I went to a meeting with some church people the other day. It was about small group development, a very big thing right now. It was mostly good useful stuff, a few well-intended but unworkable suggestions, and a rather bland starchy lunch. The coffee was good. The only reason I know anything at all about small groups is because not enough people attend my Sunday school class to make a large group, so there’s no point getting into specifics.

What struck me was the preacher’s and participant’s repeated use of “authentic” and “authenticity.” It was like listening to old-time Sicilian Dons discuss a marriage proposal, except the Methodists said “authentic” instead of “respect.” And instead of “Yes,” “No,” “Amen,” and “Hallelujah.”

Of course words come into and go out of fashion, but this was really striking. I suspect one old guy (not me) used the phrase “emotional authenticity” as deliberate parody. Not that there’s anything wrong with parody, as long as it’s authentic. Nobody but me seemed to notice. Maybe they were too busy playing some protestant drinking game, taking a sip of coffee every time the preacher says “authentic.”

What’s the cause of this? I hope it isn’t coming from some focus group. Have people been saying we’re a bunch of phonies? If it’s true, deal with it – tell the truth; do what you say you will. If it isn’t true, ignore them. Either way, enough talk. Do something, and let people’s perception take care of itself.


4 Replies to “Authenticity”

  1. A focus group? Yes, sort of.

    And it’s not just the Methodists. If you haven’t googled “the authentic church” yet, you should give it a go. I’m with you. I think it’s important to be concerned about truth and actions but dangerous to start with how others perceive us.

  2. Some pastors I know enjoy picking some word or phrase to use twenty thousand times during a particular sermon (like u-turn or who’s your daddy?), perhaps this is that same sort of thing.

  3. Benjamin, I should have known.

    Aurelia, that can work for me if I don’t notice it, or if he can draw me in.

    Juliana, “intentional” may have been spoken a time or two as well – though not in that particular combination.

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