There is a house that I love. It is not mine and its inhabitants are unfamiliar to me, but it is an alluring structure. Magnolia trees line the gentle curve of the drive as if to beckon visitors to lean in, and the neatly trimmed lawn and carefully curated rose bushes that pepper the exterior of the building give way to an ethereal glow in the dawning of day. At first glance one would assume that it is a place of symphonies and sonnets, but upon further inspection it becomes clear that there are secrets hidden within its courts and corridors, for it is, in reality, an edifice riddled with interior neglect, tenuously supported by a crumbling foundation.
I have, as of late, become engaged in an internal dialogue related to authenticity and the church. In the age of social media I am often troubled by the easy acceptance and promotion of superficial piety and perfection, for it is so easily executed, requires minimal endeavor and never has to withstand the examination of truth. We walk the earth with an invisible veil of sorts that softens our vision. There are moments of course, when the veil is pushed aside, and the realities of humanity, compassion and cruelty and sorrow and affection are visible, but they are fleeting as our preference is to blur and filter.
This preferential vision is most troublesome when it becomes a driving force. We are so inspired by a pristine and pleasing exterior that our foundations, much like those of the house I love, are crumbling from interior neglect. I cannot fathom the scope of our impact would that our stewardship not be limited to things so easily pleasing and perceptively holy.
Authentic faith is relational, it forges past what we can see to the things we cannot, and the mark of authenticity in the church can be seen in its investment of people. Authentic leadership is not satisfied with appearance and perception, it seeks to truly know and to be known. It is a church that points people to the love and reconciliation of God rather than to a church’s history or organizational preferences. It is a church that nurtures diversity rather than elitism and it is one whose focus is on the development of giftedness and calling rather than the ease and comfort of superficial complacency and social media marketing. One of the most compelling examples of authenticity in leadership was set for us by Jesus Himself. He noticed and engaged with people, with a diligently focused, unhurried, unflappable desire to connect.
I long for a community in which no one passes by unknown or unaccepted. Where there is no need and no place for superficial piety and perfection, no need to hide the commonalities of brokenness, grace, forgiveness and transformation. Where the interior of our own souls and personal struggles are not treated with spiritual clichés and buttoned up pride, and where self-awareness and empathy come from mutual connectedness rooted in the love and the example of Jesus, whose own eyes were drawn to the subtle frailty of beautiful things. We are so accustomed to adjusting our truth, that in the end, we become unrecognizable to ourselves.
What I know today is this, though the world assigns relevance superficially, according to perception, position and prestige, God is far more pleased with a heart that is simply surrendered and broken open for Him. To this day He chooses ordinary, inadequate, highly flawed people, to change the world. For leaders are prepared not on platforms and pulpits, but in the hard places of obscurity, where hearts are rubbed raw and giants are slain.