Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Search of Authentic Church

In our church plant efforts our group has often talked about our desire for authenticity. Over the past couple of weeks, as I've shared this quest for authenticity with others, I've had two people ask me to clarify what we mean by "authenticity."

When I talk about being authentic I am usually referring to an openness about our spiritual progress. I find that there are two disciplines that help foster this kind of openness. First is confession of sin. The Bible encourages us to "confess our sins to one another" and "to pray for one another" (James 5:16). What would it be like if in our Christian communities our intercession for each other consisted mainly in praying for victory over sin for our brothers and sisters? I'm talking specific sins. But most Western Christians I know are really good at putting on the appearance that we have things together for the most part. While very few of us would claim to be sinless, the fact that we very rarely confess our sins to each other suggests that we are acting as though we were sinless. Confession of sin is, by the way, connected with forgiveness of sin (1 John 1:9). It is a dangerous thing to neglect the discipline of confession.

Our group is doing a project together right now to help us identify a particular "growth area" for the next year. The idea is to identify just one area in which we are struggling in our Christian life, confess it to the group, and then work on it over the next several months. My growth area (here's my confession) is "Giving Away My Time." My stinginess with my time has contributed to me not being very compassionate. It is a sin in my life. And I am going to battle against it every week now.

The second discipline we are emphasizing for the sake of authenticity is inviting accountability. I also know some professing Christians who readily admit their sins to others but then seem to not care enough to do anything about it. I remember a couple of years ago at a previous church, I had selected a young guy as a potential small group leader. He "looked" like an authentic Christian. He gave the appearance of a guy who had a good relationship with the Lord. Imagine my surprise when he admitted to our leadership training group that he couldn't remember the last time he had read the Bible and prayed on his own. How could I expect him to lead others spiritually if he was not feeding his own soul?

That woke me up to how far we've drifted from an authentic faith. Most of us can show up to church week after week and look and talk like a Christian, but really we are just a replica. We are not the real deal.

It was C. S. Lewis who said, "The one thing Christianity cannot be is mildly important." Yet, this seems to be the problem most American Christians are in. Call it nominalism if you'd like. The truth is that most of us do not sense how significant Christianity really is. It matters to most of us, but not too much.

And I'm as guilty as the guy sitting next to me or behind me this Sunday. So, I have invited accountability into my life on a daily basis. I want someone else to be in the know about how I'm doing spiritually day by day. Some days I'm really struggling. Other days I feel I'm doing pretty well. Every day I need to fight.

And I don't want to fight alone.

1 comment:

James Hunt said...


As one of those who asked for clarification regarding the term: Authentic, I have found your answer to be clear, scripturally excellent, and right on target for application in the Body.

Crosstown is blessed to have you as teaching shepherd.