There is not much I envy about ancient days or even just a century or two ago. I love running water, electricity is nice, and I don’t think they had waffles back then. Modern advances in medicine, transportation, and entertainment are wonderful for quality of life. But there is one thing about the past that I look back at with longing eyes, honesty. Before photoshop, facebook memes, video editing, wish.com, and every other avenue of fake or embellished material, what you saw was what you got. Lying was heavily looked down upon, and what was advertised and presented was what it claimed to be. In a day when character mattered more than ratings, the products and people were real.
Though our culture today is inundated with the fake, phony, and exaggerated, people still long for authenticity. I work as a youth pastor and I completely understand the pull to be something that I am not. I think that is true of any ministry. There is an expectation to act and speak a certain way and to fit into a mold. I know that with teens I battle the temptation to try to be “cool” or “rad” or whatever the new terms are these days. What teenagers and others really need is to see a normal person enjoying a real relationship with God. I am far from perfect and the teens I minister to need to know that. The Bible includes the mistakes of our heroes for a reason. It has taken more than a year, but I am now seeing the fruits of this in the ministry God has allowed me to be a part of.
Three thoughts about the idea of being real in ministry:
- Live a life that doesn’t have anything to hide.
First and foremost, it is important to live a life that is above reproach. Titus 2:7-8 says “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”
This is obvious and should go without saying, but live with nothing to hide. Be a godly person in the pulpit, in front of people, behind closed doors, and even when it hurts.
- Be humble and transparent.
Own your mistakes. When you make a mistake, apologize and do what is right. Don’t try to justify it or explain it away. Someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to? Tell them you’ll look into it and get back to them. Try to avoid being the hero of your stories and illustrations. Instead, let them know how God has helped and is helping you. Tell them about how you’re changing into His image, developing as a Christian, and what God is doing in your life. Let them see God at work in you and give them an example – not of a perfect person, but of a sinner saved by grace who is growing.
- Let people into your life.
Invite them into your home, take them out to eat, spend time with them outside of church. Keep the spiritual things as most important, but talk about random stuff too. Find out what is important to them and learn about it. You could talk about video games, sports, movies, or what actually happened to half of the Marvel universe in Infinity War. Talk about your own personal likes and dislikes, and let them see you for who you are. Connect with everyone you can and be genuine.
God can use you to touch lives in a much stronger way if those you are ministering to know that you are who you say you are and that you care about them. Never underestimate the impact of your honesty.
Will Berry and his wife Megan serve at the Rochester Hills Baptist Church in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where Will is the youth pastor.