Why Nicky Gumbel is good news for the church...

On Sunday February 3rd 2013 at 11.30am something very special happened. One of the most highly regarded Christian leaders in this nation spoke vulnerably and personally about his emotional health in public.

I am not at all impartial as I write this blog, since I know and love Nicky and Pippa Gumbel very much. On one level it is no surprise to me that it was Nicky who broke the silence of the vast majority of church leaders in the UK, such is his courage and vision. At the same time, he has an international reputation and a lifetime of experience in the public square, more than enough to know that these sort of declarations carry costs.

Within his talk Nicky explores different models of personal growth and within Number 8, 'The Experiential Model', he describes himself as struggling specifically in dealing with grief and loss. Nicky’s easy candour leads him to describe himself as an ‘emotional child’ in this area, something that many of us can relate to in one way or another.

After a lifetime of following a familial emotional model that favoured silence over discussion, Nicky describes how he began to receive professional theraputic help, but not via the tempting back door, via the front door, disclosing his journey to friends, family and his church.

Several years ago I spoke at HTB Focus on The Emotionally Healthy Church and quoted Peter Scazzaros saying, “The overall health of any church or ministry depends primarily on the emotional and spiritual health of its leadership. In fact the key to successful leadership has much more to do with the leader’s internal life than the leader’s expertise, gifts or experience.” I was therefore delighted to see Nicky holding the same book and noting; “We impress people with our strengths but we connect with people through our vulnerabilities.”

As I watched the film on the HTB Media catalogue I suddenly felt a huge sense of relief. Not that the whole ice-cap of emotional denial in the broader church has melted, but that a vast cliff had broken off, making a way for other leaders and congregations to acknowledge their own emotional vulnerability and seek restoration in and through Jesus Christ. I am sure that some of my relief was simply my own dignity jumping for joy since, for the last seven or eight years, I have been chipping away at the ice saying, “Am I the only weird one around here?”

I have long meditated upon Philippians 2:5-7 here in the King James; “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”

The greatest leadership ever demonstrated was that of Jesus Christ. To me this is the model that we emulate, one that Nicky set a standard for in his church last week. 1) That we make ourselves of no reputation, 2) That we serve others through modelling an authentic life in Christ, 3) That we demonstrate our likeness to other men and women as we identify with their struggles.

Let’s take this prompting to be courageous, authentic and humble in our own leadership.
Will Van Der Hart, 14/02/2013
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