In the 2011 film Limitless (which has since become a CBS show), author Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) has a bad case of writer’s block. So money is tight and his girlfriend dumps him. Eddie’s struggle is, in fact, against flesh and blood — against his own humanity and its limitations
But then he swallows the pill… NZT-48, to be exact. It is a “smart drug” that gets Eddie’s brain firing on all neurons, which raises his IQ, gives him a superhuman ability to learn and analyze information, and elevates his ambition. So, (super)naturally, he runs for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Because only really smart people can run for political office, right?
Being limitless, it seems, is an especially American dream, affecting everything from our credit lines to our waistlines. We are constantly searching for a “pill” to help us escape the limitations of our humanity.
Sadly, as Mandy Smith, author of The Vulnerable Pastor, states in Episode 21 of the RePLACING CHURCH Podcast, rather than follow the lead of the very vulnerable crucified Christ we claim to follow, the church typically joins in this lust for the limitless life:
“Everything in our culture has taught us [that] if you find an inadequacy in yourself then that’s a sign you need to buy something, you need to work harder, you need to be ashamed of the fact that you have a failing because you’re the only one. Even as Christians in churches we have adopted those postures as well and so we’ve forgotten how to do what the people of God have done throughout the history of this faith, [namely], when we find that inadequacy, [it’s] our cue to call out to the Father.”
Churches have, at least in part, adopted these postures of projecting strength and confidence because our church leaders and pastors have fallen prey to the myth of the limitless pill. Rather than admitting, “I don’t know,” or confessing, “I don’t feel like enough to…,” church leaders too often bury their inadequacies and insecurities, which has dire consequences for their relationships with God, the church and the world.
In The Vulnerable Pastor, Smith proposes another way to lead in the church — we acknowledge our limitations, our inadequacies, our weakness. In our conversation, she posed the central question of her book:
“What does it look like to actually let yourself as a human being be seen and trust that somehow God has called us as humans to lead his church and to be his church? There must be some way for us to be the church as humans and trust that his Spirit is the one that can be strong even in our limitation.”
Mandy Smith’s experience-born perspectives on church leadership are much needed in a western world and church that continues to pop limitless pills. Her insights forge a way through the pomp and circumstance that characterizes much of contemporary evangelical Christianity. The Vulnerable Pastor gives pastors and parishioners alike permission to be human, and by admitting that, “Nobody really fits the stereotype of who a leader should be,” Smith invites participation from a whole new wave of leaders who never really saw themselves in the well-chiseled pastoral portrait typically purveyed anyway.
A church led by vulnerable pastors and leaders? The possibilities seem, well, limitless!
Check out Episode 21 of the RePLACING CHURCH Podcast as Mandy Smith joins me to talk about her book, The Vulnerable Pastor, her own journey into vulnerability, and vulnerability as it relates to leadership, prayer, marginalization and vocation.
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