Authenticity and How It Applies to Discipling the Next Generation

Jake BoremFaith

As a pendulum swings back and forth, so it seems that each up and coming generation intentionally attempts to move in the opposite direction of its predecessor – especially in the areas that the former generation clearly “missed the mark” on. One generation wants the big “gas guzzling SUV’s” and the next generation is all about the fuel efficient Prius. One generation is all about moving to the suburbs and the next generation flocks to the city…while not everyone, of course, fits into these generalizations that I am creating – you get the picture.

Perhaps one of the primary “swings” that characterizes younger generations (millennials and gen z) is their, or should I say our, emphasis on authenticity. You have heard the phrase before, “you be you.” I recognize that I am painting with a pretty broad stroke here, however I find that the majority of young people do not want to be trapped behind the exhaustion of managing false identities. They would rather be seen for who they really are – including the colorful, unorthodox and even embarrassing details, than hide behind the perceived “fake-ness” that often characterizes older generations. You know, the classic get in a huge fight on the way to church in the minivan, pull up in the parking lot, get out, put on the obligatory smiling faces followed by the “I’m doing great how are you?” In fact, a major consumer report performed in 2017 found that authenticity in branding is important to nearly 90% of millennials. This finding was summarized with the statement “authenticity is more important than ever.”

While this pendulum swing towards authenticity seems to be the trend right now amongst younger generations, it’s important to remember that while there is definitely some warrant to this trend, this swing will reveal its own set of problems – eventually resulting in a swing towards a new direction. One thing that history shows us is that even mankind’s best attempts at creating peace and resolution will always end with a new cycle of destruction and failure.

As Christians what should our response be to this? If we really do possess the only hope that humanity has of restoration and eternal purpose, how do we leverage our current generation’s swing towards authenticity for making disciples of Jesus? There are, without a doubt, benefits of making disciples of people that value and desire authenticity over status. In some ways, that gives us, as the church, some pretty fertile ministry ground because hearts are more open to truth than perhaps previous generations. However, the primary danger is that there must be an underlying recognition that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9 ESV). The problem with wanting nothing short of “you being you,” as the phrase goes, is that “us being us” will ultimately end in a destruction of our own making.

With that being said, here are a few pieces of advice on cultivating authenticity within the process of discipleship – especially when it comes to younger generations. These ideas are not clear cut but are more so an attempt to lay out some boundaries to stay within while spending time speaking truth into the life of someone you may be discipling. Also, it is helpful to start with the understanding that when you disciple someone, you are helping point them towards Christ with the goal of that person growing in their pursuit of holiness and in their worship of Jesus, but you are also inviting them into your life to see how God has and is sanctifying you as well. When you take this approach, which I would also argue is the biblical approach, you are giving that person a front row seat to see the ways that the Spirit of God has sanctified you, you are automatically positioning yourself as being more relatable, and you are giving that person a snapshot of your own sin struggle as well.

What authenticity within discipleship is:

  • -sharing the victories and spiritual successes of your life
  • -allowing others to see your weakness, insecurity, and failures
  • -letting go of the idol of managing a constantly positive attitude that is rooted in pride
  • -still letting the attention and focus be on them

What authenticity within discipleship is not:

  • -romanticizing your process of sanctification
  • -crossing boundaries of appropriateness (especially depending on the age/maturity level of the person you are discipling)
  • -having a bad attitude when you don’t feel like being pleasant
  • -shifting the focus and attention on yourself

I hope this blog was helpful to you as we, alongside of each other at CBC, magnify Jesus Christ by making disciples who advance the mission of God among all people!