It may seem counter-intuitive, but I have found stepping into visible leadership roles to be a deeply humbling experience. In a culture that often expects our leaders to know everything and often blames them for anything that goes wrong, being put in the position to actually practice public leadership can be terrifying! As a leader, the contrast between who I am and who I would like to be is brought into sharp relief. I come face to face with my own inadequacy, all the ways that I am weak, ignorant and unfit to lead. It may be that I seem confident to others, but on the inside I wrestle with the fact that I do not have all the gifts that my community needs.
The role of authentic, affirming leadership is to encourage, strengthen and empower the gifts of each individual, so that together we can become one living organism, growing to full maturity in the Holy Spirit. Rather than looking to an individual or group of leaders to provide everything we need, we must instead look within and discover what gifts God has given each one of us. How we are called to use these gifts to build up the body of Christ, the communities where we find Jesus alive and at work?
Another obstacle is our false sense of humility: We may downplay our own gifts and expect other, more extraordinary, people to carry the weight of the community. While this kind of false modesty can seem very “spiritual” at first glance, it is actually part and parcel of the same mutilating dynamic that elevates some gifts over others. None of us benefit if part of our community is withholding its gifts. As long as we defer to the limited perspective of only certain individuals and gifts, we cannot become fully whole.