This weekend his message to me was simple: "I want you to walk with me and others in the rawness of your humanity."
In the midst of some challenges I'm facing, my response has been to bottle up and simply internalize my struggle. I met a new friend on Friday who first challenged me on this . And as I shared this revelation, and the issues currently surrounding it with two dear brothers on Saturday, they also appreciated seeing their friend in a more transparent way.
And as if to reinforce the message, the same issue is covered in a book I'm currently reading.
Toxic Churches: Restoration from Spiritual Abuse, is written by Marc DuPont. I met Marc at a conference here in Charlotte back in 2010. When I shared my background in toxic church situations, he mentioned this book and sent me a copy. I'm reading it for a second time and finding new edifying gems.
Here's a portion of the chapter titled, "Ministering with Transparency, the Jesus Style".
Jesus, living in a deep flow of the Father's perfect love for Him, was not afraid to be vulnerable before His disciples. He says in John 12:27, "Now is my soul troubled". In his intense time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane He was not afraid to tell Peter, James and John that He needed their prayers. At the Last Supper, which we have already looked at, Jesus was not afraid of taking the place of a lowly servant - washing the disciples' feet with His own garments and being partially naked before them. The removal of His outer garments was just as significant to the story as the act of washing their feet. He was not just instructing the disciples to minister one to another but to be vulnerable and transparent with one another.
The age-old distinction of clergy and laity is actually anti-biblical in its connotations. We are all called to be priests in seeking and serving the Lord Jesus. But it is true that not all are called to serve in the capacity of leadership, or fourfold ministry. Be that as it may, however, too many leaders have established barriers between themselves and the church, which lead to devaluation and sometimes abuse. Unfortunately, the worst barrier is probably spiritual pride. when we see Jesus in the gospels, He lived not only as the only begotten Son of God but also very much as a man of the people. He was not afraid to socialize with thieves and prostitutes. He took delight in their humanness. The thieves, beggars, outcasts and prostitutes had no masks of religious pride or outward respectability to hide behind. It was natural for Jesus to find their company more real than that of many of the leaders. In fact, according to Matthew 21:31 Jesus told the chief priests and elders at the Temple that some prostitutes and tax gatherers were entering the Kingdom of God before them.
I highly recommend "Toxic Churches", especially for those of you who have experienced these kinds of churches first hand.
You can order the book at this link.