Pastor, How Do You Rate on the Authenticity Scale?

The overuse of the word “authenticity” seems, ironically, inauthentic. The term is in desperate need of definition to preserve its value and to promote its practice. As far as I can tell, those pastors who preach and lead with power are not only anointed; they are authentic. I still haven’t quite figured out whether divine anointing fosters or follows human authenticity. What I can say, with some degree of certainty, is that the most effective pastoral leaders are authentic. Although authenticity is more easily discerned than defined, the virtue surfaces in the following ways:

Authentic pastors laugh at themselves but take their role seriously. Pastors who take themselves too seriously are usually surrounded by people who don’t. The opposite is also true. Christian leaders who don’t take themselves too seriously are typically followed by people who do. Of course, pastors can laugh so much at themselves that it becomes a sign of insecurity instead of security. Also, though authentic pastors may laugh at themselves from time to time, make no mistake- they are serious about faithfully fulfilling their kingdom role. They are, like the Christ they follow, dead serious about their mission but humble about their self.

(Low)       1                      2                      3                      4                      5          (High)

Authentic pastors value people so much it hurts. There is a world of difference between a pastor who values people as pawns for self-glory and those who value people with no strings attached. Authentic pastors, no matter how many times they are disappointed and hurt by people, keep loving and taking risks on people. The inauthentic pastor, likely due to past pain, keeps people at arm’s length unless there is a chance the person can be a pawn in the pastor’s plan for power and prestige. In other words, the authenticity of pastors can be discerned by how well they love and how highly they value people who cannot help them in any conceivable way.

(Low)       1                      2                      3                      4                      5          (High)

Authentic pastors welcome constructive criticism. Criticism stings. However, authentic pastors welcome critique, especially from the people they lovingly lead. Some congregations have had a long line of ultra-defensive, hyper-sensitive pastors which make the flock gun-shy about offering any constructive feedback at all. The authentic pastor will initiate a loop that welcomes constructive critique and safety for the lay people who offer it. This is one of the reasons why the authentic pastor gets better and not bitter over time, while the inauthentic pastor coasts bitterly and, most of the time, fruitlessly toward resignation or retirement.

(Low)       1                      2                      3                      4                      5          (High)

Authentic pastors commend and empower others. One of the occupational hazards that pastors face is the need to be appreciated and affirmed. On most days this hazard is a sleeping dragon that doesn’t awake until someone else on the pastor’s team begins to shine and receives affirmation. Inauthentic pastors feel threatened and become jealous. What is more, they begin to wage a secret war designed to hold others on the team back from fulfilling their potential. Authentic pastors are so consumed by the joyful work of commending and empowering others, they don’t have time to worry about being noticed. Authentic pastors are not threatened by other gifted leaders on the team because they are too focused on valuing, commending, and empowering those leaders.

(Low)       1                      2                      3                      4                      5          (High)

Authentic pastors are acutely self-aware. I have been a pastor for more than 15 years and have had the privilege of developing pastors for nearly a decade. Most of my closest friends are pastors. In my estimation, self-awareness is one of the biggest challenges pastors face. Some of us try to be what we think people want us to be. Or, perhaps we try to be the type of pastor we always hoped to be. The authentic pastor is fully aware of her strengths and weaknesses. No one needs to guide her on a walk from the la-la land of her dream world toward the real world. She is fully aware of her abilities and honest about her deficiencies. This self-awareness prevents her from portraying what she is not and pushes her to embody who she deep down knows herself to be.

(Low)       1                      2                      3                      4                      5          (High)

So, how do you rate yourself on the authenticity scale? Rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 for each of the evidences of authenticity described above. I have yet to meet an inauthentic leader who has developed a healthy, vibrant congregation. Anointed, authentic pastors, on the other hand, tend to cultivate a congregational culture of authenticity that sends transformational ripples into the world. Could it be that the starting point for the pastor who wants to build an authentic Christian community is to first become an authentic person?

Lenny Luchetti