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WHAT DOES “AUTHENTIC” MEAN?

by Michael Chanley

The word “authentic” gets thrown around a lot lately. I see it in advertisements all the time. I catch myself saying it frequently.

What does “authentic” really mean?

Authentic is typically used to mean: not false or copied; genuine; real.

When I use “authentic” to describe what we do at INCM, I mean it to say we are trying to be genuine and real. We are wise enough to pay attention to what is going on in other ministries and try to learn from other’s best practices. I think this is healthy. We are committed to not being “false or copied” in our approach to ministry… but are smart enough to look for fruit worth replicating. Where I personally draw the line has to do with being “genuine or real.”

For example, I try to be intentional about who has added to the conversation and in telling people where we get our information from. When we talk about our second initiative, “Providing a Safe and Relevant Environment,” I make it a point to include how I was influenced by Reggie Joiner when adding the word “Relevant.” Reggie didn’t make up that word… but God used him to explain to me the importance of our ministry teaching people to make relevance important (relevance meaning connected to the matter at hand). My church, Southeast Christian, has influenced me in my thinking about connecting to and serving the Body. Staff members answer the phone, “How may I serve you?” This emphasis on serving was pivotal in God leading me to our purpose statement: serve | serve | serve … we exist to serve God and to serve those called to serve His children.

In both of these cases, I try to give honor where honor is due and include the source of the inspiration as often as is possible. I think we should acknowledge where information comes from and who God used to inspire us… and I find inspiration everywhere.

One of the negative sides of this word “authenticity” is how many people abuse it. I see people saying “authentic” and using it in the way a door to door salesperson might… it’s just part of their schtick. Here are a few things I think through to help me to determine if someone is really being authentic with me:

  • Is there a pattern of truth in their life? If someone is disingenuous it will show over time. It also shows in the path of destruction they leave behind in relationships, personally and/or professional.
  • Do they have something to hide or cover by saying they are authentic? When people say they are trying to be authentic and real but then blast someone else’s perspective as inferior it causes me to give pause.

If you are selling something, be up front and say, “I’m doing this because I hope to sale some widgets.” I mean, let’s be honest… people see the real you. You can’t hide it in today’s highly connected world.

All of this just to end with one last thought, when you hear me talking about our ministry at INCM or at CMConnect as being an authentic community of people committed to serving those called to serve God’s children… we don’t have anything to sale you.

Yes, we charge money for our conferences and training. Yes, we partner with many publishing companies who do have products to sell. Yes, we are going to talk about those partner’s resources, when it makes sense to do so. Yes, we sell ads at CMConnect to fund our free community, similar sites charge over $100 a year.

But… none of these things guide our conversations or direct our purpose. I think that is important and unique and it’s what I mean when I say we are trying to have an “authentic” conversation about kidmin.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or criticism.

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