In the Parable of the Yeast (Matthew 13:33), Jesus tells us a little something about ourselves that we don’t always like to admit – we aren’t perfect. I know I’m not the only one bothered by that concept, but as a pastor I need to grasp onto this idea and allow myself to be transparent and vulnerable in that transparency, for those are key items in living a life of integrity.
Madeleine L’Engle said, “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability . . . . To be alive is to be vulnerable.” This really is the essence of walking in Christ-like leadership – transparency and vulnerability. Only when we lack integrity and character will we close our lives to the view of people, not allowing them to see us for who we really are.
I believe that for too many years some church leaders (my self included) have taught or implied that being “perfect in Christ” meant “without moral error” or “sinless.” In doing so, we have presented ourselves as perfect models of Christ and expected our people to live up to the same standard. This wasn’t based on anything that even remotely looked like reality, but it was the image of the church that we promoted all the same.
However, this view of our perfection is not to be found in Scripture, but just the opposite. In Matthew 13:33 we read about the Parable of the Yeast, where Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” When the woman in the parable mixed yeast into flour, the yeast ate available sugars which produced bubbles, causing the dough to rise. The woman would then beat the dough back down and allow it to rise again before baking it, which stops the rising process.
Jesus was saying that the kingdom of heaven works into every aspect of a believer’s life and causes change. Change is good, change is inevitable, and change allows us to move from being a sinner who looks out for our own needs first, to a saint who looks out for the needs of others.
I bring this up to remind us that Jesus told a parable about yeast working into the dough; He never told a parable about a finished loaf. If we are to live true to this parable, we will allow people to see us bubbling and changing, because that is the truth of the way the gospel works into our lives. We cannot expect our congregations to actually grow and mature in Christ if the only examples of Christianity they have are the (perceived) finished loaves parading as leaders on the platform every Sunday. When we are transparent with our lives, our people will know that what they are going through is natural, and they will no longer live in an unnaturally induced theological schizophrenia, vacillating between who they know they really are and who they think they should be after watching a hyper-critical and hypocritical pastor behind the pulpit.
I’ll admit I’ve been that type of pastor, but I now I’d rather be an unfinished loaf on the rise than a “perfectly” fake loaf in His eyes.