Written by Jonathan Moua. Media by Katie Wallace.
Honesty is rarely ever talked about as a discipline. It is a virtue. Something we all should strive to have. Something we value in an age of moral decline. But what if we see honesty as a discipline? What if honesty is something we should practice so that in tough times, we have friends who know the truth, who can stand beside us and who can keep us accountable?
There are a few incidents from this past year that come to mind when I think about going into ministry. These stories scare me to death. As a pastor-in-training, the last thing I want is for my future ministry to crumble underneath me as those around me, who I have poured my life into, scrutinize me and begin to question everything that I do.
Whether it’s Michael Gungor’s decision to be honest about how he feels regarding the interpretation of scripture, Vicky Beeching and her decision to choose a lifestyle of homosexuality, Pastor David Cho and the scandal that he is involved with which deals with over $12 million, or Pastor Mark Driscoll’s resignation which was in response to his credibility as a pastor and follower of Christ due to his preaching style and personality – these leaders in the Church are now facing a predicament that I hope no one ever has to see personally. Their integrity and character are now being questioned. Christians are wondering if they can trust the teachings and the songs of these leaders.
But what really matters in these situations is this: what’s happening behind closed doors? Are these leaders attending to God in their time of prayer, in daily scripture reading, and in their spiritual direction? Eugene Peterson states in Working the Angles that these three things are the real work of a pastor and leader – not what we would normally believe, like preaching a great sermon. It’s not about making a cool arrangement of an old hymn into contemporary style, it’s not about giving good advice, and it’s certainly not about keeping up your reputation. Even with these three angles, still, something seems to be missing for me. How did these prestigious leaders find themselves in such negative situations? Who is speaking on their behalf, negating all the claims thrown against them?
And how are we, as leaders in the places that we are called to be, supposed to keep on track with our own integrity?
How many of us take time to be intentional with someone, meeting them for the sake of having someone who you can be completely honest with? I’m not talking about a vent session. I’m talking about pure, raw, and honest vulnerability. I would like all of us to have the ability, time, and resources to do this and I believe the gift to be given to us already. As Christians, we already have Christ as the center in all of our relationships with one another. What more do we need, than to have a Savior who died but lives again, standing us so that we may begin to be honest with each other? But… if I’m going to be real, many of us still have secrets.
“There are just things about my life that people do not need to know and I’m going to keep it that way.” This mentality of a solo, do-it-
yourself Christian life is so common among us young adults, and even more common among pastors in the field of ministry. It sets us up for failure. However, there is somewhat of a divine loneliness that exists, that comes with knowing the truth of Christ. It is a loneliness that can be satisfied by none other than Christ himself, but by no means is Christ calling every Christian to live in seclusion. He lived his ministry surrounded by His twelve disciples, withdrawing when the situation called for it. If we are to take Christ as an example, it is to live in honest, open community. It is to seek those who we can be honest within our lives and practice being vulnerable with them.
“Now is not the time and place. I need to have someone I have been friends with for a long time in order to open myself up.” My response is, if not now then when? And if not here, then where? I’m not saying that we should spill our guts to a complete, random, total stranger on campus but, if the Holy Spirit is moving you to be vulnerable, open, and honest, we must trust in Him to provide the healing that comes after confession.
I’ve told many of my friends that I wish they could read my mind so they could know how and what I think, but that would be the rejection of the gift that God gives us. We have the ability to be honest with each other. My prayer is that we begin to use this gift and that we begin to discipline ourselves so that we may create true lives of integrity and character that will prepare us for any situation we may have to face.