Authenticity in Ministry

Authenticity in Ministry

This month’s Pastor Circle (our virtual small group for all ministry leaders) was all about embracing authenticity in ministry.

When we think of successful ministries, our minds go to big buildings, packed auditoriums, or massive Instagram followings. While that’s all good, that’s not what it always looks like. One of the most successful ministers in the time of Jesus was an eclectic man who preached in the desert. His name was John the Baptist.

Looking Backwards

Ancient Israel had been waiting on the arrival of their messiah for over a millennium. This world-changing news was at the forefront of every Jewish person’s mind. They were raised to anxiously await and anticipate.

Everyone assumed, logically so, that the good news would come from someone with a lot of influence. Maybe it would be a high priest, popular prophet, or Instagram influencer.  That’s not what happened. The announcement of Jesus came from an eclectic evangelist in the middle of the wilderness named John.

Our Text: Luke 2:13-14

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Looking Inward

Let’s cut to the chase. John the Baptist selected a strange life for himself. Instead of living in a city with easy access to groceries and water, he chose to live in the wilderness. His choice to dwell in the middle of a desert seemed bizarre, but John saw it as a blessing. When our ministry feels unconventional, strange, or even weird, we should do the same! There is paramount purpose in the peculiar.

I find a lot of comfort in God’s decision to leverage John the Baptist as the frontrunner to Jesus. It teaches us that God invites unlikely people like me and you into His story.

John’s life teaches us two valuable lessons about authenticity in ministry.
1. Let God Leverage Your Weirdness 

John, with his camel fur vest, rat’s nest hair, and exotic diet (locusts and honeycomb), was the first person to preach the gospel of Jesus.

When I first became a pastor I tried to preach like the famous celebrity pastors on youtube. I would study their messages, not in order to learn scripture. Rather, I was trying to learn their skills. It was exhausting. 

In ministry, please don’t try to be anyone else. God made you with your personality, quirks, and weirdness with a specific ministry in mind for you. Your personality is part of God’s plan. Learn to love that fact. Be unapologetically authentic to who you are and how God made you — even if that’s a little weird.

You don’t have to change who you are to make a massive impact for Jesus. As a matter of fact, your personality will help you experience your ultimate purpose. Your quirks cultivate your calling. Your strangeness is actually your superpower.

2. Let God Leverage Your Wilderness

Our friend John lived in the literal wilderness. He prepared the way of Jesus while living off the sandy land in a make-shift tent. While this may seem like suffering, it was actually a blessing. The desert developed him.

You may never be a wild man living off of bugs in the desert, but I am pretty certain that you are either in a wilderness season or are coming out of one. How can I know that? Because almost every pastor I know has experienced that over the last 18 months of COVID.

What do I mean by wilderness seasons? This is a time when you feel lost, confused, and find yourself asking, “God, why am I even doing this anymore?” I know many of you have felt that way, because I know I have.

The last two years have been a ministry wilderness. People feel lost and directionless. Our cities are in mourning. Attendance has been low. People stopped showing up. Pastors became YouTubers. Someone shared a harsh criticism that stung your soul.

Take an inventory of yourself and your context. When you preach, strive for vulnerability and authenticity. (Check out this resource on Personality in Preaching.) When you lead, lead from a place that owns your weirdness and wilderness. That’s the blessing of authenticity in ministry.

Watch the Message: