What’s Wrong With Authenticity?

Authentic – adjective ə-ˈthen-tik, ȯ-
True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

“Authenticity.” Go ahead and say it, everyone else is. Try using it in a sentence like, “I just really appreciate her authenticity.”

It makes me feel somehow more intelligent, deeper, and yes cooler to say someone, or something like music or literature is authentic. It’s the buzzword that keeps on giving. And in the church, as you may know, buzzwords tend to stay in fashion long after their expiration date in mainstream culture.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about authenticity. Truth be told, I love when I meet a truly authentic person. There’s just something refreshing about their transparency and character.

I’ve noticed something interesting about the use of the word though. Like any word that gets overused, it’s starting to lose it’s impact and be used in ways that aren’t true to its meaning. Let me cut straight to the chase with an example. Person X is having a bad day, their patience is worn thin, and they use some dishonoring language towards, or about, the person who just got on their last nerve. What should have been considered an inappropriate use of words is passed off as “just being real.”

Another misuse of the Authentic Card is closely related. Person Y goes on a rant about their boss, their pastor, or their neighbor. Then they say, “I just needed to vent.” Why is this OK among believers when scripture tells us “A fool gives full vent to his anger” in Proverbs 29:11. Venting isn’t an expression of authenticity unless you’re an authentic gossip and a harpy.

The idea that the day we had, the mood we’re in, or the disposition we possess is an excuse to be a total @$$hole in the name of authenticity is a notion that needs to die, especially in the church where we are supposed to be governed by God’s Spirit and word, and not our feelings. We need to stop valuing authenticity over love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The truth is, if we’re following Jesus, then He has put a new nature in us. When we get ugly, petty, or whiny, then claim, “That’s just the way I am” (because we’re authentic, of course) we’re saying that the work God did for us wasn’t enough. We condemn ourselves to a life of being ruled by a sinful nature, rather than His nature in us.

Most of the time, when I hear self-claims of authenticity, it comes attached with an ugly attitude of arrogance. But here’s what I’ve learned about genuine authenticity: it’s humble, it desires to improve rather than broadcasting one’s faults with pride, and it doesn’t judge others for appearing to have it together.

If we truly desire authenticity in our lives, we need to stop seeing it as an expression of our attitudes and feelings and evaluate how authentically we are loving others. True authenticity loves, values, and serves others and, in that, we are loving God. That’s the kind of authenticity I want to have!

1st John 2:5 and 6 says, “But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”

An Easter Prayer for the Church

Dear Lord,

We are not as you intended
We’re like sheep who resist the safety of the sheepfold
We ignore the Shepherd’s call and choose the siren’s song of seduction
We claim to want relationship with our redeemer but our claims are false
Our actions speak louder than our claims and our words deceive none but ourselves

We adore the screen
We tithe to the God of entertainment
We worship at the alter of comfort and crave leisure more than your presence
We’ve exchanged our strength for gluttony
We’ve traded our honor to belong in a world that hates us
and forfeited our dignity to broadcast our opinions (more…)

3 Things I Learned From Burning Out

burned-carAs I write this, I’m winding down the final days of a one month sabbatical.

For the last four weeks, I haven’t worked at the church or my business.  In fact, I haven’t answered my phone or returned any emails.  It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because I’ve spent the last three quarters of my life training my mind and body to do one thing; work.  After all, I’m from the Midwest and the highest compliment a man can earn here is “He’s a hard worker!”

It was like trying to stop a train whose breaks had become stiff and rusty from never being used. 

Before the sabbatical, I was compulsively working, checking emails, doing “one small thing” after another until I found myself horribly burned out, but unable to stop moving long enough to recharge and rest.

The last few weeks have been incredibly eye opening and I just wanted to share a couple of things I learned from it. (more…)

Why Do People Leave Church?

My wife was listening to a podcast that claimed 3,500 people leave the church every month.  I was really intrigued by that, so yesterday I sent out the following tweet/Facebook post to see what people would say:




I have to admit, I was really surprised at the passion this simple question stirred up.  Some people were pretty hard on the church, while others felt church-goers just weren’t very committed these days.  Some believed that the spiritual experience was lifeless, others that the Bible wasn’t being preached properly, and others that the church had lost cultural relevance.

One thing that really stood out to me was the pain that many people endured from the church.  People felt judged, didn’t experience genuine community, felt misunderstood, were gossiped about, felt condemned, oppressed, and unappreciated.  One person even claimed they felt some of these things from the church that I pastor.  Ouch!

In this post I’m going to try to answer the question myself, but I feel the need to clarify a few things about the church. (more…)

You Me Us We

I have the privilege of  working with Bethany Neumeyer as the Prayer Team Leader at our church.  She’s also a great spoken word poet and wrote this as an illustration during our “Living a Passionate Mission” series.  It’s pretty much an amazing piece.  Enjoy!

I Don’t Believe

I don’t believe that a single good thing comes out of analyzing, criticizing, or “calling out” other believers in a public space.

I don’t believe that the role of “the watchman on the wall” is to publicly decry those who are giving their lives to expand the Kingdom of God.

I don’t believe that focusing on what divides us will ever bring greater fruit than focusing on what unites us.

I don’t believe that the church of today is a dirty, washed up prostitute (as the “watchmen” preach) that people should abandon.

I don’t believe that the church’s best days are behind her.

I don’t believe that a single individual could ever feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, or lead the lost to Christ like a body of believers (church) can.  In fact, I can’t think of any “watchmen” that are actually doing any of those things.

I don’t believe in judging others by half-baked Biblical interpretations, popular opinion, or talk show rhetoric.  Jesus said that a tree is to be known by its fruit.

I don’t believe all pastors are crooks, all politicians are crooked, all Muslims are terrorists, all gays are going to hell, all Jews are cheap, all blacks are gangsters, all whites are privileged, or that Jesus ever stereotyped anyone.

I don’t believe that using fear to manipulate people into buying your products is honorable.

I don’t believe that mean-spirited political, religious, or cultural statements, memes, or sayings count for intelligent discussion and I don’t believe they make a person look smart, compassionate, or Christ-like.

I don’t believe in bullying even if you’re in the popular majority, unpopular minority, or feel entitled for other reasons.

I don’t believe that, because a Christian band has a symbol on their CD cover that vaguely resembles a pagan rune, they are Satan worshipers trying to deceive their listeners.

I don’t believe that God gave us the Bible so we can use it to show off how smart we are, right we are, or “holy” we are.

I don’t believe there is anything humble, Christ-like, or Biblical about claiming to be a part of a remnant and that other Christians are going to hell.

I don’t believe that the King James Version is the only “real” version of the Bible, that only hymns should be sung, or that woman shouldn’t teach in church.

I don’t believe that “conspirators who have infiltrated the church” will be the church’s demise.  Jesus said “…I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

I don’t believe being an American 501c3 church automatically makes it a bad church.  Each church is different just like each person is different.

I don’t believe anyone is “too far gone” to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

I don’t believe that when Jesus said “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” he intended for us to behave like spoiled celebrities, selfish children, or angry pharisees.

I believe that Jesus loves me.  I believe Jesus loves you.  I believe that his death and resurrection is a complete work, lacking nothing.

I believe that if we spent more time loving, praying, giving, serving, and going, we might actually change the world instead of hating on each other.

I believe it would make us more like Jesus, who loves.