The Difference Between Vulnerability & Transparency

We've had the honor of welcoming Julie to the W Conference each year as our Worship leader. Her humble and bold Spirit helps create an atmosphere where women feel welcomed and empowered to share, learn, grow, and ultimately to worship. Thanks for letting us get to know you a little bit better!

 Photo by  Suhyeon Choi  on  Unsplash

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

First off, would you mind telling us a little bit about your church plant, Antioch Norman?

My husband and I started Antioch Community Church in Norman, Oklahoma nine years ago.  We believe family changes culture!! So we had a desire to build a spiritual family, which helps every person discover and become who God created them to be. Through the transforming power of God’s pure love, young and old would be empowered to become change agents in society. We love being a family on a mission, seeing a city transformed as we see ourselves rightly, by making a kingdom impact in every sphere of society! We are moved by God’s heart for the nations and seeing churches planted all over the world.


 

There are unique challenges that come with being a church leader. As the worship pastor we would expect a lot of people look up to your family as role models.

Are there ever moments where you feel pressure to look like you have it all together?

As a church leader there is always the temptation to wrestle with feeling like strength in my role means “I need to have it all together!”  I am so thankful the Lord, like a good Shepherd would, takes His staff and gently pulls me back in the green pastures of right thinking and pulls off the expectations of others and from myself.

To be completely honest, my greatest moments of pain as a Pastor and leader have come from letting others define “good leadership, right expectations, and what they believe is judging rightly.”  It’s in those moments the kindness of the Father calls me up to see from a perspective that only He could give, shows me His heart, right expectations that come from His Word, and not the opinions of man. I’d love to say it’s easy to simply just do that…but we are all “fighting the good fight of faith” to remain in His presence and see rightly what He has promised us in our journeys.

So as a Pastor of a growing church where demands increase in many different fronts, seeing above what the enemy is doing is the only place to be.  I always long to fight from a place of victory, that I can respond to His heart and not man’s! As I respond first to the Lord who sees and knows all things, I am able to love each person before me with purity.  That place where my soul, (mind, will and emotions) are submitted under the Spirit who now rules and reigns inside of me.

Romans 12:9 says “Love must be sincere.”  

I am tempted to choose the lie that “I need to have it all together,” only when I love others because I’m suppose to versus with the sincerity I am loved with by a perfect Father!  Sincere love changes us, sincere love holds power, and frees us to just be.

 

What do you find helpful when it comes to stepping out and being appropriately vulnerable and open with your staff and church family?

I believe one of the most helpful things in living a life of true vulnerability is the understanding of the purpose of its impact on those we lead and those we are around even in the day to day.  

It can’t be just “a great idea or simply the right thing to do.” Vulnerability is a powerful thing when defined rightly, and it releases God’s transforming love and sincerity through our lives under the beauty of God’s grace umbrella. I’ve learned over the years with my extroverted, outward process personality that maturity is learning when and how to be vulnerable in the right places and spaces. As a leader I know I need to navigate boundaries depending on the person or audience.  There is a level of vulnerability that is more appropriate at a close friend level than a staff level, and also to our staff verses the congregation.

When defining vulnerability rightly, we need to understand that true vulnerability in our places of leading is a two way street.  It speaks to hearts not because we are able to share opening and honestly, but that we take a position of humility where others are free to speak into our lives from that place of our honesty.  Otherwise it’s just transparency. Transparency is a one-way street, where at the end of the day we might share openly but our hearts have no intention of wanting to hear or receive from anyone what they think-- and or how we may possibly grow out of that place of true, raw openness.

Of course I’m not talking about someone coming to blast you with what they think and then call that receiving well…not what I mean.  I’m ultimately talking about the position of the heart. That’s why I believe navigating those boundary lines that the Word says “fall in pleasant places” is so vital. Boundaries and not walls but fences of grace that surround our soul.

Boundary lines release more freedom in our leading others. I always want to choose vulnerability as a leader, so I have to take account where my heart is to not just give out through my words but also receive if God wanted to do a deeper work in me.  I hope that is making sense…I could talk on this for hours!

Humility is also seeing ourselves rightly, not just “getting low” in any given situation.  Vulnerability works in conjunction with seeing ourselves rightly, for when we do we wont fear our places of being real with those we lead.  Fear always wants to creep in to say “sure be vulnerable because that’s what good leaders do, but put the wall up real quick after so you’re not hurt, judged, or misunderstood.”  Yikes, so many times I’ve lived from that place. FEAR.

But every time I’ve ever shared my story of great pain and brokenness to the one person over coffee or to hundreds…God keeps tenderizing my heart to keep receiving and growing.  And that’s true freedom, that’s real vulnerability.

I’m not sure about you but my flesh is so prone to control, and I spent years controlling situations, unintentionally manipulating so I wouldn’t get hurt, self protected out of my compartmentalized life because of my pain…how I saw myself past the persona I was trying so hard to uphold.  Whew, it’s so exhausting. I’d love to say I never ever do any of those things and I’ve arrived. Oh wow but I can’t say that because we never arrive somewhere, we don’t’ get to a point where we pull the flag and say wahoo I’m done, figured it out! What I can say is that year-by-year I am going from “glory to glory” because I refuse to quiet being vulnerable, especially in that secret alone place with God.

That’s the starting place, letting ours fears fall away before Him.  It took me years to learn how to do that vulnerable thing with Jesus, to let Him show me how trustworthy He is and will always be…because my story said something different to me.

Transparency doesn’t change others in the end, I believe true vulnerability does because it means the one sharing has been and heard from the ONE who makes all things new!!

 

Worship is such a huge part of our Weekend together at the W Conference.

What is your biggest prayer for our attendees in regards to encountering the Lord in our time of worship?

It has been such an honor to be able to lead worship the last few years!!  I love being in a space with so many different women who represent the beauty of womanhood and coming together to ultimately worship with our lives. I am most expectant each year in the coming together that simply is a response of praise that carries over from our day-to-day living.  

Worship should never stop, for it’s not an event or just a specific time during our week we set aside or even just our Sunday morning experiences. It is an OVERFLOW of a heart poured out before Him day in and day out. Our praise should rise endlessly, whether in our pain, out of conflicts, washing dishes, watching the sunrise, or disciplining kiddos!  

So my hope is we would come ready to pour out in worship what our great King deserves…praise and worship because He alone is worth!!  And if we can all come with our disappointments, broken hearts, our mountain tops and valleys and still worship Him because of who He is, because He never changes—then all of Heaven will show up and be singing with us!!   

I can’t wait to be with you all, to hear your stories, share in your joys, maybe grieve with you in your pains—but worship we will, and worship will rise!  I am expectant for some powerful breakthroughs, so please join me as we worship even right now, whatever your season!!!

 

We like to end with something fun! What was your favorite Saturday Morning cereal growing up?

Cheerios, good ole classic Honey Nut Cheerios!!

 

 

Julie BennettW&W