I worked at a church plant where one of the main values was authenticity. The pastor pushed that value along with the other handful very often. Which sounds great, except virtually everything he did was inauthentic. After working there for a year and seeing other staff leave the church including his own relatives, I gave my resignation. His first concern was how this would make him look bad to the congregation. He was terrified that I would say something to cause people to leave the church that he was trying to build.
I told him he should know me better than that; my character and integrity. I had never spoken a bad word about him to anyone in the congregation and would not start now. We set the Sunday that I was to announce to the congregation that I was resigning and leaving the church. The night before, he sat down with me to plan how it was going to play out. His instruction went like this:
“Ok, during announcements I’ll bring you up and you can speak for 2 to 3 minutes. No longer than that,” he said, pointing a finger sternly in my face. “You can tell people that you prayed about this and you feel God is moving you on to something else and share a scripture that ties in. And then I’ll come up and put my arm around you and give you a hug. Not a fake hug, it will be a real hug.”
He had to make that distinction.
And the next day, he came up to give me his pre-planned not-fake hug. (And yes, it was a side hug. Check out the side hug phenomenon at Stuff Christians Like, Jon Acuff’s humorous blog about Church life and culture.) As we stood there awkwardly, he said to the congregation “this is not a fake hug, this is a real hug for my brother here.”
If you have to constantly point out to people that you are authentic, then you’re not doing it right.