Whilst praying at a prayer meeting for church leaders before Christmas, a very clear and simple picture came to me. Some might call it a vision. It was of a man taking a shower. But there was something unusual about it because the man showering still had his pants on. He was afraid to get naked.

I asked the Lord for the interpretation and felt him say that that the man represented many of the church leaders present who, like the man in the shower were enjoying standing in or under God’s presence but were afraid to fully expose themselves before him. It wasn’t that they had to tell everyone present all that was on their minds, rather it was that before God there should be no pretence and no superficiality. Before him we should be totally honest. For in the same way that you don’t get fully clean if you shower with your pants on, so we were not experiencing the full benefits of God’s presence by failing to be fully naked, open and vulnerable before him.

Being honest before God is crucial for everyone. In fact I’m sure it’s part of what Jesus means when he tells us that true worshippers worship him not only in Spirit but also ‘in truth’ (John 14:23). It’s especially important for leaders to do this. To be honest before God about every aspect of life. Not just the ups, but the downs too.

As leaders, wanting to encourage and strengthen those around us, of course we need to take care that we don’t wear our heart on our sleeve in every situation. There’s a time and a place to be open about our weaknesses, sorrows and frustrations. And sometimes for a church leader that’s not in a prayer meeting with other church leaders. But we must have those around us with whom we do share those things, like spouses, peers, a mentor/ spiritual director. It amazes me how many church leaders don’t have folk around them like that. If that’s you, then you’re easy pickings for the enemy (1 Peter 5:8). So take care. Be accountable to others.

But also make sure that you’re totally accountable to God. Don’t hold back telling him about your life, your work, your family, your church, your desires, your future. Tell him how you feel. Tell him what’s on your heart. Tell him if you’re angry, sad or disappointed. As well as when you’re happy, thankful and encouraged. This is the kind of transparent relationship God wants from his leaders. A relationship that’s honest, real and true. If we can’t be open before our loving God about our lives then we’re going to struggle sharing ourselves with others. And, worst of all, we might even find that Jesus’ analysis of the Pharisees applies to us: ‘These people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me’ (Matthew 15:8).

In 2013 let’s remember that God is calling leaders to drop their pants and get naked before him. That’s what he’s looking for from us. Naked leadership.