As promised, here is the first of my top 5 or 6 tips for people of faith who are resolved to evolve this year!  Here’s tip #1:  Get Authentic.  

Hangin’ out


When I pastored churches, I knew most of the people in the  congregations I served–quite a few pretty well.  We had conversations with some level of  transparency on my part, and on theirs.  Later, it surprised me to learn that all these folks I knew didn’t really know each other!
Never mind that some of them had been going to church together for decades.
They knew of each other, and about each other.  But they didn’t really know each other.  They weren’t genuinely friends.
Now that I work with churches in a variety of ways–leading retreats, teaching workshops, and coaching leaders–I can see that my congregations were not unique.   Just because people worship together doesn’t mean they feel safe together.
That’s kinda strange, don’t you think??   We bring people together to study, worship and work.  And even change the world.  Without the kind of resilient bonds and relationships that make that do-able.  Especially when conflict rolls around.
Would things change if your “community of faith” was truly acommunity?  I mean, what if we truly knew each other–our weaknesses and our strengths?  What if we were transparent with each other?
Jesus and his disciples hung out A LOT..they traveled together, ate together, debated together, fished together, partied together, fought together, learned together, made up together.  They shared living space.  Over time, they not only knew of and about each other, they were friends.  That was a lot of time for transparency, authenticity.   Tell me that didn’t have something to do with why they were so effective later on after Jesus died!
I listened to an interview recently about people who are spiritual but not religious.  It pointed to another aspect of authenticity that religious people can learn from.  It turns out those who identify as spiritual want, even more than those who are religious, to pose and savor good questions, to take on the status quo, and to freely express themselves in the process–without having to conform to pre-set norms.  It’s in this process that they come alive, and experience the Divine.
My own belief, and my experience, is that as we are more truly ourselves–without trying to look good, follow the rules, or go along to get  along–that God becomes most real.  These epiphanies often happen in conversation with others.
So, for those who resolve to evolve in, here’s my suggestion: create the space and the permission where people can be authentically themselves.   I’m thinking something like youth group for adults! 
Why does Youth Group have the potential to be so transformative?  And so hard?  There’s no set agenda!  You never know what students might bring up, or what personal problem or societal issue will become the topic of discussion.  You never know who is going to cry.  Nor who will shine.  And how the group will bond, and come to experience God.  But one thing you can count on:  they will tell the truth, as they see it.
What if we set up those sorts of experiences for adults as well as youth?  Experiences which let us truly get to know each other:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Here’s what I say:  Let go of the pre-set agendas, and set the stage for transparency, tears, revelations, honesty.   Kinda like Jesus did.
In his book Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal writes that for churches looking to go missional, people development must take priority over program development. Authenticity is a must for people development.
This year, as you resolve to evolve, resolve to get to know each other–at a whole new level.  And do it more than just once a year.  Plan a series of experiences that reward play, self-revelation, and self-awareness.  In a word:  authenticity. By all means, do it intergenerationally, whenever possible.
Some ideas:

  • Plan a retreat together.
  • Go out to dinner together or have potlucks.
  • Hike or ski together.
  • Share your spiritual journeys.
  • Do a project that groups or pairs people up and requires them to get to know each other.

If you’re looking for a retreat that builds a sense of the common good, and helps people truly get to know themselves and each other, click here to check out For the Common Good!
By the way, thanks to all those who answered last week’s fun question about Mr. Banks.  We had a tie for the free book:  congrats to winners GW Bill Warren and Deb Polanski!
Stay tuned for next week’s tip!