A Lesson in Broken Leadership

I don’t remember his name, and I don’t know where he served. What I remember is that God was “all over” him.

He was a missionary speaking in my church in Ohio, and the apparent power of God in Him was almost palpable. I asked him later that day how he had so experienced God’s power, and his answer later changed my life: “I prayed for God to break me of my self-dependence.”

That wasn’t the answer I wanted. In fact, it was a Sunday afternoon, and I instead wanted all the power of God in me before our Sunday night service—preferably, without my needing to change. My wife, Pam, and I began to pray, though, for God to break us. It wasn’t an easy prayer to pray, and God’s response to that prayer led to some faith-stretching, painful moments over the next several months.

What I learned, though, was that I much more experience the power of God when I’m broken under His loving hand. It was then that I learned the reality of “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). And, I’m convinced that I was a better leader when God alone was my strength in my brokenness. Here’s why:

  1. Through my brokenness, God peeled back the layers of my heart. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I had dealt with my sin. Over and over again, He showed me my arrogance and called me to Him in repentance and humility.
  2. Through my brokenness, God led me to pray more. That’s what happens when God takes you to your knees at your own invitation. From my knees, I could somehow see more clearly how to lead my church.
  3. Through my brokenness, God taught me dependence. My personal strength had been a detriment to my leadership, not an asset. I had been praying primarily only when I faced something I could not first fix. All of that changed when I could only lean on Him.
  4. Through my brokenness, God taught me to love my wife more. When your wife walks beside you as God works over your heart and drives you to your face, you learn to appreciate her faithful love more. And, we lead better when we first lead and love better in our homes.  
  5. Through my brokenness, God focused my attention on His kingdom more than my kingdom. I had my own plans for how God would use me, but my attention had been riveted on doing God’s work for my glory. That focus changes when God reduces you. 
  6. Through my brokenness, God began the process of taking me to the seminary to train others. It’s easier to commit to training others to do more than you’ve ever done after you’ve learned that you’re not all you think you are anyway. 
  7. Through my brokenness, God taught me a new sense of His love. It’s one thing to talk about God’s sustaining love when it’s really just theory to you; it’s a completely different matter when God sustains you through brokenness. His love is uniquely sweet in the valley. 

Please pray for me that I will lead out of my weakness rather than out of my strength. Let us know how we might pray for you. 


  • What a great and timely article for me. Brokenness is a word God has been using in my life recently, reflecting on the questions: What are the different kinds of brokenness? What kind of brokenness is a good thing and when can brokenness actually hinder our growth and close fellowship with God. There is some great, great perspective in this short article.

  • John W Carlton says:

    I have been struggling with why God is not using me more. I know that I have health issues and for the last 6 months my cardiologist has told me not to preach or sing solos or even sing in the choir. This has just about killed me. I went to him 2 weeks ago and he released me for 6 months, so I am really wanting to get out there on the front lines. and opportunities have come my way. My pastor asked me to have charge of the midweek service, and I have rejoined the choir.

    One of your main comments was that you were doing everything to fix the situation first before calling on God in prayer. Chuck, this touched me in a very special way. There has been too much of my pride and talents showing rather than God breaking me and I have to depend on Him totally. I am beginning to day to pray that the old chorus that we used to sing will take its hold on me: Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me. Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, use me.; Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me.

    Thank you for your blogs.

  • Thanks for your honesty, friend.

  • Terry Powell says:

    Chuck. I appreciate your transparency and the benefits you cited. As a depression-prone person, I can identify. The late Joe Aldrich said, “Only wounded soldiers can serve in God’s army.” I have 2 chapters on “The Blessing of Brokenness” in my book Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement To Sustain God’s Servants. Alan Nelson, in Embracing Brokenness, wrote that God does not use people greatly until they have experienced some form of brokenness. Keep on serving strong and thanks for your posts. Terry Powell on Feb 3

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    God bless your work, Terry.

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