I am now in day six of a “blog off” between myself and Pastor Vicki Gladding (www.vgladding.blogspot.com). She is one of the clients in my company, ORCVirtual (www.orcvirtual.com) but is also someone whom I have come to consider a friend. We agreed to challenge ourselves to coming up with a blog entry a day for one week. The journey has been an interesting one so far.
I have never met Pastor Vicki in person. We have spoken on the phone, we have Skype’d together, I know what she looks like through photos and we are friends on Facebook. I have never had the opportunity (yet) to sit at a table and share a cup of tea and share conversation. But there is one thing I can tell you of Pastor Vicki that I know without a doubt. I have said this often to her and about her but today I want to focus on this one particular aspect of Christianity that I feel is truly key to walking-the-walk. Authenticity.
What I absolutely adore about the stories of Christ in the New Testament is that Christ brought about not only realism but an authentic, tangible, and visual connection to the Holy. He put flesh and bone to God and walked the earth. When he left this physical realm, he left us with the responsibility of putting face, hands, feet, heart and voice to his Spirit. When we become these things we enter in to authentic ministry. When we try to embrace the aspects of the physical Christ in todays’ world, we enter in to authentic ministry. It is when we place the experiences of the Holy too high for many to reach that we begin to loose authenticity.
I had a roommate in college who used to say, frequently I might add, that although God created all of creation, at times he felt as if he was just a mere dirt worm in this world. Not able to achieve even one rung on the ladder of higher order. He felt that he was often not the master of his domain or anything for that matter. He accepted the fact that he struggled and his life was slow and agonizing at times as he wiggled his way through this life, looking and searching for ways to bring the gospel to the people around him while he, himself, struggled to learn more about the God he preached about. What I truly think he did not realize is how many people who truly touched. Through his humility he touched hundreds if not thousands of hearts. What we saw in this man, who was a great teacher of the gospel and one of the most faithful prayer partners I have ever encountered, was a man who knew that he was merely a man and that he felt he fell short every single day of totally, utterly and genuinely pleasing God with his every word, thought and deed. He always knew that he wasn’t “done yet” and that God still had a lot of work to do in him.
Conversely I had a pastor of a church I served who always referred to himself as the Reverend Doctor. Yes, he had his PhD and even in staff meetings we were not allowed to call him by his first name or even Pastor so-and-so. It was always Reverent Doctor. His sermons were always lofty and he chose words that many people would need to look up had the pews had a dictionary handy. I know he made up several words as well and created them so that his mouth would seem that more intelligent. When he was in the chancel area (the area that contains the pulpit, alter, choir, etc) he did not humble himself but took it upon himself to be the master of it. When all people would kneel in the area, he would stand. We never once saw him kneel. This man lacked authenticity because he made the holy something that was unattainable and out of reach for everyone but him and maybe a select few he elected. It was painfully obvious and after a few years he was asked to step down and the church was able to heal and grow after that.
There is a very fine line that pastors have to walk. We must embrace humility and remain humble in our calling but we must also be prepared to be seen as an authority figure. People expect us to have the answers. Some people even fail to confide fully in their pastor because they do not believe for a moment that they would understand their earthly struggles. After all, they are pastors and they only work on Sundays and then must spend the rest of the time studying the Bible and getting, well, holier than they are this week! Pastors must be able to do what Christ did – meet every single person exactly where they are on this life journey and be able to relate to them. THAT is authentic ministry.
To be truly authentic in the calling of ministry, to fully embrace what it means to be called Pastor, a person must be able to show the face of Christ to the blind. They must be able to become the feet of Christ on earth, and they must become the hands of Christ with which to hold the hands of the dying and hurting. One must become the ears of Christ to hear all things and the mouth of Christ to speak His truth. One must become the body of Christ, walking and living and breathing and BEing in this space and time because Christ is no longer physically among us.
We tend to forget that Paul was a man – he was no superhero, no Reverend Doctor. His ministry was soaked in the Word of God, the Truth of God, the Teaching of God and the Good News of the gospel. A pastor of authenticity will have a life whose outward appearance is but a reflection of an inward grace provided only by the Holy Spirit.
Authentic doesn’t mean perfection. It means being genuine. It means having a life that is reliable and trustworthy. It means being Christ to those that have not met Him and to those who continue to seek Him further. The goal of humanity should be that all strive to be authentic believers of Christ and do-ers of God’s Word. Faith in action – feet for the gospel – reality in a world that is full of the unreal. That is authentic ministry. Authentic leadership. Authentic worship.