Let Them See the Cracks

One of the greatest privileges of my early ministry was to become acquainted with a man named Jim Petersen. Through his capable leadership and sterling character, the ministry of the Navigators expanded greatly in São Paulo, Brazil, where he and his wife, Marge, served for more than twenty years.

Cynthia and I first met Jim and Marge at Glen Eyrie, the Navigators’ headquarters in Colorado Springs. I was new to ministry at the time—and far too naive—and I was looking for some type of formula for success in God’s service.

“How do you do it, Jim?” I asked him. “Tell me the secret of ministering to people.” I expected him to say, “Always set the pace,” or, “Be strong no matter what,” or, “Model the truth, and stand against the adversary as he attacks you.” I got none of that.

Jim just smiled in his inimitable, casual way and answered, “Chuck, let people see the cracks in your life, and you’ll be able to minister to them.”

That’s it. That’s the distilled essence of all he told me.

As we left their cabin that cool evening, I felt somewhat like the deflated, rich young ruler, who had just asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17). Like Jesus’s surprising answer to the ruler, Jim’s reply was not what I expected. Frankly, it convicted me. I was looking to minister from my strengths. Jim challenged me to serve in weakness.

He made that statement to me over fifty years ago, and it remains one of the greatest lessons I have learned in ministry. I have never forgotten it.

I never will.

—Chuck

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  • Awesome.

  • Harold Cain

    With a statue of 6’3″, slim but strong figure, a great gospel singing voice, and bold in character, I just knew that God had equipped me for great leadership within my church. I was well educated and loved the Lord and just felt that I was destined for some great role within the ministry. I had been blessed with so many talents! BUT
    The Lord said; sit and listen to the hearts crying, the souls weeping and let them see you have grace, understanding and love. Show them “ME” within yourself. Teach them MY love as I have taught you.
    SO…I have found the one talent that honors God above all the other. They see my cracks from my life and know that God is there for them too. They understand that my statue has seen the bottom of despair and yet I have been taken care of by…GOD!

  • Thank you for these good words! Yes, being an elder/pastor is a continual reminder that God put His “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (II Corinthians 4:7). “Who is equal to such a task?” The word of the apostle is never far from a shepherd’s heart: “not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3). Examples are badly needed but not easily provided. It’s tough to be a good example when aware of your own sins! I came to realize that I must also be examples of one who lives under God’s mercy.
    And pastors can never completely “clock-out” and go home: “Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (II Corinthians 11:29). I am sure thankful that God designed the Church to be under a plurality of leaders. Who could do this a work alone?!
    I remind myself that he rhythm of personal transformation and pastoral ministry is death and renewal: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (II Corinthains 4:10-12).
    This rhythm continually reminds me of my source for strength. The temptation to rely on our own gifts and abilities is always there.
    I need to pursue the rhythm of spiritual activity the Lord followed. His was a pattern of engagement and withdrawal; of crowds and solitude. “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). I need time to get perspective in the audience of One. I need to go into my room and “close the door and pray to my Father, who is unseen ” (Matthew 6:6). “Come away” Jesus said, “to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). I may not be able to completely clock out but I can get away. Frankly, I always felt that I had to leave the town I minster in to do this. But this was not always feasible. So at least leave the office or hit the DND button on the phone and put up an “In Prayer” sign on your office door.
    My lifeline in ministry has been a disciplined practice of Psalm 62:8: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Prayer for me is often a perspective gaining session with God. I just need to clear my mind by pouring out my heart to Him! I must have significant Hebrews 4:12 and Hebrews 4:16 encounters with God.

  • Jesus sent out His disciples imperfect though they were. What makes us think we have to be perfect?!