In Crawford Loritts book, Leadership as an Identity, he makes the case that Christian leaders should possess the characteristic of brokenness to be successful. I am an avid reader of leadership books and have done fairly extensive research on the subject. Most leadership books focus on positive characteristics of leaders, so the idea of brokenness is a little foreign to me.
Has Loritts touched on something that is foundational, yet many others have skipped over it? To begin the journey toward brokenness one must first understand how Dr. Loritts defines the term: “Brokenness is a conscious, core awareness that you need God in all things” (p. 36).
Psalm 51:17(KJV) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
If Christian leaders are to be aware that they need God, then they must not bow to the cultural pressures for pubic glorification. This becomes particularly hard for leaders when their organizations or projects flourish under their watch. Many examples can be found of fallen Christian leaders who took their eye off their calling. King David offers a good example of biblical leadership that we can follow.
David sinned many times against God, but his leadership was characterized by surrender. After Nathan confronted David with his sin, the prophet levied God’s consequence on the king – the death of his child born out of his adultery with Bathsheba. David pleaded with God to save the child to the point of denying himself food and drink for seven days. When the child died his servants were afraid to tell him. His response was one of a surrendered spirit. “So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate.” (II Samuel 12:20 NKJV)
A surrendered spirit acknowledges that God reigns in all situations. Psalm 139 is a beautiful song that might help Christian leaders better understand a surrendered spirit displayed.
Eating Like a Wild Ox or Leading from Weakness?
Biblical leadership requires making a choice. The choice to lead as the world teaches from individual strength and knowledge, or to lead as the Bible teaches from a spirit of personal weakness. Brokenness requires that Christian leaders understand that they can do nothing apart from God. Personal weakness allows God to shine. Crawford Loritts states, “weakness means that you are usable” (p. 61) Statements like this bring to life I Corinthians 1:27 (NKJV), “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”
In Daniel chapter 4 we see the story of the greatest king on earth at the time – Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel interpreted a dream for the king that was a warning then, and it still applies today. A person’s great strength and leadership can be stripped away at any moment. The mightiest of men, Nebuchadnezzar, was humbled before the one true King. He spent seven years crazed and eating grass like the wild ox. A once great king could do nothing from his own power and strength. God needed a usable servant who led from weakness. Luckily, Nebuchadnezzar left Christian leaders a positive example to follow. He ultimately acknowledged his personal weakness and God’s great might, and in his brokenness God restored his earthly kingdom.
Here is the scary part of Dr. Loritts definition of brokenness: it is consistent. Christian leaders are not characterized by moments of brokenness; they live a consistent life of brokenness before God. Genesis 37 and 39-50 chronicle the life of Joseph and his leadership. A favored child was sold into slavery. He rose and fell in leadership stature, but never was arrogance or pride seen in Joseph’s character. Pharaoh even commented that he was aware of Joseph’s unique ability to understand dreams (See Genesis 41:15).
Joseph’s response to Pharaoh should be instilled into all Christian leaders’ minds. “So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me; but God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16, NKJV). Put yourself in Joseph’s place. How would you respond if the most powerful person in the world complimented a unique skill or ability that you possess? Joseph’s constant brokenness and total reliance on God helped him to realize that the ability to interpret dreams did not come from him; the talent belonged to God.
The Cost of Brokenness
Brokenness is not accepted or praised in the current culture. In fact, being broken before God might signal weakness to others, but brokenness should not equate to being weak natured. Refer back to Joseph. Not many people would consider Joseph a weak man. He had to make tough decisions and carry out a very bold plan that ultimately saved God’s chosen people. Being constantly aware that we need God in everything denies the world, the sinful nature within us, and our selfish desires. A very familiar verse rises out of our sense of brokenness. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Something strange happens when a Christian leader seeks God first. The perception of what really matters moves away from this life and towards eternal life. Things of earth are exchanged for the things of Heaven. Do you have a Heavenly perspective? If so, some people might think that you are a little odd. John the Baptist was a little odd. Matthew described him as being clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist eating locusts and honey (See Matthew 3:4). If I saw someone wandering aimlessly around wearing the skin of an animal he just killed and eating bugs, I might call him crazy. God saw it differently. John the Baptist was a useable servant who lived in brokenness before the Creator.
Biblical leadership is about brokenness before God. We are to live lives aware of our constant need for God’s providential hand. Any skill or ability that we have comes from God, and those abilities are to be applied to God’s work. In all situations Christian leaders are to acknowledge that, “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:32, NKJV). When we choose to lead out of our brokenness we make a conscious decision to focus on God’s will. Christian leaders who are broken find that, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NKJV). We also have to acknowledge that apart from Him, we can do nothing (See John 15:5).
PS: Receive Eden Life Magazine daily devotionals by subscribing here
David Shankle, Ph.D.
Chair and Assistant Professor of Business Administration – Blue Mountain College