Yes, I am Messed Up: A Journey of Learning to be Vulnerable

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I still remember it like it was yesterday: I was in Estes Chapel at Asbury Seminary listening to Chris Heuertz preach and he said one of the most profound things I had ever heard. “Vulnerability is not spewing your whole life on every person you meet; vulnerability is allowing people to be so part of your life that if they wanted to hurt you, they could.” Game changer. 

I had come from a very hard season in life and for the sake of survival I had become an Island unto myself. Yet, when I was in a community of believers that was safe and truly loved me, I did not know how to get off of my island. So I began the journey of becoming vulnerable and I still remember the moment I cracked. During a time of prayer, I confessed to my friends that I was a hypocritical, self-loathing, porn watching pastor and seminarian. I was broken and I could not do this Christian thing without them. The unconditional love and acceptance was more than I ever dreamed of, but it was quickly replaced with the shame of having “spilled my guts” and with learning what it actually means to be vulnerable in community. That’s why Chris’s words were so profound. 

In the years following that prayer meeting and subsequent chapel, being authentic and vulnerable in community, work, dating relationships, and family has been difficult. It has been trial and error of learning what to say, how much to say, and when to say it, while simultaneously trying to let my actions and accomplishments speak for themselves. My thinking was if I accomplish a lot, people will not see my vulnerability as weakness. I could never go back to not being vulnerable because I had never felt more human, but vulnerability is viewed as weakness in our culture. I have been told I am less manly, will be eaten alive if I show my weakness, shamed for caring, etc etc. I responded by showing I was strong, a man’s man, and selectively choosing who I was vulnerable with. Yet, I am not sure that was the best response.

Henri Nouwen in his book In the Name of Jesus says “the great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.” In my weakness, Christ is strong. In my vulnerability, Christ is glorified because the attempts of the enemy on my life have been destroyed and it is clearly shown that Christ has done the work. Vulnerability is essential to the Christian journey because it destroys shame and brings honor to Christ and His work. But what does that look like in a world that values strength, accomplishment, and perfection? In the coming posts, I will unpack a few things I have learned about vulnerability as well as a few resources that have helped me simultaneously become vulnerable while surviving in a world that isn’t. 

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Some days you just miss Texas.

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My Review of J. Ellsworth Kalas’s Book Preaching in an Age of Distraction

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To purchase the book, click here

Preaching is one of the most important parts of a pastor’s life. Some might say it is the most important part of their job. Thus, it is important for pastors to continue learning about the art of preaching and for better ways to communicate to an audience that is increasingly “distracted.” This is why sr. homilist J. Ellsworth Kalas’s new book Preaching in an Age of Distraction from Intervarsity Press is so important. Kalas has been in pulpit ministry for over 50 years and his latest book gives insight into preaching on a meta-level, while dropping practical jewels to successful pulpit ministry throughout. 

Kalas uses the analogy of “distraction” to describe the world we live in and says “distractions present a double peril for us preachers and teachers. As communicators we have to find ways to hold the attention of people who live in the world of distractions (11).” As preachers and teachers, we must learn to use the good of distraction and move past the negative to be men and woman who communicate excellently and live as people who are becoming like Jesus. 

Kalas explains what preachers should not be with this warning: “by poor preaching I mean parching that is insincere or that is carelessly prepared (which, in truth, is another expression of insincerity). By poor preaching I mean preaching that is without a gospel- that is, without the good news of Christ that brings salvation. By poor preaching i mean preaching that is short on love for God and the human race. By poor preaching I mean preaching that is not doctrinally sound. By poor preaching I mean preaching that is not winsome and persuasive. By poor preaching I mean preaching that does not bring salvation to sinners and growth in Christ to believers (133).” To be effective preachers in an age of distraction, pastors must move past poor preaching and become excellent communicators.

Distractions are real and the preacher must learn to rise above it. Kalas’s book helps preachers rise above. I recommend it for preachers everywhere. 

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Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God’s hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o’erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

- Veni Creator Spiritus
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