I believe I've uncovered the source of the vulnerability fad in the feeler church. The popular business fable book by Patrick Lencioni called Getting Naked advocates "vulnerability" as a positive virtue. I didn't read that book, but Mr. Lencioni spoke at the most recent Global Leadership Summit. It was a good talk. I bought another of his books called The Advantage. I haven't read it yet, but I hope to learn more about his popularization of vulnerability. His new book is apparently the non-fable version of his various leadership principles previously published in fable form. I didn't read the fables. I figure they are probably like that fad book Who Moved My Cheese. It made a lot of money as it sold millions of copies, and fables are fine, but when we start looking to fables rather than truth, I start wondering who cut the cheese.
Vulnerability came up again last night in a small group meeting within my community of church friends. "Vulnerability" seems to be gaining popularity along with "Authenticity" and "Missional" as buzz words in Evangelical Christian-speak. It concerns me when the church borrows values from the business world. It isn't the first time I've seen it. I blogged on this same concern a while back regarding emotional intelligence in my church's leadership training curriculum. I'm wondering if Christians are borrowing worldly wisdom to our own detriment. [See 1Cor 1:18-20]
I don't see vulnerability being any more virtuous than poverty. Poverty is a state you might arrive at if you gave all your possessions to feed people more impoverished than yourself. This would, of course, be virtuous; however, it isn't very smart. Once you impoverish yourself how can you help others in need? Isn't it also possible to be rich and virtuous? Everyone in the USA is rich by world standards. I'd like to think some of us could also be virtuous!
Similarly, vulnerability is a state you might arrive at if you cast away all your defenses to help another person out of danger, but is that smart? Isn't it also possible to have good defenses and still be virtuous? Isn't it possible to maintain a posture of humility without being vulnerable?
If the only way you can escape pride is to cast away all defenses, then in the spirit of Matthew 5:30, by all means do so. But, Hezekiah [2Kings 20:15-18] and Samson [Judges 16:17] tried vulnerability with miserable results. Fortunately, Jesus was smarter. He went through some serious cloak and dagger gyrations with Peter and John in Luke 22:3-13 to avoid being vulnerable to the Enemy.
Vulnerability to the Enemy or his minions of lackeys is not a virtue. And, how do we know who might be the Devil's emissary? Unlike Jesus, we don't! None of the disciples suspected Judas. He was trusted enough to carry the money bag for the twelve. So, when in doubt shouldn't we be wise as serpents while being gentle as doves and keep up our defenses?
I'd like to think the church would look to the Bible for what we believe to be virtuous. I have not yet seen any Scriptural evidence that vulnerability is virtuous, but I have an inkling on why it is so popular in the post-modern American church. Vulnerability "resonates" (that's another one of those buzz words) with the MBTI Feelers. My friend, Dr. Tom Pittman, has developed a theory that the modern American church has been "feelerized" while "thinkers" have been ostracized. In the modern Amercian feeler church, relational affirmation is prized above almost all other virtues. It therefore follows that vulnerability is valued because it is a form of affirmation. Affirmation is the highest value for MBTI Feelers. (Truth and justice are the highest values for MBTI Thinkers.) The person making himself "vulnerable" is in effect saying "I trust you." That's affirmation.
Along with "missional" and "authentic" the concept of "vulnerability" seems to be a persistent fad in the slice of the evangelical church I'm exposed to most. The Bible teaches virtues like honesty, humility, love, justice, and mercy but so far I've found no virtue anchors for vulnerability in Scripture. None. I'm hoping the vulnerability fad will fade and die unless it finds some Biblical anchors. I understand the attraction worldly wisdom has for obtaining worldly virtues, but shouldn't those of us in the church put our emphasis on what Scripture teaches instead?