Have you ever received a flyer for a new church plant? They all say something like this: “Looking for a relevant new church? We are authentic believers who want to show Christ’s love to this community.” I always get a kick out of these flyers. Same lingo, same phrases, they even all have similar names. Something with water, wells, or roads, and sometimes they throw a Greek word in just to prove someone on staff has been to graduate school. I get it; we are all guilty of this, trying to be relevant. Even our own church website has phrases like this. Over all I don’t have a problem, it’s just a bit comical.
Is authenticity really about tight jeans, a cool logo, and beautiful greeters at the door? Is an authentic pastor one who drinks a beer or tosses out a few cuss words? Maybe to some that seems safe. I am just a bit worn out with “pop-culture” church. I believe a beautiful ministry celebrates diversity, not sameness. It’s old and young, racially broad, and bound by something more stable than a cultural trend that will go out with bell bottoms (or maybe they are back in, I don’t know). Maybe our mission statements should mirror the ancient mission statements and creeds of our forefathers? Father Raniero Cantalamessa wrote in his book The Mystery of God’s Word about how even evangelism has become more about strategies and tactics than true transformation of the evangelist’s heart. So if I wear cool clothes, hang out at bars, and get to know a few people, I can surprise them with my sales pitch and try to close the deal.
Yes, I have read the Bible and studied it for years personally and in academic settings. It is correct that in careful analysis of who Jesus spent time with we can conclude he would not be afraid to darken the door of a bar if he were here incarnate today. I just don’t think he would rock the latest graphic tee, wear tight jeans, and be a connoisseur of high dollar imported beer. He would be just as comfortable visiting the elderly in a nursing home and the homeless downtown. I believe Jesus would be about the heart over ever-shifting fads, so maybe true “authentic” people should be more about heart than popular trends. I believe Jesus would be real with elderly war vets, single moms, poor homeless people, and yes, even hipsters in a bar, because true authenticity is really about your heart. We need hearts transformed into the likeness of Christ more than cool clothes and a fancy logo.