John and Adam talk with Jonathan “JP” Pokluda in this podcast about leading with authenticity. As the Dallas Campus Pastor at Watermark, JP regularly models vulnerability with his team and audience when he preaches. Leaders will leave feeling encouraged on how to lead authentically and genuinely connect with their followers.
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JP joined John and Adam to discuss leading with a limp. JP joked about his high school mascot, a turkey. He was also the flag runner and laughingly boasted that he was “involved in every single touchdown.”
1. Why is leading with a limp a big deal to JP? (1:15)
JP believes in the power of being honest about weaknesses because of its results. One night, while JP was teaching at the Porch (Watermark’s young adult ministry), he shared from the stage that in the past week, he had viewed inappropriate images on Instagram. Although the story wasn’t relevant to his message, JP felt convicted to be vulnerable with his audience. As a result, he had more people than ever come forward to talk with him afterward.
JP shared this story at a conference with pastors some time later. He received negative feedback from these pastors who said, “You need to have an appearance of holiness.” Or, “You shouldn’t share about pornography in a mixed-gender audience.” JP’s response was, “That’s fine that you feel that way, but you’re not going to reach the next generation of the church.” Millennials don’t want anything to do with a lack of authenticity.
2. Why are millennials drawn to authenticity? (3:37)
“To be a Christian means you’ve raised your hand and said, ‘I’m not good. I need the promises of the gospel.’” - John McGee
JP believes that the church has over-promised and under-delivered to millennials. Many millennials went to church as a family but were forced to act like a perfect family. This is a tragedy. The church is the most powerful force ever seen. It’s not a place to fake it. It should be the most authentic, vulnerable place on earth. It’s not just millennials who seek this; everyone longs for it.
Adam agreed with JP, saying, “we’re not a museum of awesome.” People sing joyfully in church because they have found truth, not because they are perfect.
John shared that this desire for authenticity is cultural. In the 1940’s, pastors would tell their audiences that they used to be like “you guys” but has changed. Now, and JP models this well, authentic leaders should share that they are just like “you guys.” They are trying to apply these Scriptures and obey Jesus the same.
3. Why don’t more leaders model authenticity? (7:01)
JP explained that somewhere along the road, leaders have learned that we must manage the perception of others. We fear failure, not being liked, or even being known. The enemy, who hates our ministries and lives, wants us to believe a lie that if we are truly known, we wouldn’t be loved or allowed to lead.
There is a hunger for vulnerability. While listening to the radio, Adam heard a comparison made about three of the biggest televisions shows: they all featured deeply flawed main characters. It’s not just in the church that people are drawn to a lack of perfection. We love to root for the under dogs and people just as flawed and broken as we are.
4. Is there a distinction between a limp and a leg break? (8:58)
JP shared that he believes there’s an important difference between the two. If a leader has committed a sin that temporarily disqualifies him from ministry, he should confess to his leaders and take time for healing for a season.
Many people argue that the church “shoots the wounded” when someone is vulnerable and confesses. But the truth, as Adam explained, is that the church doesn’t shoot the wounded; the church takes them off of the front lines. If you’re hurt, it doesn’t make any sense to keep you on the front lines. The church wants to help you heal for a season and then get you back to the front lines.
John also addressed a fear that the congregation may abuse grace should a leader be vulnerable. But authenticity should be viewed as a means of obedience and discipleship. It is a means of spiritual development and being honest is the first step towards it.
5. What is at stake in 5-10 years if we are not authentic? (11:40)
“Wear humility in the pulpit.” - JP
JP believes that we are already seeing the results of inauthenticity as millennials leave the church and organized religion. They have not seen humility in the pulpit. JP urged leaders to live out 1 Peter 5 that instructs us to wear humility. It looks good on everyone.
People relate to other people who struggle like them. The number one thing JP heard after he confessed from the stage was, “me too.” People want freedom from their struggles and can find it in community with other people.
6. Can people take this too far? (14:01)
Absolutely, according to JP. If a leader tries to be authentic with a wrong heart, it can be disastrous. If a leader manufactures something or only says something in order to get a large response, it will come across as disingenuous.
It’s also important that leaders balance authenticity with sharing about a life of faithfulness. Teaching should not be an open mic confession.
7. “If people knew my weakness, they wouldn’t follow me. I can’t envision myself doing this.” (15:23)
If it’s honestly true that people wouldn’t follow you, then, according to JP, you should stop leading. Chances are, however, that this is a perception people have of others. JP encouraged leaders to step out in faith and be obedient to the call to live in the light and confess.
John Elmore, another Watermark staff member, tells his team, “You’re going to lead with a limp or a lie.” A lie doesn’t always mean not telling the truth; it could also be refraining from telling the truth. Adam continued this thought by sharing that if leaders do not let people know their vulnerability, they are misleading their people. It is inherently self-deprecating to say that you follow Jesus because you are saying that you need a savior.
In John McGee’s experience, leaders who claim that there are some things in life to not share with anyone are often living a double life.
8. What’s the first step in leading with authenticity? (17:51)
“Our mess becomes our message.” - JP
The first step is to start in your small group, according to JP. If you’re afraid to regularly confess sins, you are missing out on God’s best, on living life to the fullest. No one can relate to someone who lives in an ivory tower. Share openly from your weaknesses.
Adam warned that sharing from the stage as a first step might not be a good idea. And these confessions do not have to be large. Sharing small stories of missed opportunities can also be helpful. Little things that continuously let people know that I’m a sinner in need of a savior help create strong relationships.
For those who don’t have a dramatic story, you can also share your insecurities. John shared that every person has insecurity and admitting this to others can build a bridge.
JP shared that this authenticity doesn’t have to come from a recent sin. It can be a weakness you’ve co-habitated with or something you’ve embraced instead of working on.
9. “The leaders at my church/organization don’t do this. They always try to project an image of perfection. What do I do?” (23:34)
“You don’t have to be at the top of an org chart to share out of your weaknesses.” - JP
JP encouraged leaders to be the first one to do it. Leaders should seek out ways to practice humility and vulnerability. Others will see it in time and it’ll spread like wild fire. Someone has to go first because often, someone else is waiting for permission to be honest. They just need another person to give them the nudge. Let it be you, leader.
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