The Naked and Broken Leader 2.2

The Disrobing of Contemporary Leadership 2.2

           Gene Edwards imagines a scene where David is given the inheritance of brokenness so that he could become a king after God’s own heart.  The angel who is passing on the inheritance proclaims, “I must tell you that was has been given to you is a glorious thing- the only element in the universe that can change the human heart.  Yet even this element of God cannot accomplish its task nor grow and fill your entire inner being unless it is compounded well.  It must be mixed lavishly with pain, sorrow, and crushing.” {1}
            Jesus seeks leaders who will live like he lived.  Jesus searches for the naked and broken leader.  For in the exposed vulnerability of the soul Jesus is able to create the essence of true leadership- the change of a human heart. True spiritual leadership is breathed by Jesus and involves a process of exposure, self-awareness, uncertainty, pain, and sorrow demonstrated in submission to God for the sake of others.  The model of spiritual leadership is that of a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

          Undoubtedly, many could criticize Jesus’ principles of nakedness and brokenness as an incredibly “weak” archetype of leadership.  And it would be errant in the face of such constructive forethought to dismiss the leadership relevance of determination, courage and integrity as well as a myriad of other kingdom principles like charismatic communication and catalytic influence.  It must be noted, however, that such principles of power where humbly wrapped in the swaddling clothes of Jesus’ incredible meekness and submission.  The kingdom of Jesus, after all, involves a universal reign based not on authoritarian power, but on the authoritative precedence of God’s love.  And, therefore, it must be remembered that it was in love that the integrity, communication, influence, courage, determination and vision of the Leader of all Creation was wrapped in the cloth of a naked, fragile baby.  And so it was also in love that the omnipotent leadership style of Jesus surrendered himself to dictators and mongers- who were of a more culturally attractive leadership archetype- so that his arms could be strapped and his body stripped and broken through execution and the bearing of our sin.
And so it is that along with the centurion who witnessed the servant-hearted sacrificial leadership of Jesus, even the most power-based leaders among us must eventually admit that truly this was the Son of God, the ultimate Leader of the world. {2}
          The practiced definition of Jesus’ leadership model is shocking to a North American culture of Christianity that bends to the appeal of magnetism and the cult of personality.  As Kevin Mannoia stated in his book, The Integrity Factor, the “downward path” led by Jesus has “set the pattern for Christian leadership in opposition to the world.” {3}   And in fact, the servant-hood of Jesus was met be severe antagonism.  As Isaiah recorded for us, the Suffering-Servant’s awe-full leadership style produced an awful reaction: 

Many were amazed when they saw him- beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person… 

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance- nothing to attract us to him.  Jesus was despised and rejected- a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief.  We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by.  He was despised and we did not care. 

Yet it was our weakness he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down… he was wounded and crushed for our sins.  He was beaten that we might have peace.  He was whipped, and we were healed!  All of us have strayed away like sheep.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. 

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word.  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.  From prison and trial they led him away to his death.  But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins- that he was suffering their punishment?  He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone.  But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. 

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief… And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.  I will give him the honors of one who is mighty and great, because he exposed himself to death.  He was counted among those who were sinners.  He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners. {4}

          As one who came to embrace the leadership principles of nakedness and brokenness, the apostle Paul urged other followers of Jesus to emulate their Master’s astounding model of servant-leadership.  “Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had,” he told the Christians of Philippi.  “Though he was God,” Paul said, “he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.  He made himself nothing; he took on the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.  And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.” {5}
          The example of Jesus’ archetype of leadership rings true not only in theory but also in practice.  Admired leaders throughout history have proven from ancient days (e.g. Joshua, Moses, David) to modern times (Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr.) that humility, vulnerability, authenticity, and meekness in the face of great struggle are the foundational leadership principles whereby the power-based principles such as strength, integrity and determination are championed.  It is in the naked and broken leadership posture of Jesus Christ that God accomplishes his work in this world. There are numerous contemporary leadership prophets who are calling us back to the principles of nakedness and brokenness. Thirty years ago, Robert Greenleaf astounded the corporate environment of North America by suggesting that the essential motivation of leadership was an attitude exhibiting care for others and that the central concern of leadership demanded “self-sacrifice” in addition to the more culturally palatable principles of “wisdom and tough-mindedness and discipline.” {6}   In Christian circles, Brian McLaren has recently suggested that the kind of leader that must emerge in the coming generation needs to embrace the endurance of pain.  “We can’t pretend that leadership is an easy career, free from suffering,” he wrote in his book, The Church on the Other Side.  “God’s leaders,” McLaren contends, “have always faced criticism, threats, misunderstanding, and unfair treatment- when they weren’t facing nails, whips, knives, and clubs.” {10}

{1} Edwards, Gene. A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness (Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), xviii.
{2} Mark 15:39
{3} Mannoia, Integrity Factor, 50. 
{4} Isaiah 52:14; 53:2-12 (NLT)
{5} Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)
Greenleaf, Robert K. Servant Leadership: A journey into the Nature of Legitmate Power and Greatness
{7} McLaren, Brian D. The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 116.
(Paulist Press: New York, 1977), 255.


  1. I love this analogy, Andrew! Thanks for posting this! You have really caught on to something here.
    Scripture says several times how a sacrifice is like a sweet-smelling aroma to God. Our lives, lived in sacrifice to him, is a fragrant perfume. In the extreme brokenness of sacrifice our contrite heart can be shown… and we enter into the walk of Jesus.

  2. I had a bit of an epiphany while reading this note you posted Ken. I fell in love with the brokenness as I Saw it in life last semester during the toughest paced work I have ever faced in my school career, but it was in the reading of A Tale of Three Kings that I truly began to grasp at what brokenness is. In this last post of yours, I have had another glimpse through the murk, I think. MAybe you already got this, but I did not.
    The whole broken leader, Christian, is relatable with a crushed leaf. In some older forms of medicine certain crushed leaves mixed with boiling water were used to wake up sleeping or unconscious people. In the same way that the leaf must be crushed and soaked, so must the leader in order for the scent, aroma, smell to leak out and awaken the soul who is asleep. God’s mortar and pestle hurt, but, like the leaf, bring out the best of those who take, even accept, the blows. just a thought.

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