being “real” without being not real… or a jerk

August 5, 2009

i really do want to give proper credit for this image... willow creek church... arts conference promo?  like, three years ago??  best i can do.

So I made a bad choice in about 1990…

In a minute I’m going to write about what makes a church AUTHENTIC, but for now, enjoy a story of love, loss, and coping with the pressures of peer acceptance from my high school days.  Here we go…

I have bad eyes.  Like, “legal to drive without corrective lenses but still need to roll right up to road signs and slow down in unfamiliar territory” bad.  In high school I would wear glasses somewhat selectively.  Physics class, yes.  Friday night Dance in the High School Gym, NO.

But in 1990 my first ever pair of glasses broke, and it was time for replacement frames.  Sweet!  (they were SO 1987…)  I wanted to be HIP.  Cutting edge.  A trend setter.  Naturally, I choose the newest Ralph Loren turtle-shell frames.  They were new.  The newest.  Glistening with fresh newness.  They were ridiculous.

Somewhere inside I knew this.  But they were new, and they were brand name, and I picked ’em, baby.  So I put on my high-school game face, wore those gigantic spectacles with mock confidence, and soldiered on through my Senior year.  Somewhere inside, I knew I was uneasy with these bad boys.  They were, after all, cartoonish.

Fast forward six months… when I met my wife.  Flirtation.  Courtship.  Mutual expressing of affection.  The all-important hand-holding during “Days of Thunder” at the $2 theater.  Somewhere after that, I broke out my glasses.  Again, with all the mock confidence I could muster.

Thank goodness God wired me to be attracted to authenticity.  I can’t quote Amy directly, but it was something along the lines of, “Oh no…  NO…  Those are horrible.  You cannot wear those and expect me to be attracted to you.”

Of course, had Amy told me she was attracted to Eskimos, I would have been mukluk shopping in about ten seconds.

But the point is, the ginormous new glasses I choose for their brand name appeal were silly.  Like she has done a thousand times since, Amy got real with me when I was trying to bluff my way into coolness.  (Why are you laughing?)  Thankfully, she has influenced me well beyond my fashion sense (Don’t you laugh.  You’re snickering.  Don’t do it…)  I love her for her transparent, take-me-at-face-value authenticity.  I respect that in people.  Always have.

The world respects authenticity.  Being real.  We want that from the people around us, and… this is the world I live in…  we want  the churches we visit (or choose to make our own) to just BE REAL, as well.

That’s why as a church leader, I love seeing local churches being HUMBLE, HONEST, and NORMAL.

HUMBLE people/churches do not approach other people with a “holier than thou” attitude.  Instead, they are quick (and willing) to recognize their weaknesses and flaws.  We are saved by grace, after all, not by merit.  As we increase in humility, we increase in authenticity, and we increase in effectiveness.

HONEST people/churches do not shy away from uncomfortable truth.  This applies to the big stuff – when the Bible steps on toes – and the little stuff – well outside of chapter and verse.  Case in point, Amy told me I looked ridiculous in my huge Ralph Loren specs.  This is called “speaking the truth in love.”  (PLEASE recognize that Amy had permission to speak to me that way, because we had established a relationship in which I trusted that she was looking out for the best for me.  Don’t tell that dude across from you on the bus that his hairstyle makes him look like a clown.  That’s not the honesty of which I speak.  RELATIONSHIPS, people!  Within RELATIONSHIPS!)  As we increase in honesty, we increase in authenticity, and we increase in effectiveness.

NORMAL people/churches are connected enough to the culture around them to understand what drives it and makes it tick WITHOUT trying too hard.  When a church (or a coworker) tries to push the boundaries of hip-ness and make “edgy” a core value, it can come off as contrived.  At the same time, how can we connect with the people around us if we insulate ourselves right out of “normal” culture.  In the world, but not of it.  In other words, understand and live within your culture without being driven by it.  “Normal” is a fine balance.  As we increase in normalcy, we increase in authenticity, and we increase in effectiveness.

Come on church leaders!  Church people!  And not-church people!  Can we agree that the world would be a better place with a little more humility, a little more honesty, and a willingness to embrace “normal” over… not normal??  (Think, like, a FIVE on a scale that goes from the Amish to Linkin Park…)   It’s that third one that will get me some press back, I suppose.  So be it.  What do you think?

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“being’real’ without being not real… or a jerk” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

No responses to being “real” without being not real… or a jerk

  1. Amen. Good word. I usually find myself connecting with and being drawn more towards people who are “real” and don’t have it all together. We’re broken people. Let’s embrace it.

  2. I was there during the courtship dance but I do not remember the glasses – (didn’t realize you even used contacts!) –

    I’ve got being real down to a lifechoice – unfortunately, the jerkiness bleeds in a lot too – hence my desire to never enter ministry – yuk yuk

  3. I am totally cool with the above statement as long as you don’t try to look attractive behind the wheel of the car 😉 – hehehehe

    Ironically, I sometimes wear glasses for the same reason – to look more intelligent and hide dark circles under my eyes – well, and I’m barely able to read road signs at 55 mph – don’t need them permanenetly yet though – woohoo!