“Dad, weren’t you just in the church service?!” I’ve heard that more than once from my all-too-astute kids as I pulled out of the parking lot on Sunday and promptly gave them a visual lesson in “do as I say, not as I do.”
This may be shocking, but I’m actually human—and a deeply flawed one, at that. So it was only a matter of time before my kids recognized my cape as more of a cover-up for my deficiencies than a rudder to help me soar like a superhero.
Here’s the truth: When we’re in close proximity with other people, our defects are highlighted. When people spend enough time in our living room (i.e., the space where we live, not teach lessons), they start to notice the artwork hanging there, or the lack thereof. They see the worst we have to offer.
Our hypocrisies can be nasty holes in the wall that we unsuccessfully try to camouflage. They also can become a gallery of highlighted works of art—masterpieces we use to create a space that’s warm, welcoming, and inspiring.
Early on, I realized I wasn’t very good at pretending to be someone I’m not. So I’ve never struggled with the veneer of a put-together life. Instead, I choose to embrace my character’s dents and scratches and even throw some track lighting on them as though they were special…
…because they are special. The Jesus-life is fraught with “Pharisaical-ness” and inconsistencies on my part. And they give me every opportunity to highlight Christ’s radical, ridiculous mercy and grace—while genuinely navigating, in front of onlookers, what it means to strive for holiness. Hypocrisy and leadership weaknesses become malignant only when we let them fester without recognition or treatment.
And it’s not just our families who see these idiosyncrasies. If we “do life” with students in a real, relational way, they see them, too. They watch us drive right by homeless people without a word, yell at our kids without cause, or do a halfway job with a whole gospel, failing to honor the One who created the gospel in the first place.
Don’t try to hide your marred walls and ugly artwork. When a loved one points out a sin, avoid saying, “Well, I know, but….” Recant the times you’ve justified an action or attitude that clearly isn’t clothed in the gospel of peace. And simply say, “You’re right. Can you help me improve?”
The relational perk of ministry is knowing that accountability exists around every corner, whether in your own household or the student center or the church office.
P.S. I’ll be on the road this fall with the rest of our Youth Ministry Local Training Team, leading half-day trainings on “3 Crucial Practices that Fuel Unstoppable Growth.” One of those practices we’ll be targeting is “How to Help Teenagers Build Relational Intimacy With Jesus and Others.” We’ll be in 55 cities, so one of them is near you. Check it out.