Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment on the last post! I claimed that there is something that non-Christians/new converts hate about the behavior modification approach to Christianity. Your responses were in the same place that mine were, except that I pull all of those responses together into one umbrella term: authenticity.
Authenticity is a culmination of many important characteristics, both of individuals and of organizations. It is a combination of honesty, truthfulness, reliability, integrity, and more. It even covers big picture leadership ideas like mission and vision, whether we’re focusing on significant issues or not, and legitimate awareness of ourselves and our community. Scot McKnight, in his book “The Blue Parakeet”, recounts an encounter with a young man whose youth minister constantly asked if he still believed in the authority of scripture. The young man was extremely frustrated about this constant questioning because the youth minister didn’t know any poor people, didn’t mention the homeless, and was unaware of the severe suffering in Darfur. In summary… the youth minister had an authenticity problem. He was concerned about the respect of scripture, but not to the point that it affected the way he interacted with his world.
When we fall into the trap of the behavior modification approach to Christianity, we too are suffering from an authenticity problem. On one hand we talk about forgiveness, grace, and ‘speaking where the Bible speaks’, but on the other we create all kinds of rules and social expectations for behavior that have minimal sanctioning from the Bible. It is no different than the hedge building that Jesus accused the pharisees of. At it’s core it is salvation by works theology. We’d deny it if you accused us directly of it, but it’s true.
The inconsistency and lack of integrity that comes from the failure in authenticity drives non-Christians/new converts CRAZY. In general, people are smart. They are also not accustomed to doing things just because someone in authority tells them to, religious or otherwise. When you say to them “mixed bathing is wrong unless everyone is wearing a t-shirt”, they see the lack of authenticity and somewhere in their mind their subconscious is saying “you really think there is a direct link between boys and girls swimming together and teen pregnancy or proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases?” Well… do we?
There is a greater spiritual implication for trying to legislate behavior as a part of our evangelism, outreach, and assimilation. I’ll talk about that more in the next post. Until then, what are your thoughts on integrity and authenticity in evangelism? Are we doing a good job in this department? What stories have you witnessed where there was a lack of authenticity in church?