This post occurred to me when I was reading Tim Challies review of the book “Accidental Saints” by Nadia Bolz-Weber (and it’s a excellent review). He was describing his perspective on reading about her life and ministry when he said, “Somehow she equates transparency with suitability, as if her abundance of flaws, foibles, and outright sin serve as a résumé, as if they are evidence of godliness.” The line “she equates transparency with suitability” stopped me in my tracks – especially in light of how trendy the concept of “transparency” has become in the church today.
Don’t get me wrong. Even beyond the Biblical mandates of integrity, I’ve written on how important transparency is in light of this digital culture. That DUI you got in college you thought everyone had forgotten about? Guess what – it will show up in a Google search. The river of information that flows into Google tells us that as leaders, we need to be more transparent than ever because in a digital age we simply can’t hide anymore.
But the flip side is that too many pastors and ministry leaders believe that as long as I’m fully “transparent” then I’m qualified to be a leader. They blurt out their divorce publicly, then assume they don’t have to take time away from the pulpit for counseling or restoration. They drop F bombs to prove they’re “real.” They abusively treat their staff with contempt because “I’m just speaking the truth.” They disrespect other people’s time or miss appointments completely because “that’s just the way I am.”
The greatest leaders take their role seriously, and know it’s not about them, it’s about the people they lead. The rest are simply pretenders. They’re people as Tim describes who’s “schtick is not cool. It’s not funny. It’s not shocking or edgy. It’s stupid, it’s bland, it’s old, it’s boring, it has already been tried and found wanting.”