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November 01

The Power of Authenticity

Michael Subracko

Authenticity isn’t necessarily hanging out all your “dirty laundry” for the world to see. Rather it is not being deceptive with who you are. It is a refusal to mask triumph or defeat and a willingness to give people an accurate picture of who you are.

Churches are often criticized for being inauthentic. Instead of being places where struggles are shared, the public image of its participants are that of superhuman, faithful, Bible reading robots who hit one home run after another.

The church needs to be a place of authenticity.

Thankfully, much of the church has identified this lack and is responding. However, the mistake we often make is narrowly defining authenticity as simply sharing struggles. Doing so has reduced the faith experience to an expression of what’s wrong with me and the world.

But that’s not the whole story. Yes, there are plenty of things wrong with you, me, and that other person. But the Gospel teaches us that God is also alive and working. He is bringing life into death. Thus, the Christian life is often a mix of these elements. Authenticity, therefore, is non-deceptively embodying and expressing the life and death of everyday living.

Embodying this sort of authenticity is powerful.

This past weekend, Grace Seattle hosted Introduction to Grace, a weekend seminar on the nuts and bolts of our church. It was here I was reminded of the power of authenticity. People were talking about their experience of our congregation. One individual told the story of how on her first Sunday a baby was being baptized. It was clear from what was said the family had struggled for years, in general and in their marriage. It was also clear, however, that God, even in the midst of struggle, was healing and restoring relationships. For her, she heard enough to conclude that authenticity was valued at our church, which was a very comforting and powerful. I am extremely grateful for this. It is a gift from God.

But why? Why is communal authenticity comforting and powerful?

An authentic community creates a safe place to both struggle and overcome. An authentic community creates space where we can identify what’s wrong with us and yet embrace healing in Jesus. An authentic community doesn’t put pressure on folks to be someone they’re not while at the same time doesn’t reward cynicism or negativity.

In short, an authentic community is a natural and safe place to be human.

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November 10, 2012 7:50 AM

Hey just seeing if this works...

Bob Montgomery

November 10, 2012 7:57 AM

What is the benefit of focusing on a word like "authentic" to get at this concept rather than a more biblical word like "honesty"?

Michael Subracko

November 10, 2012 9:12 PM

Interesting question Bob. 

I guess the benefit is that we deal with a concept that is somewhat popular right now in our culture and give it a better, more Christian-informed meaning. 

I think this is important because many, at least in my experience, misunderstand authenticity. 

Do you think there is benefit to talk about honesty instead of authenticity?



Bob Montgomery

December 21, 2012 1:23 PM

I think the benefit of talking about honesty is that the concept/definition is constrained to some extent by what the bible says, which can prevent discussions from going off the rails.

I don't reject the use or discussion of the term authenticity, I just think that the concept can easily fly away in weird directions.  I just read the book "Everybody Loves Our Town" and it's striking how much the "scene" (i.e., being authentic; not selling out) controlled people - ultimately, it was very hurtful (or destructive) to the relationships and friendships in the book.

"Honesty" unbound by love can, of course, be equally destructive - but I suppose the point is that honesty is directly addressed in the bible and the boundaries, conditions, requirements, the value of it, is there.

Just some thoughts.  And also, if you haven't read "Everybody Loves Our Town," you should.  Brilliant, brilliant book.

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