May 09, 2024

By Blake Whiteman

In my life and throughout my discipleship journey I have struggled with wanting to be perceived as being right more than wanting to do what is right. I think the struggle is mostly motivated by fear, self-protection and hurts from the past. Some of it comes from seeking the praises of others and the applause of what some would call effective leadership over faithful obedience to truth. Some of it is fueled by a lack of faith and trust in the Lord, that choosing to do what is right, instead of fighting to protect myself from being perceived as wrong, will actually result in wellness for all involved. The truth is though, no matter the motivation of my heart or the actual decisions I’ve made, it’s all been offered out of a desire to serve the Lord, love others and make disciples. Maybe you have a similar battle. For me, I have found great freedom, help, change and encouragement along the way to becoming a more mature disciple and disciple-maker. A major turning point for me in this battle was embracing this truth shared by Craig Groeschel:

“People may admire you for your strengths, but they will connect with you through your weaknesses.”

I liked that people admired me when I was right, but it was so painful to realize that I wasn’t connecting with others because I wasn’t willing to share my weaknesses with them. Ugh. I realized that the right thing to do was to stop fighting to be right and start fighting to be honest. To be real. To be open. To be weak. In order to connect with others relationally for the purpose of discipleship I needed to become intentionally vulnerable.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth regarding a heart-wide-open, freely spoken, fully offered, affection for others that invites them to break free from withholding and having closed hearts:

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (NIV) – 11We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

In my fear and self-protection, I had a closed heart that resulted in withheld affection and limited to little connection with others. If I desired a “fair exchange” from others, I realized that I needed to open up my heart and affection, to be vulnerable and invite them to do the same.

Here are 3 practical ways I put in to practice the principle of being intentionally vulnerable in relational discipleship:

1. Leaders go First

If I am trying to cultivate honesty, transparency and vulnerability in a relationship for the purpose of connecting, I choose to be honest, transparent and vulnerable first. In wisdom and with discretion I can share my fears, struggles, failures, and weaknesses with others as an invitation for them to share in return. As a disciple-maker I go first.

2. A Sacrifice of Love

Being willing to be vulnerable is risky. It’s possible that you can get hurt by opening your honest heart and sharing your story with others. It is a choice that is to be made in love. Being intentionally vulnerable is a sacrifice for the sake of others. Sacrifice is by definition to surrender or give up, or permit disadvantage to, for the sake of something (or someone) else. It’s worth the sacrifice and the risk for the sake of helping someone else open up because I opened up first.

3. Share the Truth to Declare the Truth

This is a fun tag line I try to remember in discipling. My desire as a disciple-maker is for others to know God and His truth. The most connectable and relatable pathway to declaring God’s truth comes through sharing the truth about myself and how God’s truth is at work in my journey. This requires honesty through vulnerability. If I share my failures, I get to share about God’s grace. If I share about my fears, I get to share about God’s love. If I share about my struggles, I get to share about God’s faithfulness.

In order to connect with others relationally for the purpose of discipleship we can choose to become intentionally vulnerable.

Blake Whiteman is Lead Pastor, Real Life Ministries, Coeur d’Alene, ID

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