"There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil" (Job 1:1).
"Surely you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have raised up him who was falling, and you have fortified the feeble knees" (Job 4:3-4).
Authenticity: Job had it.
It's my observation that in sports the best coaches and in church the most effective pastors are all authentic.
They are the real deal.
They don't try to be someone else. While they have surely picked up traits, lessons and insights from others, they do not do their imitation of other people. They are themselves.
The word—I love finding the root meaning of words—comes from autos, meaning "self," and hentes, Greek for worker, doer, author. So, we might say "authentic" means "coming from the author" or "genuine."
The Bible is authentic. It comes from the original author (of all things!).
What started me thinking about this was a sports discussion on the radio one morning recently. A former UCLA coach made the observation, after the LSU-Alabama slugfest back in November, that both coaches, Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron, are authentic. They are originals, copying no one, imitating no one, just being who they are.
The speaker said, "Coach O would tell you, if he were sitting here today, that when he went to Ole Miss as coach (2005-2007), he made the mistake of trying to imitate someone else, not being himself." If that's the case, and I expect it is, Coach O then had the lesson reinforced at subsequent places where he coached that the only way to do this is by being yourself.
The slang these days is "you be you." Some of us recoil at the offense of that, but if it's calling for authenticity, it's good. If it's saying you are to give sway to every urge inside you, no matter what, it's not good.
I think I'll stick with the word authenticity.
For a pastor of the Lord's flock, what would authenticity involve? Some thoughts on that:
- Be the person God created you to be. Accept what He did when He made you and believe He knew what He was doing.
Don't try to be someone else.
- Bring your personality to the cross and make sure Christ is Lord of all that is you. Don't let your humor or talk run unrestrained and try to justify it with "that's just who I am" and "it's me being me." We all have best selves and lower natures. Christians are always working to be their best self for Jesus' sake.
On the other hand, do not repress your humor or your originality when you enter the pulpit. One of the most delightful personalities I ever knew was a pastor who left it all behind when he began to preach. He could have been twice the preacher he was had he stayed with the way God made him. (Just my observation; I'm not his judge.)
- Recognize that as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you should always be growing in Christ-likeness. The nine qualities making up the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) will increasingly describe your mature character.
At no point will you arrive in this life. You should be a better you this year than last. Authenticity means being your best self. (No, Joel Osteen did not copyright that expression. You may use it. Smile, please.)
- Feel free to share the story of your pilgrimage, insights picked up along life's journey, with others. One way to let people see you are the real deal is to let them see your scars.
Another way of looking at the subject might be to ask, "What would inauthentic look like?" And the answers would include things like:
—You faked your resume, claiming experiences and degrees you didn't have. Not good.
—You hid your inner self from others, never shed a tear, never let them see you sweat, never revealed to others that you are hurting. Not good.
—You are one way with some people and another way with others. Two-faced, yes, and even multi-faced. I keep thinking of two verses: "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8) and "Bind my heart to fear Your name" (Ps. 86:11).
—You are spiritual and godly with your church and a tyrant at home. I've seen that and it's not a pleasant thing. The children will drop out of church the first chance they get. Not good.
—You are wonderful with most church members and a tyrant with the staff. Or, spiritual with the congregation but worldly with a few big shots. Or, on the golf course you place bets and laugh at the dirty jokes and so on. Not good.
Authenticity in a pastor is an essential. A lack of authenticity is hypocrisy and a deal-breaker.
A few years back I reconnected with someone who used to be in the college Sunday School class I had taught a generation earlier. As we connected, at one point she said, "I need someone to talk with, but you're not the person."
I said, "How did you decide that?"
She said, "You've got it all together. You've not had any failures and setbacks in life like the rest of us."
Hmm, I wondered. How did she come to that conclusion?
I said, "I had cancer, surgery for it and radiation. I live with the after-effects of the cancer. I've been run off from a church where I thought I was going to stay 20 years. My wife is a semi-invalid and my life is all about helping her."
She was quiet, then said, "Oh. I had no idea."
Right. That's how it works. If the people around us look like they've got it all together, we assume they've not had the bumps and bruises the rest of us deal with every day of our lives.
It's not my assignment to go around showing my scars and telling my life story. But as it comes up, it actually helps establish a connection with people when they learn we have also come through the fires.
We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with our feelings of infirmity, said the writer of Hebrews. He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, we come boldly to His throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16).
Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
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