In every resource I have read lately about what it takes to be a great Sunday School leader, I have noticed one theme that keeps showing up. Authenticity. One might argue that this quality is essential for any leader, but especially for the man or woman who seeks to shepherd souls and teach God’s word. But what does it mean to be authentic? Bill Donahue shared some thoughts recently about what authenticity is not.
Authenticity: Yes, authenticity is an overworked word… but it remains an underutilized practice. I believe this is because it is often misunderstood. Sometimes it is interpreted as putting all your cards on the table all the time, totally revealing everything about yourself.
Not healthy. We have reality TV to thank for that perspective. Unbridled and unwise communication and action is not authenticity – it is simply overexposure. And, like too much sun without sunblock, it does more damage than most relationships can tolerate.
Or, people fake authenticity with trite phases and clichés. “I totally understand what you mean!” “Wow thanks for putting yourself out there, Susan. It felt so real.” Or what a women said in a group I was in “I hate my husband, he’s a creep!” That was certainly real…but was it wise to share in the second meeting of a small group just learning to become a community and trying to take basic risks?
Rather, true biblical authenticity is revealed as a leader’s heart is moved by the compassion, confidence, and grace of Jesus. The compassion that comes as one’s heart is moved by the love of Christ towards others inspires us to make real contact with them. It draws us away from our safe zones and compels us to have sincere interactions with the people we care about. Confidence in Christ inspires confidence to be vulnerable without the fear that people will discover you for a fraud or as someone who is less than they thought you should be. In Christ we are all broken and humble and yet healed and bold. Because Christ is strong in is, we can be vulnerable in Him. When we understand the profound implications of grace we neither fear judgement or rush to deal it out.
We must be committed to authenticity. People were drawn to the New Testament church, not because they were perfect and had a flawless plan, but because their weaknesses were publicly out shined by the power of Christ in them. Like Paul, we must rejoice in our weaknesses and allow Christ to be shown all the stronger to our community as He shapes us into the church He desires.
Wouldn’t you rather learn from someone who was being authentic with you?