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?