June 5, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 2:6-7 (NRSV)
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Today’s devotion focuses on a moving and timely example of vulnerable leadership.
In Wednesday’s Life for Leaders devotion I talked about living and leading vulnerably. I suggested that when we’re dealing with a pandemic, racial injustice, and other major challenges, leadership requires vulnerability. There is no other way, no safe path.
Today, I’d like to share with you a moving example of vulnerable leadership. I became aware of this example just a couple of days ago as I was listening to an NPR podcast. The podcast hosts, Steve Inskeep and Noel King, were focusing on the recent protests in Minneapolis associated with the killing of George Floyd.
King reported on a conversation she had with Pastor Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis. She said, “He remembers the civil rights movement and he told me at first, you know, this violence is evil. It should stop. But I got the feeling that he was not telling me the whole truth. So I just asked him a direct question. Is there any part of you that still wants to get out there and burn something down?”
Pastor Herron’s answer was striking: “Oh, please. All day, every day. But for God. But for God – that he makes the difference in my life. Man, you think I’m not mad enough to tear something up, to hurt some folk? But what good would that do? Who would that serve? What purpose would it serve?”
What I found so impressive about Pastor Herron’s statement was his willingness to be so vulnerable. He shared deep, personal, painful feelings in a place where they would be heard throughout the nation. He was putting himself out there honestly and with substantial risk. Yes, a part of him wants to “tear something up, to hurt some folk.” But his faith in God keeps him from acting on those feelings.
Pastor Herron has a track record of vulnerability in his effort to serve his congregation and community. Recently, he has been literally on the front lines of the protests in Minneapolis as someone calling both for justice and for peaceful protests. Talk about vulnerability. He surely has many detractors. Yet Pastor Herron has not pulled back.
I do not know Pastor Brian Herron personally. I hope one day I’ll get to meet him. But today I’m moved by his example of vulnerable leadership. He demonstrates the sort of leadership we need today, with vulnerability that reflects the vulnerability of Jesus. May I also be willing to put myself out there for the sake of God’s justice, peace, and love.
When have you witnessed vulnerability in a leader? How did this strike you?
Have you ever felt pulled in opposite directions, rather like Pastor Herron? Have there been times when you wanted to do something as a leader but God gave you the strength to make a better choice? If so, what was this experience like for you?
Talk with a trusted friend about your leadership and how you might risk greater vulnerability. See if you can come up with one specific thing you might do next week as an expression of Christ-like vulnerability.
Lord Jesus, again we thank you for your vulnerability, for coming among us as a helpless baby. Thank you for your willingness to be weak and needy for our sake.
Thank you also, Lord, for the example of Pastor Herron. Thank you for his openness and for his solid commitment to you. Help him and others like him as they seek both justice and peace. I pray for these leaders today, that you will encourage, empower, and protect them. Use them to lead us all in the direction of your kingdom.
Help me, Lord, to be a vulnerable leader. Give me the courage to put myself out there for you and your kingdom purposes. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: “Blessed are the Merciful, For They Will Receive Mercy” (Matthew 5:7)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.