Thursday, June 27, 2013

Authentic (part 2 of 4)

Last weekend my family and I went to the largest Waken reunion in recent history.  We had about 85 people reuniting.  The stories, memories and family history flowed freely.  Of the 85 people attending, I had meaningful relationships with only fourteen.  I met a few of the other folks when I was nine years old at a previous reunion, but the majority were strangers to me in every way except we were somehow related.  Leading up to this weekend reunion, I had been asking God to set up spiritual conversations with those who He knew were ready to move forward in their relationship with Jesus.  There was one family member that I sensed was ready for a spiritual conversation and so we engaged the adventure of getting to know each other.

I began by asking my relative to tell me his story because I had never heard it.  His answer told me more than I would have guessed.  His answer began with, "I don't tell anyone my story.  My story isn't important."  This was followed up by him saying, "Why would anyone want to hear my story?  It is boring and dull and not much to tell."  After we opened that door and walked down the path of his life for a while, I then asked my relative how his faith was doing.  After stumbling over his words for a moment, he became honest and said, "I really don't like church.  I worship in my own way.  My family wants me to go to church with them but I find it something other than authentic."  That began another long conversation over two days.

My relative told me that many people he experienced in the church were surface, distant and phony.  From the person handing out the bulletins, to the smile on the preacher's face; all seemed to be put on much of the time.  This man told me he felt like he had to conform in dress, mannerisms and activities when he was at church or with people from the church.  He felt like he couldn't be himself and be accepted so he choose  chose to stay away.

It is true that being authentic, being true to who we are, is difficult almost anywhere in our world.  We must be "PC" (politically correct) at work, at school or just about anywhere we go.  There is even a "PC" way to act at church.  The "PC" rules may shift from church tradition to church tradition, but there are "PC" ways to behave and believe so that one is able to belong.  Being genuine in a world that is disingenuous is challenging.

The irony of our "PC" world and church is that many are craving for authenticity.  People simply want to be accepted for who they are, not for who they are expected to be.  In my last post, I mentioned I had recently returned from another country where I did not speak the language but was presenting organic church information to them through an interpreter.  I asked the Lord to connect me to a couple of people who He knew wanted to be authentic and I found many.  In the public teaching times, I began sharing my personal stories of failures and wounds and losses instead of sharing stories of victory and success.  This served to quickly and supernaturally connect my heart to a large portion of the attenders.  Being authentic exposed me in ways I wasn't prepared to engage.  Being authentic was also a magnet for people.  They are desperate to be honest about their struggles.  When we open the door of authenticity in our lives and are willing to walk together with them, the walls of disingenuousness begin to fall.

Paul gave us an example of being authentic in many places in the New Testament.  We can see Paul being a learner all throughout the book Acts.  Paul, as a learner, begins to paint a picture of his humanity.  Paul changed his strategy often as he learned and adjusted his approach based upon his previous weak points of strategy.  This is how a normal person learns, by trial and error and adjustment, just like Paul did.  Paul also was authentic in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.  In these verses Paul tells the people in the city of Corinth that he wasn't strong and full of confidence but instead he was really fearful from all he had recently experienced.  Paul came to Corinth focusing his comments on Jesus Christ alone because he knew that is what they needed, he didn't rely on his education and intellectual astuteness.  Paul was authentic in order for the people of Corinth to learn that their faith should be centered on the power of God, not of any man or his abilities.  This is a very refreshing portion of Scripture.

As our weekend reunion came to a close, my relative who has shied away from the church began to paint a picture of what he was thirsting after.  He thirsts for real friends who will accept him with his struggles and who also struggle and are honest about it.  He thirsts for friends who have time for each other and who help each other to get up only to fall down at the feet of Jesus and worship.  Why is that so hard to find?

Jesus said He did not come for the righteous but for the sinners (Matt. 9:13), He didn't come for those who are well but for those who know they are sick (Luke 5:31-32).  Jesus came to give authentic life in abundance (John 10:10).

Why do you think many feel that churches are less than authentic?  What can/will you do to help reverse this trend?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Next time we will discuss the benefits and liabilities of being authentic and then we will end with what it takes to live an authentic life and how to break out of a deceptive life.