.

Bob was real.

As I shared with Bob my issues with anger and resentment and how I was surprised at my own behavior in conflict, Bob shared with me his own story of having been a drill sergeant in the military where he learned to yell at people, then navigating marriage, family, and ministry.

He'd learned about brokenness, about healing, and about how we recover, in community, from our hurts, habits and hang-ups. And he'd created a pretty vast network of highly trained lay counselors to offer care to the souls of hurting people.

My small group was also real.

When we met, we'd go around the circle and ask the basic question: "How are the Goleys? How are the Kotrbas? How are the Sonnenburgs?"

They'd all share their highs and lows, prayer requests, struggles, blessings and life issues.

They'd offer each other encouragement and prayer.

Then someone would say, "How are the Coxes?"

And we were fine. We were just fine. We were OK. Really.

No issues with the Coxes. We're alright.

And then a few weeks in, when the question was asked, my wife didn't say we were fine. She said we were not doing so well.

My head turned in her direction and I leaned a little closer, wondering what beans she was about to spill about me. About us. About us not being the perfect little family.

And the Goleys, Kotrbas and Sonnenburgs helped us heal. They prayed over us and walked us through some real pain.

What we experienced among that small group of friends would shape the very heart of the church we would go on to start in Northwest Arkansas.

My pastor was real.

Rick Warren is a world-renowned pastor, bestselling author and philanthropist who has prayed over presidents, sat with world leaders a billionaires talking about how to fix the biggest problems on the planet.

He's also the guy who says Mastercard saved his marriage.

A few years into planting Saddleback Church, Rick and Kay were struggling desperately. They couldn't afford counseling back then, so they put it on credit card.

While Rick doesn't officially recommend financing counseling services with a credit card, he does encourage anyone and everyone to go get counseling.

We all need it from time to time, just like we need to get a physical now and then and our teeth cleaned and checked.

After all, what good is a healthy body with a dying soul?

I've learned now, more than ever, that we need people in our lives who will be real.

And just as importantly, we need people who will let us be real and will still love us.

When you want to increase your batting average, become a more proficient public speaker or structure your organization to develop more leaders, you need some specialized knowledge and training.

But when you're trying to grow from the inside out, get healing for your wounded soul or live up to your full potential, you need people who are real.

If you're reading this and you're involved in any kind of life-on-life ministry or business— teaching, pastoring, counseling and so on—take to heart one of the foundational core values of our church:

We keep it real and fight against fake. We live and lead with authenticity.

Because without authenticity, proficiency just sets you up to be a much bigger disaster.

For the original article, visit brandonacox.com.

Brandon A. Cox planted Grace Hills Church in Bentonville, Arkansas, in July 2011 and serves as the lead pastor. He previously served as a pastor under Rick Warren at Saddleback Church and developed the online global community of Pastors.com. He is also a coach to leaders, pastors and church planters.

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Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.

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