The World Needs the Real You


Recently, while visiting my son and his family in Florida, I worshiped at the large church they attend.

Sitting in the service, I enjoyed the warmth and sincerity of the pastor and his message. His simple 30-minute sermon to a couple thousand people still somehow left me feeling as though I almost knew him personally. His sermon, his manner of speaking, his body language – even the way he dressed – all seemed to communicate an open life and heart.

He just struck me as so very genuine.  

I reflected on how many people yearn to connect with truly genuine and authentic leaders! Young people especially seem hungry for that kind of relationship and leadership. (See my blog post Warm is the New Cool.)

However, it also occurred to me that it’s really hard for any of us – but especially those living in the unique milieu of full-time ministry – to let ourselves be known, to live open and vulnerable lives, truly communicating our heart with others.

There’s so much risk of being hurt, misunderstood, or judged.

I also wondered how much church life encourages pastors to maintain an image and live up to expectations.

My friend Chuck Degroat recently posted a few thoughts in his blog about Henri Nouwen’s 1972 book The Wounded Healer. I quote a couple of his statements:

His writings are so popular, even today, because he names our secrets, he reveals our fragility, he exposes our brokenness. We see our stories in his [brokenness]… What if pastors were wounded healers whose stories were the fertile soil for connection with lonely, addicted, insecure congregations?

What if we lived so freely that confessions of our fear and loneliness were welcomed, even easy to offer?[i]

I suspect Christian leaders feel pressured to project an image. Yet Jesus walked and lived closely with his disciples, allowing them to experience not only his deity but his day-to-day humanity.

Perhaps some fear making themselves vulnerable due to past hurts or betrayals. Expectations, judgments and scrutiny can all cause us to naturally retract and withdraw our heart.

Authenticity isn’t just about our faults and failures, of course. It includes our passions, our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our true loves, our realistic self-appraisals, our honest opinions. All of that can be scary stuff to share. There are risks involved.

Yet, there’s great opportunity. The opportunity to deeply connect with people. The opportunity to inspire, warn, encourage, train and genuinely heal others.

The world doesn’t need any more Pharisees or even well-polished, well projected images. It needs authentic believers. It needs the real you!

How real are you in your ministry? What are the obstacles to personal authenticity posed by the demands of your ministerial role and profession?

I’m simply pondering this topic and would love to hear your thoughts and musings, too!


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