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Being Real With Your Congregation

Being Real With Your Congregation

Steve’s latest book is Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities.

We are all messy human beings. Every one of us has an Achilles heel that the enemy knows about. If we want to last in leadership, we need to learn to be authentic with those around us about our strengths and weaknesses.

What is authenticity? It’s when the outside mirrors the inside of who you arein public and in private. It’s when you stop trying to impress people. Authenticity starts with your relationship with God, but it also plays out with others around you.

If you look at the lives of the disciples, at how Jesus interacted with them, he often ministered more out of humility and out of weakness than out of strength. I have found time and time again that people are more endeared to people who are real and know they’re broken. People love to see their pastor actually show that he is a human being.

I’ve found there are three common fears that block authenticity:

Fear of exposure

The fear of exposure keeps us from being open and vulnerable with others. Proverbs 26:23 says, “Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot” (NLT). An authentic leader refuses to wear a mask and play games. He keeps everything out in the open for others to see.

John 3:21 says, “Those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants” (NLT). The key to authenticity is being able to live in God’s light, to live in God’s image. In other words, it’s just being real. I try to be as transparent as possible. Sometimes it’s scary, but you need to try to be real with the people around you.

Fear of rejection

If you want to be authentic, you can’t waste energy worrying what others think of you. You need to accept who you are. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety” (NLT).

I live in Southern California where I see lots of Ferraris, Jaguars, and cars that cost more than my houseand I go around with my old Chevy. Every time I pull up to people in the parking lot, I’m tempted with this envy thing. I just have to keep going knowing God loves me and gave me my car for a reason. The key is to trust in God’s love.

Fear of being hurt

Fear is a strong motivator that forces people to not be real around you. The key is to let God give you a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT) says, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” You need to create a safe environment where people can be real.

Speaking the truth in loveAs a leader you need to share your weaknesses as well as your strengths. You need to share your messes and your successes. You need to speak with honesty. It may not always be easy, but you need to be truthful with those you lead. Truthfulness is part of sharing who you are. We need to speak the truth in love, growing in every way more like Christ.

When I read through the New Testament, I am amazed how Jesus mastered being as wise as a serpent but as gentle as a dove. Our problem is sometimes we are as gentle as the serpent and wise as the dove. Part of what is so awkward sometimes is we are afraid to say no to people. When you’re able to let your yes be yes and your no be no, it will free you to become authentic.

As leaders, we need to keep short accounts. That means when something is bothering us in a relationship, we need to connect with that person right away. And never deliver bad news in an email. As much as you script it with the best verbiage possible, you’re going to lose something in the translation. You have to go and make eye contact in person. Part of being authentic is not hiding behind technology when you need to have a hard conversation with someone.

Words are powerful and can cut very deeply. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV). This verse tells us that encouragement has the power to restrain sin! Regularly look for ways to speak blessings and affirmation in people’s lives. You may stop sin in its tracks!

When you take steps to model authenticity, you’ll find that those you lead will trust you and stick with you for the duration in ministry.

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