Culture

What do courage and vulnerability look like in the Church?

by Justine Ocampo // June 20, 2019, 4:44 pm

BRENE BROWN

People often see vulnerability – letting your authentic self and your raw emotions be seen – as weakness. Showing you’ve got everything together, on the other hand, is somehow equated to strength, even if you’re putting on a front.

But here’s the truth, as renowned social researcher Brené Brown puts it: Vulnerability is necessary, especially if we want to make authentic connections with each other. 

And regardless of whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, vulnerability is difficult. It takes a huge amount of courage to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is the act of “showing up when you have no control of the outcome” and “allowing yourself to be seen”.

If you haven’t already seen Brown’s Netflix specialThe Call to Courage, or seen her more-famous TED talk on vulnerability, I suggest adding it to your to-watch list.

Her relatable anecdotes and observations on vulnerability, shame and authenticity are sure to get you thinking – as it did for me. She’s also very funny.

In her one hour on stage, Brené describes vulnerability as the act of “showing up when you have no control of the outcome” and “allowing yourself to be seen”. Two rather terrifying statements, if you ask me.

Nervousness and fear never fail to kick in right before I decide to share a thanksgiving in cell group, before sharing my opinions at work or reaching out to make a new friend. It’s so scary to be vulnerable because to be vulnerable is to basically be open to judgement, rejection and to others potentially hurting you.

Rejection drove me in the right direction

But what if we chose not to be vulnerable? Then there would be no relationships, at least not deep and real ones, because good relationships require vulnerability! And we were created to thrive in relationships – with Christ and with each other.

So here’s the deal: If we want to nurture a unified body of Christ and reflect loving and welcoming Church communities to non-Christians, we need to stop focusing on being perfect Christians and start moving towards being vulnerable Christians instead.

So how can we begin nurturing a culture in our Church that encourages authentic connections with each other instead of upholding a picture-perfect religion?

VULNERABILITY 101: THE BIG FOUR

1. Be vulnerable in our relationship with God

The first and most important connection we need to build in our lives is our personal relationship with God. By first pursuing an authentic and deep relationship with our Father, our relationships with others will naturally follow suit and begin to flourish as well. That’s how a thriving community is formed.

A pleasing offering to God doesn’t mean only giving Him our best, it also means surrendering to Him our worst.

To be vulnerable in our personal time with God means to allow ourselves to be fully seen by Him. Not only through confessing every sin and trouble in our hearts, but also through sharing all our joys, our thanksgivings and even our desires with God.

Allowing our lives to be a pleasing offering to God doesn’t mean only giving Him our best; it also means surrendering to Him our worst. And as our loving and ever-faithful Creator, there’s isn’t a safer and easier person to bare our soul to.

Seeing God as a loving Father

2. Be vulnerable to our leaders  

The next group of people we should open ourselves up to are our leaders. Trusting your leaders may take time, especially if you’ve been hurt by a leader before, but I encourage to allow yourself to be open once again and trust in the divine appointment of God in placing such a leader in your life for the purpose of leading you closer to Him.

The idea of being accountable to our leaders may trigger dread or even defiance. Thoughts like “it doesn’t really concern them”, “they can’t help me”, “they’ll judge me” and “I’ll get into trouble” may float around our heads – leading us to silence and isolation.

I must confess: Why should someone else know my secrets?

But whether it’s your direct cell leader or perhaps a mentor in church whom you feel safe to be accountable to, being vulnerable to our leaders is a necessary step to encouraging more authentic connections amongst the body of Christ. Furthermore, it’s the entry point for the love and joy of Christ to fill our lives and our cell groups.

3. Be vulnerable as a leader

If you’re a leader, being vulnerable to your members may seem counter-intuitive. Leaders are projected as people who are spiritually stable, someone who has everything together, the perfect role model, a person fully equipped to know all the answers. But in reality, leaders are struggling and are just as flawed as everyone else – and it’s completely fine to show it.

What am I worth if I’ve failed as a leader?

God has a record of using people for their weaknesses and flaws. Similarly, as leaders, we become more usable by God in our weakness. Members who see “perfect” leaders could feel pressured to be perfect as well, which can lead to a sense of shame and fear in bringing their struggles to light.

But if we model honesty by courageously revealing our battle scars and maybe even our fresh wounds from our journey with God, a fuller picture of Christ and the Christian journey is painted, leading members into more authentic relationships with Jesus and with each other.

We must place our faith in God and not in our own abilities as leaders. The salvation and the working of your members’ salvation is not fully on you as their leader; it’s fully on God as the Great Shepherd.

4. Be vulnerable in your marketplace

Lastly, as Christians, are we able to lean into the difficult conversations about our faith and build honest connections with others of different beliefs?

Jesus opened Himself up to eat and be in fellowship with the people around Him. He lowered Himself to be in a position of servitude, and He wasn’t afraid of letting others witness His grief and pain. He bared His heart and what blossomed out of it was a deeper revelation of who God is for those around Him.

Vulnerability builds bridges between our Church and the community outside it, but most importantly, our vulnerability also reveals more of who God is to others. Our willingness to be honest and real about our faith with the people around us – in our schools or work or even at home – opens up more paths for others to be led to Jesus.

What is “fellowship”, really?

On a side note, while the onus of being vulnerable lies with each individual, it’s also good to remember that we should work towards being a person whom others feel safe being vulnerable towards.

Just think about the kind of person we feel safe around, and then be that person for others. Perhaps it’s a person who is quick to listen and slow to judge, a person who is wise and discerning, or a person who isn’t afraid to speak the truth in love.

We’re all capable of answering the call to courage and to be vulnerable with Christ in our vessel. It may be horrifying to step into the unknown and let ourselves be seen. It may be terrifying when we have no control over the outcome.

But we can have the faith and assurance to take courage and show up, because we can trust that Christ is always in control, and He is always good.

THINK + TALK

  1. When are you most fearful of being vulnerable? 
  2. What qualities of a person make you feel safe to open up to them? 
  3. Are there any areas or communities in your life where you wish to nurture more authentic connections? 
About the author

Justine Ocampo

Justine doesn't wear a watch, but she's always just-ine time, just-ine case you were wondering.