vulnerability vs. authenticity

we talk a lot about the need for ministry leaders and speakers to be vulnerable and authentic these days. i’m all for that — 100%.

but some time ago i heard a speaker that caused me to reflect on this a bit, and particularly the fact that the two are not synonymous.

i was sitting in a congregation, listening to a guy preaching. he was a guest speaker, but is apparently someone who speaks once or twice a year at this church. and people seem to love, love, love him. the congregation was amped.

there’s no question the guy was vulnerable. he shared openly about struggles and wrestling. that approach itself can sometimes be a mess — more about the speaker experiencing catharsis (at best) or exhibitionism (at worst). but i didn’t sense this preacher was doing that.

but there was something that was really, deeply bugging me about the sermon (and it wasn’t the content, per se). the preacher occasionally slipped into a funny accent (at least he thought it was funny), used quite a few words pronounced in an strange, super-spritual manner, and utilized other speaking ‘tricks’ to–ultimately–manipulate the listeners to an intended feeling. he told self-revealing stories with an affected performance.

and i realized: i found this completely inauthentic.

i came to a sense that i could barely listen, as the speaker was vulnerable, but inauthentic.

authenticity trumps vulnerability in preaching, imho (and for leadership in general). i’d rather listen to an authentic speaker (or follow an authentic leader) without a ton of vulnerability than the other way around any day. both are great; but vulnerability only helps when it’s a subset of authenticity.

3 thoughts on “vulnerability vs. authenticity”

  1. It’s a discerning spirit that helps us see through the show and get to the heart. Not everyone is able to do that, and I’ve found in my small circle of experience that people seem to confuse the two and are either unable or unwilling to see why authenticity is better.
    As a youth guy with kids in the ministry I am more aware now of my censoring my vulnerability – while at the same time working hard at authenticity.

  2. Jesus said “All liars will inherit the lake of fire”. That means ALL OF THEM! When dealing with this mandate, and realizing that i infrequently lied, and only when I was cornered, or where the truth would embarrass, or humiliate me. My conscience burned every time that I was dishonest, so, made it a policy to always tell the truth. Well, after lapse after lapse, the Spirit of God gave me power over this perverse behavior, but a marvelous thing occurred. I began to see other, subtle areas where I was dishonest, pretending to be what I was not, and a whole stinking bouquet of lies that I hadn’t noticed before became visible, and needed cleansing. I began to discern dishonesty in myself, and

  3. (continuing) in others as well. I had began to find that owning up to my errors with others actually engendered sympathy and understanding, bringing me closer to those I would have been dishonest with before. This was the immediate precursor to an enhanced relationship with Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Lying shows a lack of trust in the power of the truth, who is Christ Jesus. It just doesn’t work to use the tools of the Devil to advance the works of righteousness. All kinds of good things have happened since adopting this policy in dealing with others, and I highly recommend making this change to everyone who hasn’t.

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