Authenticity Redefined

What if pastors were to live honestly before the people of God? Lives unashamed of revealing to the world the reality that we don’t have it all together. We think, feel, and breathe the same kinds of things that every other person sitting in the pews encounters on any given day.

I was talking with a close friend of mine this afternoon and the discussion came up that the pastor needs to be able to reveal to his or her congregation a kind of authenticity that makes a clear statement that we don’t profess having it all together. To go one step further, that within the proclamation of the word, the good news of Christ’s love, that every sermon I preach should include my willingness to be authentic as a way of illustrating the message of God’s love. Transparency of mind and spirit, coming to the table, letting it all hang out, making the word come alive for the sake of the gospel being heard and received in a way that convicts the hearts and minds of God’s people.

My preaching professor in seminary always commented that he’d rather have folks leave church after every sermon with two or three ideas that were easily remembered as opposed to an exegesis of the word “chair.” I wonder if the pastor should take it one step further? How about two or three ideas that reveal God’s heart for God’s people and that are made applicable through the pastors willingness to be authentic?

What does it really mean to be authentic when it comes to preaching?

It means that somehow with God’s help, power, and the Spirit of God always working in the preparation of the sermon, that I somehow tell the ego that burdens me daily to take a hike. Get honest. Be real. And don’t be ashamed to allow my heart to speak through the word God has given me on any particular Sunday.


3 thoughts on “Authenticity Redefined

  1. That is an interesting point that your preaching professor made. Something that I have noticed around here is that particularly with Fuller students/graduates, they all will incorporate some amount of discourse about whatever the Greek word was. And I think I heard Andrew, the new AP who is a graduate of Union (VA), do something similar. I think it’s interesting because I was told by (one of) my preaching professors that you should never go into the Greek/Hebrew words because it just separates you from your audience in the sense that you remind them that you are above them because you have a Masters education in divinity.

    I think that I am coming to the realization that preaching is taught more thoroughly with a greater intent on making the preacher connect more with the congregation at Princeton than at other seminaries.

  2. You’re on the right track, brother. People really respond to authenticity – especially when they see God getting us out of messes weekly! The trick is to share what serves the message of the passage you’re preaching. Otherwise, people may become distracted by the need to care for you rather than captured by the Word of God. You can listen to my sermon from last week for an example as I preached on anger:

  3. As with all things, it is our intentions that receive the most scrutiny from on high. Being authentic is not, necessarily, about divulging information. It is a state of the heart, not of the mouth. People can sense authenticity, for the most part.

    In fact, I would proffer to you that the very same message given in a spirit of authenticity will have much more impact than the exact message given without authenticity.

    I don’t have to reveal the details of my struggles with the congregation in order for them to feel that I am sincere about those topics. Neither do I serve the congregation by acting as if I don’t have struggles. It is a burden of circumstance.

    Being led by the spirit, in these instances, is the best policy. Every situation is different.

    Regardless, I don’t believe that God would ask anyone, Pastor or not, to be someone other than who he made them to be. So, erring on the side of authenticity is, in my opinion, a good thing.

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