I got to my car and I began to weep before I could even make it out of the parking lot.The last few stories that he told had him crying, me crying, and many others in that room. I sat in my car and I pondered the things just shared, I felt the conviction of Holy Spirit, I felt the hunger for more, I felt the need to be alone with the One that is always worshipped and glorified when this man speaks, I felt the weight of the privilege we’d just been given. I started my car and I headed towards my spiritual parents house. I came in to the empty house and I just sat. I sat still and I cried out to God. It’s a moment I’ll remember for a very long time. A little later I spoke to another student about the interviews and her response, “I can’t believe how vulnerable he was with us, I can’t believe we get to be here for this, I’m still just so in awe and so thankful”
To be honest it’s not just these interviews that Holy Spirit has been breathing on and using in my life lately, it’s been all of this new teaching. It’s transformational, it lights a fire deeper than I’ve felt in a very long time, I’ll soon be writing on the denominationalism vs apostleship topic (by Kris V.) and how that’s deeply impacting me. However for this blog post, I’ll stick to these interviews. We had the honor of Papa Bill Johnson coming into our class, sitting in a comfortable chair on the stage, and letting us ask him questions for over an hour, two days in a row. He answered honestly, he answered vulnerably, he admitted faults, he talked about areas God deals with him in, he talked about things he does well and not so well, he encouraged us, motivated us, challenged us, made us laugh, made us cry, corrected us, casted vision, and all of it in a way that left us leaving that room hungry for deeper intimacy with God.
I’m writing this post not because of the content of the interviews necessarily, but because of something else on my heart as I reflect on them.
We need leaders who will be real. We need leaders who are vulnerable and honest. At Bethel, that’s just common, it’s something we’re taught and place a high value on. You’ll rarely get through a day where you don’t hear the word “vulnerable” or something to the effect of “check your heart”, “be honest”, “share the real you” etc. I know that’s not so everywhere and I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity to see it modeled here. I believe it is something that God is doing across the body. I believe more and more we’ll see leaders who aren’t afraid to share who they are. The light is being shed on the lies that have held us in bondage for too long. They’re stepping up, less as pastors, and more as fathers. I’ll never forget last year when someone on staff told us (about Bill), “He doesn’t need to be called pastor, just call him dad” and Bill later telling us, “I’ll rather be known as a father than a pastor”. The staff and leaders here model family very well, with their families and spiritual family. They’re personal, accessible, and real. HOWEVER, in vulnerability can come familiarity and in familiarity you can lose honor. I’m not saying this because I haven’t done this before, I’m saying it because I have. As leaders open themselves up and invite people into their world, you begin to see that they’re…. people. They’re incredible people, but they are people. They don’t do everything perfect all the time, they have their own fears, they have their own areas of weakness, they don’t always handle things correctly, and they may not always do things how you think they should. The best example of this is the Psalms. David vulnerably wrote the issues of his heart for the world to see, and in those you find that he wasn’t perfect. He had flaws and yet he was the man after God’s heart and like it or not he was anointed BY GOD.
As you spend time with leaders they can become more like parents, they can even become friends, for some they might even be your spouse, or your biological parent, etc. I don’t have a clue how difficult this might be if John G Lake is your husband, or Smith Wigglesworth is your father. I’m sure it’s hard to live in a home and with someone that the world looks at as a spiritual leader, but it doesn’t change their wisdom, anointning, or appointing.
It’s important that no matter how close to a leader we become that we continue to honor them and recognize the anointing on their life. God anoints and appoints leaders and we shouldn’t ever forget that, from the President to the pastor those offices (and the fact that they’re people) deserve honor and respect.
Kevin Dedmond tells the story of walking with Lonnie Frisbee for years, but never thinking to have Lonnie lay hands on him and impart things into his life. It wasn’t until Lonnie was dead that Kevin realized what he had access to. (the whole testimony is awesome, you should look it up)
You see Lonnie and Kevin were friends, it’s not that he didn’t see the anointing on his life, he was just super familiar with him. I wouldn’t even say (from his telling of the story) that he ever dishonored him, he just didn’t get all he could have while he was alive. When Kevin shares this story all I can think is, “God let me learn from this”.
I’ve been blessed to be around incredibly anointed leaders, pastors, teachers, mentors, people in general, I believe some of them are the generals of our generation that books have been and more will be written about and some were the generals that God placed in MY life to be generals FOR ME. Some I’m extremely close to or were and some (like Bill Johnson or others) I just feel honored to have the personal conversations I’ve been able to have with him and learn from him. I want to soak up all I can from all of it, the ones who I’ve slept in their house, the ones I’m able to call up on the phone, the ones I can email and/or the ones I get to talk to ever so often. It’s important to be aware of who God placed around you, the anointing on their life, and your ability to remain teachable and receive from them, no matter how close you do or don’t become. (I say this because I even believe my spiritual children are anointed and I learn from them as well as I learn from my spiritual parents, pastors, leaders etc.) I’m extremely open and vulnerable with my spiritual children and I let them know some of my worst mistakes and deepest struggles, but they have a responsibly to continue to recognize the anointing on my life, the place God has given me in theirs, and trust me beyond my weaknesses.
Often leaders are afraid to be open, honest, and vulnerable because it’s hurt them in the past. The very nature of vulnerability is that it means you can be wounded. It’s a risk. When a pastor, evangelist (or whoever your leader is) becomes open and honest, or you see sides of them that are “less than perfect” you have the opportunity in your heart to continue to honor and recognize the anointing on their life or begin to choose familiarity. For too long leaders haven’t felt they could be real and vulnerable, so those below them didn’t get the benefits, wisdom, and lessons that come with that. At the same time they felt unable to share because people seemed to lose “respect” for them. I think this goes for everyone not just those that hold offices in the church.
I pray and believe that we are seeing a shift. We are seeing leaders who openly and vulnerably pour into those younger than them (in the natural and in the Spirit). They father them and mother them, unafraid to share faults, weaknesses, hurts, pains, and fears. They bring them into their homes and lives. I pray we are seeing a generation that can receive that wisdom and openness while continuing to recognize the anointing and bestow honor upon them.
I came out of those interviews with more respect for Bill than I’ve ever had. Partly because he honestly is that awesome, but two because he didn’t just share his highlights, he shared his failures, all while turning the subject back to Jesus.
I’ll leave all of that there and share one clip of the interview that wasn’t extremely personal and taught me a lot about watching my own heart and integrity. Q: What is one of the most important things for leaders? A: Your number one responsibility as a leader is to monitor your own heart. If you keep your heart clean you can follow it, but if you let it get infected you can’t trust it. I always keep in mind Proverbs 4:23. For instance, the other day I was at the gas station filling up my car. A man gets out of his car and starts hurling insults at me, yelling, and saying that Jesus Christ was rebuking me. That hurt. It doesn’t matter who you are, I’m a human, and that hurt. This man doesn’t know me, he thinks he does because of media, but he doesn’t know my heart. I had to see the sting of pain in my heart and not allow offense to settle in. If you allow offense to get in and actually take root, you have to make sure you go beyond forgiveness and into a demonstration of forgiveness like prayer for them and if you know them then pursue reconciliation. I didn’t know the man, but I made sure I got back in my car, checked my heart, forgave him, and began to pray for him. If I begin to build a case against him in my mind, then I'm already allow offense in. Another story isn’t mine, but it’s from Bobby Connor. He was at a conference with several well known speakers who were also his friends. They had limited time to spend together and Bobby was excited to see them. As a session was wrapping up he saw a man on the back row with a hood over his face. He felt drawn to the man, but he really wanted to go see his friends. After debating back and forth, he finally went to the man, touched his shoulder, and said I’m so glad you’re here. The man looked up and pulled his hood back, when he did, it was the face of Jesus. Jesus looked into Bobby’s eyes and said, “I’m so glad you’re here”. Never allow your heart to get tainted. Be Blessed, J. Tate