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Authenticity is the new oratory device of the day for Christians. Self-disclosure and complete openness have never been so popular among evangelicals. The days of leaders who spoke from a strong tower of knowledge, holiness, and utter discipline seem to be numbered. Over the past decade, I have seen a communication shift that takes speakers and authors from a place of strength and knowledge alone and puts them in a more honest, imperfectly human dialogue context with their audience.

I have personally enjoyed this shift. It resonates with my fallen nature and helps me to know that even those whom I admire struggle like I do. Lately, I have been concerned with the inevitable abuse of the authenticity device. As the pendulum swings from the bully pulpit of years past into the self-disclosing conversational approach of our social-media rich environment, it continues past center into what I call the “permissive confession.”

In short, this type of confession is not designed to right wrongs or to make amends. It’s often used to find sympathy and grace from your audience without having to do the hard work of repenting, changing your ways, and paying retribution. The “I have made a mess of things” disclosure without a change in behavior is the permissive confession that elicits support for the unrepentant.

I need grace and forgiveness more than most. I truly do. But I hope we are not creating a culture that encourages people to be authentic about their sins but excuses them from doing the hard work of making things right. After all, shouldn’t we expect our friends and leaders to change the very thinking and actions that landed them in such a mess to begin with?

Editor's Note: Do you think we're sharing too much personal information in the pulpit today? How do you stay authentic in preaching without crossing the line into permissive confession?

Maurilio Amorim is the CEO of The A Group, a media, technology and branding firm in Brentwood, TN established in 2001.

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Dave Campbell

commented on Nov 18, 2011

Yes, I agree with our writer. I have been witness to the ambarrassment factor of things confessed from both the pulpit and a programed approach of x-rated stuff confessed by misguided Christian AA or addiction type groups. Though some of even well intentioned confession is good, there are more appropriate places, such as with a friend, counselor, or another pastor that I believe is more effective than the public exposure approach.

Gregory Fisher

commented on Nov 18, 2011

We keep wanting to make the story about us. It isn't about us. It's about Him.

John D Jones

commented on Nov 18, 2011

People want and expect their pastor to be genuine. That is a good thing. But when it comes to 'open confessions' no one should glorify sin. The Bible says we should confess our faults one with another -not our sin. There is a difference.

Nathan Chitwood

commented on Nov 18, 2011

Being authentic is essential. But lowering the bar in issues of holiness...the "everybody sins" focus is harmful. Yes, pastors are not perfect, but also we are accountable to God for what comes out of our mouths. I think some lower the standards not even knowing it. I like what Gregory Fisher said, "It's not about us"..We must keep the truth of scripture at the forefront no matter what.

Scott Dossett

commented on Nov 18, 2011

One could just as easily point to pastoral tendencies to conceal sinful behavior and question whether *lack* of authenticity effects the same tendency to avoid the "hard work of repenting" and "changing your ways." As for "paying retribution," I think the author may be taking a subtle step toward legalism. There is no causal connection between "authenticity" and "justification of vice." In fact, in defense of authenticity, I recommend to the author and readers of this article a classic of Christian literature... the Confessions of Augustine.

Cheryl A West

commented on Nov 18, 2011

I agree that too much "confession" from the pulpit is counter-productive. But who says the only way to show authenticity is by hanging out one's dirty laundry before a congregation? What about sharing how the Lord answered personal prayer, or how he saw one through a difficult crisis? Does this not show authenticity as well? I believe speaking forth the truth in love and sincerity, whether or not any part of the speaker's personal life is mentioned during the talk or sermon, reflects all the authenticity the listener should need or expect.

Gerald Ford

commented on Nov 18, 2011

I agree with the article. I plan to stay with the "strong tower of knowledge, holiness, and utter discipline", because, after all, my days are numbered, too. Our besetting sins need to be cared for in our own prayer closet.

Rod Dewberry

commented on Nov 18, 2011

In an effort to keep it "real" or be transparent we have to use discretion. Just because it?s true does not mean it needs to be public. In trying to be transparent what is the end goal have maximum impact, to remove the superficial barrier between us and them, to further identify with where they are... to become more believable.. all of those things can be achieved by building meaningful relationships with a diverse cross-section of our fellowships. Those relationships allow people to see our humanity, and our connection with the people will become evident in our messages. Why not do that rather than taking the short-cut of airing dirty laundry to achieve authenticity. Each time during a message I get ready to roll out some example of past sin, or spiritual immaturity I have to consider the socio-religious culture and maturity of the audience I am speaking to. I will never forget sitting down with a 17yr-old following a youth ministry event who asked me why youth leaders place so much focus on trying to make teens live holy when most if not all the ministers on staff frequently share during their "testimonies" past lives of sin...after which God obviously still used them because look at them now they're teaching the bible to us. The same teen went on to say that the leadership team?s incessant talks about what they used to do did not compel them to get closer to God ?now? but to wait and God would work on them anyway. This obviously a flawed theology but it is fostered by being too transparent. Transparency is a good thing, but not all transparency needs to be achieved in the delivery of the Sunday morning message.

Anthony Perry

commented on Nov 18, 2011

It was God who said it...without naming a time or place..." I am holy therefore you be holy." and the Bible does teach that we are to confess our faults to another....not all others. When I see men in the pulpit confessing their sin...I see tears and shame...please gentlemen stand and represent Holiness, that's what God called you to do

Beverly Birchfield

commented on Nov 18, 2011

We had a young visiting minister who parroted a good message...but his confession of past sin having to do with viewing pronography was obviously embarrassing and hurtful to his wife and absolutely unnesessary to his message. I hope the training of our next generation of preachers is not forgotten as one of the duties of older ministers. Certainly there ia a time and place for confession of sin but let us not forget the honor the pulpit demands. Perhaps a private confession may be more appropreiate.

Michael Wright

commented on Nov 18, 2011

To me this is just part of a growing evidence that the worst thing to ever happen to the United States is the Singular Language, namely the English Language. Out of need over the years it has continued to devlop more towards a language of impracticality, and in a very sinister and dangerous fashion, a very comlicit one. Back in the First Century note the position of the common man was even at the lowest level of education, the reality of life was still a multilingual world, people could at least speak two or more languages out of necessity... and we have certainly seen in recent years that the capacity for learning is greatly increased at earlier ages for those who are multilingual over singularly lingual. They had a trade and conversational language (Aramaic), multiple literary languages (Greek, Coptic, Syriac), a state language (Latin), and then your indigenous languages like Hebrew, Phrygean, etc. What I'm saying is while there was no pulpit, there was little problem with communication in that church, and I believe that was one or more examples of the manifest glories of God through baptism in the Holy Spirit, something that is ill-defined in todays terms, but very well defined at the time. The ability to "Speak in tongues," or as I best understand it volitionally speak and communicate a singular idea or concept in multiple languages for the benefit of the recieving audience. I think we've lost that today because out of a complacent need to be simple we have demanded upon the English Language definitions that are no longer simple, and those with a manifest "command" of that language could be said to themselves be "Speaking in tongues!" And we can take an article like this and compare it to Paul's ministry and discover some interesting things I think... Paul could be both explicitly convicting in the book of Romans (chapters 1-4 for

Michael Wright

commented on Nov 18, 2011

Apparently my original comment was too long, so I made it a much needed new post on my blog. *lol*


commented on Nov 19, 2011

This article and "MOST" of the comments have truly been a blessing to someone that has errored in the way of excessive transparency. Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you to speak the truth in love. It helps me to use more wisdom in my sincere efforts to reach those that have fallen to where God delivered me from.

Josh Mcdowell

commented on Nov 19, 2011

Don't forget that it is the lack of authenticity that got us to where we are today. Today we live in a society where 17 years can pass and physical abuse of children can be ignored. It is because of lack of authenticity from the pulpit that we live where we do today. When pastors and religious leaders pretend to be falsely holy the laity can't confront there sin. They fear that they are the only ones. Authenticity isn't the problem. Hard work to fix our sin isn't the answer either. We mistakenly believe that Grace is what a sinner needs to be saved, of course it is but it's also what Saints need to change their lives. Work harder isn't the answer trust and believe that He can change us that's the answer!

Larry Stines

commented on Nov 19, 2011

@ Gregory Fisher - Agree completely! "His strength" is made perfect in our weakness. 2 Cor 12:9 If we seek always to make it about Him then His strength will do the work that needs to be done! I will gladly fade into obscurity that He may be all in all.

Don Zlaty

commented on Nov 19, 2011

The great commision is to go out and make disciples... This can only be done if we are able to connect to those that are in need of the Word. Being genuine in your approach and admitting that we we have a commonality is not wrong. Showing that we have come from the same darkness and have found light in the salvation that Jesus Christ is provided is comforting to those folks that do not think that they could ever find love or forgiveness in their lives. Remember that the whole task is for us to help people build their relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We do that through love and compassion. It is a journey that we must help people take. We are always looking to perfect our lives through the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

John E Miller

commented on Nov 21, 2011

I do not understand the phrase "the bully pulpit". I do agree with the writer's unease at the need of some to publicly go into details of their own frailties and misdeeds in the presumption that this is in some way going to add "authenticity" to their preaching. I do not believe that the spirit of God requires this assistance. Personal sins and the weakness of the flesh should be dealt with in the presence of God. If godly advice or counselling is needed in private from another believer, then so be it. Peter denied the Lord three times, but having undoubtedly faced that in his private communion with Christ is able to accuse his fellow Jews of that very sin in his preaching. Paul speaks in broad terms of his own sin in persecuting the church and in Romans explores the weakness of his fleshly failings, but does not go into details. If matters have to be put right they must be so done with individuals, but making oneself the focus of attention takes the eyes of the listeners away from Christ. Those who preach God's word should always remember that their object should be to lift up Jesus.

Gordon Dorsey

commented on Dec 2, 2011

shalom bro as representatives of yahvah(GOD) we are suppose to bring the truth of his word and not a water DOWN VERSION OF THE GOSPEL READ 2 TIM 4:3 we really need to get back to real preaching and let this entertainment preaching go. this is becoming a major problem and will be the down fall of the pastor who continues in its destruction. AMEN

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