‘Being Authentic’ is More Than Just Being Honest

Yes, authenticity is vital. But it's also very misunderstood.

Of all the things the millennial generation wants out of church, authenticity may be the most important.

As a twentysomething pastor who lives in Silver Lake—a very creative, diverse, and subversive neighborhood in LA—I see the need for authenticity in the hearts of my neighbors, as well as in my own heart. It's the battle cry of our generation, often expressed publicly with ironic clothing and accessories, or more privately with heart-to-heart conversations over coffee and other things we love. 

I think the cry for authenticity stems out of the reality that we're a generation let down by previous ones. Past ideals don't work for us. We're fed up with wearing masks and hiding the truth about ourselves in an effort to blend in because it starves our hearts and leaves us empty. We crave a place and people we can be our true selves with and be truly loved. We're crawling out from the bushes and searching for more. We're calling others out to do the same, too, and are creating new standards for relationships. 

However, the quest for meaning isn't without its challenges. Authenticity itself is hard to define and—because of that—it’s even harder to find in churches.

What is Authenticity?

A lot of things can be mistaken for authenticity: relativism ("whatever seems right to me has to be OK with everyone else"), social elitism ("only people with a dark past and tattoos belong"), and dedication to causes ("meet my cat, he's a rescue") are just a few examples.

Authenticity in the Church is the quality of our exposure of brokenness and adornment in God's grace.

However, I think when we search the Scriptures for definition, we discover authenticity is much more than all that. One passage that sums it up well is Ephesians 4:22-24, in which believers are called, "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

Thus, authenticity in the Church is the quality of our exposure of brokenness and adornment in God's grace. An authentic person is one who is both privately and publicly putting off the old self and, by God's grace, putting on the renewed self.

This kind of authenticity expresses itself different in people based on their unique journeys, but it is unmistakably glorifying to God. With that in mind, let's consider a few steps to possessing authenticity, using Jesus' words in Luke 9:23 ('“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me") as a guide.

1. Be Vulnerable.

“Deny yourself daily.”

Be a storyteller. Among believers, confess your origins as well as the ways you're still broken. Try to articulate how you're not yet whole in both your beliefs and your rhythms of life.

All of us need redemption and renewal in all of life, and so we must be intentional to communicate that everyday "right now" need to others regularly. How did you need Jesus yesterday? How do you need Him today? How do you need Him tomorrow? Tell that story to God, yourself, and to others.

2. Embrace the Tension.

“Take up your cross daily.”

After you've been vulnerable about your brokenness, find your way to the cross, to death, and to burial, and stay there for a while.

Don't shy away. The experience is supposed to be awkward and emotionally uncomfortable. Accept that the journey is a painful process, and cooperate with God as He initiates and carries out change in your life. As surely as you experience the death and burial of your broken self, you'll also experience the resurrection of it.

Remember, too, that other believers are all in the middle of the journey, too. We're all processing. Even as you're striving to be authentic, you'll find that others are not reciprocating, but don't let that stop you from faithfully taking the steps you need to take in your own journey. Your journey into authenticity starts with you, so embrace the tension. Don't wait on everyone else.

God didn't wait on you to show you grace. That was a one-way street, with Him initiating the giving and you simply receiving. So it is with authenticity. You give it away, no matter how it's received. On your part, though, be ready to respond rightly to others when they're authentic. No shaming. Stay with them in the tension, ask questions and encourage them about what's ahead. To what extent are you prepared to surrender yourself to Jesus and His Church? How will you react when others do?

Be ready to respond rightly to others when they're authentic. No shaming. Stay with them in the tension, ask questions and encourage them about what's ahead.

3. Recover with God's Story.

"Follow Jesus daily."

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After you've been vulnerable and have stayed at the cross and in the tension, receive God's Word, letting it be what covers you. Jesus' story is yours, like a new garment to cover your nakedness.

What you believe—the story you tell yourself—is what what will determine what color, shape, and texture your life has. What is true about you because of Jesus? What is true about the others in your church because of Jesus? What does that mean for your life with others? That is your new reality, and it's theirs too, and it's how we should see and treat ourselves and one another.

Ultimately, Jesus is the standard for authenticity. He defines what it means to be an individual, to be loved in God's own community, and to offer real hope to the world. Every day, we need to let go of ourselves more and more, that Christ might be displayed in us increasingly and endlessly. When we let Jesus be the hero and leader of our stories and follow Him, He brings beautiful change into our broken hearts and leads us to places far more beautiful and satisfying that we ever could imagine.

If you want an experience with authenticity, prepare yourself for for a wild but glorious adventure.

Top Comments

Kristian Stensland

5

Kristian Stensland commented…

Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), who is considered the father of existentialism, speaks of people who is unconsciously fleeing from the opportunity to live an authentic life. - The Sickness Unto Death, is a book written by Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard in 1849 under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus. A work of Christian existentialism. - In The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard personifies an attitude with the average citizen (spissborger). This is an individual who is unconsciously fleeing from the opportunity to live an authentic life. This average citizen often appears as "morally superior" to others, but really this is an unreflected individual. The individual are being swallowed up by social norms and others expectations, without even being aware of this. The result is that the individual becomes alienated (fremmedgjort) both from himselves and the society. - An individual's values must be the result of an "existential awareness". The important thing is to preserve the independence and responsibility in interacting with other people, and it's precisely this ability the character never did develop (Matthew 22:39). - A synthesis of individual freedom and existential integrity, however, can only be reached when the individual have seen through all the deception of society. Should someone discover their freedom in relation to others, the realization must begin from scratch, as an expanding opportunity that blows away one's definition of self. A realization of this can only come into existence, through the establishment of another center for an individual's values, identity, the self, our freedom, etc. For Kierkegaard it is God (Christianity), but then released from a variety of religious and secular beliefs related to him - that opens the self from inside and establishes a different center for the individual's identity, values, the self and our freedom. - Kierkegaard didn't believe in finding the perfect "system". To the "system" as the solution to everything. Because any system is based on rational principles, and subjectivity is not rational. A person who has fulfilled the unconditional self-examination, Kierkegaard requires, have reached the limit for how far the intellectual sense can lead us. – This change puts everything in proper relation to man.- Spiritually, it means that God brings Christians to new life from a previous state of subjection to the decay of death (Ephesians 2:2). (Regeneration).

Cole Comstock

6

Cole Comstock commented…

Authenticity is setting one's self apart from the world even though we still live in it. We are "sojourners in a foreign land." It means we choose to walk the life our Father walked.

-Cole Comstock
More at: http://www.faithandchristianity.com/2014/12/17/sojourning-in-a-foreign-l...

7 Comments

Michael A. Gentile

1

Michael A. Gentile commented…

How we choose to identify ourselves in the world has always been a challenge for every church, for example just beginning by saying "I'm 20 something" is a condition we set up to explain ourselves. It's a product of the times for sure since the latest generations have become self obsessed, and self absorbed, but it's not at all uncommon as a human trait. And so this very human condition of self expression and masks being employed to help identify our inner person to an outward faith community tends to cloud the pure and true focus foundation of our faith and subsequent religion. So it's good to point out the need to reflect a Christ-like posture, and authentic Jesus attire if you will. That is and has always been the need from the very beginning of the church. It's not unique to millienials or the West, or California. It's a matter of human nature to look introspectively and judge ourselves and those around us according to how our desires fit into the church.

The mechanism Christ established for His church to become authentic is the influence and power of the Holy Spirit and the gifts that are given to each individual body part. Authentic "church" is His work, not authentic individuals, although one does not exclude the other and in fact you could say one requires the other.

What is needed is the courage to be authentic, to be courageous enough to risk your own identity for the sake of Jesus Christ. The courage to become someone even you don't recognize.

Can this so called millienial generation find it within themselves to be courageous enough to drop the obsession with identifiers and simply work to become a true reflection of Christ Jesus?

The body of Christ is in fact made up of authentic and unique parts, that often don't even realize they are participating. And furthermore they are participating even when they are not actively working within the organized religious structures. Every generation basically needs to get their collective heads out from their collective behinds and focus upon the work of the Holy Spirit and God's word. The rest will take care of itself!

Cole Comstock

6

Cole Comstock commented…

Authenticity is setting one's self apart from the world even though we still live in it. We are "sojourners in a foreign land." It means we choose to walk the life our Father walked.

-Cole Comstock
More at: http://www.faithandchristianity.com/2014/12/17/sojourning-in-a-foreign-l...

Cole Comstock

6

Cole Comstock commented…

Authenticity is setting one's self apart from the world even though we still live in it. We are "sojourners in a foreign land." It means we choose to walk the life our Father walked.

-Cole Comstock
More at: http://www.faithandchristianity.com/2014/12/17/sojourning-in-a-foreign-l...

Cole Comstock

6

Cole Comstock commented…

Authenticity is setting one's self apart from the world even though we still live in it. We are "sojourners in a foreign land." It means we choose to walk the life our Father walked.

-Cole Comstock
More at: http://www.faithandchristianity.com/2014/12/17/sojourning-in-a-foreign-l...

Pete Santucci

10

Pete Santucci commented…

How can we be "authentic" when we don't even know who we are? And how do we measure authenticity in others? The biblical call is to integrity (wholeness, undivided heart). For more see: http://petesantucci.com/2015/05/13/the-authenticity-bluff-why-our-lack-o...

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