church, worship

When We Gather: Authenticity

Authenticity is a word that is thrown around a lot. It seems to be a buzz word for many these days when talking about church (or anything for that matter). I suppose it is rooted in a reaction to the thought that the American church experience was once or is currently inauthentic. An African American friend of mine even told me authentic is a word white guys use way too much! “Just be you, man. Don’t explain to me you’re trying to be you, like that’s such a big accomplishment!”

As a result of its frequent use, being authentic could convey different meaning or connotations. The definition we can work with, (which is adapted from Webster’s), is:

authenticity is the possessing of conformity to fact and origin to the extent that it produces trust, reliance, and/or belief.

This is somewhat of a mouthful so let’s break it down. Authenticity begins with lining up with what is both true and historic (fact and origin). The Christian faith lends itself to this, does it not? We have a rich history that we can stand upon and examine. The history is not always a bright one, but it is also not always dark. We have a very great heritage as we stand on the shoulders of giants. Now, whether or not they are good giants can be another issue, but we must admit that those giants shape the way we view history and the present.

Nevertheless, being authentic is not merely concerned with being rooted in truth. Something can be rooted and truth but then branch off into error and falsehood. Authenticity is more than having truth. This bears repeating. To be authentic goes beyond having all the answers, having a corner on truth, or having a perfect list of irrefutable propositions. Actually, I would begin to say that this can become antithetical to the very spirit of authenticity. Authenticity is conformity to truth to the extent that it produces trust and belief.

And perhaps this is where we can begin to lose our grip on authenticity. There is truth. There is history. And then there is the way in which we conform to/interact with these “propositions”. It is one thing to say, “We Christians believe in loving our neighbors and our enemies. It is a historic doctrine.” It is quite another to see how said Christian forgives and chooses not to seek vengeance (or fails). And then, it is even another issue to see how this person views his/her behavior.

This is the stuff of authenticity. I am formed by something. I oftentimes don’t act like I am formed by it. I usually fall short of the very things I espouse to be true.

So, if we consistently fail to live up to the things we claim to value, how can this produce trust in others? This idea is bound up in one term: love.

Love must be authentic. It is rooted in truth (God) and produces trust. How could you do anything but trust me if I would lay down my life for you. Would you rely on my if I loved you enough to bear your burdens? Wouldn’t you be more apt to believe that Jesus is real if I loved you like He loved me? This is how the Church can be and is the most beautiful thing in the world.

What keeps us from authenticity? What do we try to pass off as authenticity that is really something else? Any thoughts?


4 thoughts on “When We Gather: Authenticity

  1. It all comes down to pride and self-love. We are so in love with ourselves to the point that loving someone else that didn't reciprocate the feeling isn't worth our time.

    Facede Christianity, be it 'relevant or not,' is about either making ourselves look good through pietism & rule-keeping or through making ourselves cool by using lights, loud music, etc.

    And pride comes in that we just can't admit we really aren't living authentic lives. Authenticity requires that we show our limp, show our scars, and bear for the world that we ONLY go on through a resurrected Savior and that our hope lies only in Him.

  2. good point, Josh!
    It can be very hard to be so transparent with others because we have been so conditioned to hide this (or maybe the shame-hiding is innate). But, when we realize that we are all broken people, we can celebrate it!

  3. Lauren H. says:

    I love both yours and Josh's thoughts, Derek. Your blog post is excellent!

    I think that not only is it a haughty pride that hinders us from revealing a constant, faithful, and trustworthy authenticity, but it is also the fear that we don't have what it takes to be authentic.
    –That we'll let others down.
    –That we've gone through too many tribulations in life and believed too many lies about ourselves that our self-worth has been sucked dry. Sometimes we don't love ourselves just enough to where we can love others. We're not filled up enough to pour anything out.

    But then again, as you and I have discussed at church before, Derek, this lack of confidence and invasion of fear takes on a different form a pride. We're still peering too far inward. We're solely focusing on what we think we lack, to where that becomes our main obsession. The energy needed to love becomes zapped in its gravitation toward ourselves, instead of being utilized outward, into the lives and hearts of others. Pride goes either way. We're either focusing on what we think we have, or paying too much attention to what we don't because we forget we don't and can't have all the answers. We forget in Whose image we were made. We forget Who's in control.

  4. This hit me right between the pockets. I have spent several years now feeling like I needed to completely abandon and apologize for my Christian heritage because I used to think that loving people meant that I had to convince them to see the world the same way I did. To keep them from eternal suffering. I’m realizing of late that my Christian hertiage will always shape me and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Failing to recognize the giants upon whose shoulders I stand, be they good or bad, is the worst kind of inauthenticity I can imagine.

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