In this blog I’m going to share a big fail with you.
When I became a Christian, I didn’t know who I was at all. I was lost, then suddenly I had freedom from a lot of bondage in my life. I was in a new crowd and I didn’t fit in immediately.
So, I did what I always used to do when I didn’t fit in. I adapted to my surroundings by imitating people who seemed to have it all together. Or at least more than I did.
When I preached or taught I imitated the passionate preachers you see who get everyone fired up and typically have an energy-charged audience.
When I was in conversation with people I tried to be like the other guys from Teen Challenge and used Christian language.
I read books and imitated the authors as well.
This resulted in becoming someone God didn’t create me to be.
Sure, I was likeable and bold, two things people could follow and imitate for themselves. The problem was that instead of empowering people to be themselves more purely; I let them follow my lead while I followed my own heroes.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with following other people. The danger is when you adopt their personality out of insecurity.
I mentioned in a previous post that when we first become Christians we can adopt other people’s faith until we’ve found one of our own. I believe this branches into other areas of life as well. When replicating behavior, I don't think all motives are wrong. It's noble to see someone else's passion for God and try to replicate it. Regardless of motive, pretending won't last. Just as we can’t live on other people’s faith for long, we can’t live a life trying to be like our heroes for long either.
The heroes I’m talking about don’t even have to be alive. If I spent my whole life trying to be an exact replication of Peter or Paul, I’d be living just as big of a lie as if I tried to replicate Francis Chan’s life. I’m not Peter or Paul. God doesn’t want me to be. He put me on earth in this specific time and place for a reason. Not to replicate others, but to know him.
In 1 Corinthians 11 when Paul said “follow my example as I follow Christ’s example” he was referencing the previous chapter where he spoke about not causing others to stumble. He wasn’t saying “be exactly like me”. The only person we should be looking to in order to find our identity is Jesus.
I believe this is something that has gotten out of control in the American church. We’ve created a mold for how to best teach and preach. We build college courses, ministry schools, and internships around it. We have created a picture of passion without truth or originality. Our worship bands have become cover bands and we stream in conferences because we feel one person should be teaching everyone. This isn’t denomination specific either. It stretches far and wide and destroys individuality slowly, bit by bit.
Whether it’s teaching, preaching, or evangelism; you can find someone to pay to help you become more like them. I don’t think training is bad at all, but, in my opinion, good teachers empower students to find their own voice. They don’t just make copies of themselves.
Over the years God has revealed the presence of this stuff in my life. In fact it’s something he is still showing me. I see the desire for acceptance the strongest currently through social media. For example, when I published my book, I studied how other people acted and what they posted to market their books. At first I did what they did, and it wore me out. It just didn’t feel like me.
Comparing myself and trying to replicate others led me to feeling defeated and lost. When I tried to be a “christian author” I never lived up to the expectations I created. It eventually led to me breaking down and realizing my need for Jesus even more.
I’m not perfect. No matter how hard I try, sometimes I fail to be who I want. When I take my eyes off Jesus and look to myself for strength, it’s impossible to live the life he called me to live.
Alright I’ve pointed at my failure, what can we learn from it? How can we avoid this behavior in our lives and the lives of our church members?
I believe the largest change begins on a personal level. There are also steps we can take within church culture to be more accepting of different types of people. I’ll provide a list below. If you want to apply these to church culture, then replace the word you with “the members of your church.”
On a personal level:
Accept your identity in Christ. You are an adopted son or daughter of God. You have been made new and you are being sanctified daily. You are loved and treasured. Not because of anything you do, but because God loves and treasures you unconditionally. You can love God back through obedience, but you can’t earn salvation through works. It’s a gift to all believers.
Accept that you have a place in the body of Christ. If you have to work yourself up by drinking energy drinks and pretend to be excited in order to teach, then maybe stop teaching until you find your real voice. There are other, just as valuable gifts and roles in the church.
Accept that at the end of the day some people might not like you. No matter how hard you try, you’re never going to please everyone. This bit of advice does come with a caution though: Be careful not to become prideful and live as if you don’t care what anyone thinks because you believe their opinions aren’t valuable. That’s just as bad as people pleasing. We have to approach people with grace and try to see good in them no matter what. (I admittedly fail at this sometimes) Their opinions do matter, but don’t let negative opinions form your identity.
Being yourself inspires others. I realized I could be my authentic self by seeing other people go against the grain and still have confidence. Not just by feeling accepted. Live the life God has for you.
There is so much more that I could say on this matter, but I’ll sum it up for the sake of time. This is something I’m super passionate about, because I believe the church is missing out on a lot of growth with our current culture. I know some people are going to be lukewarm because they just don’t care, but I strongly believe there are also people who would love to be a more active part of their church and don’t feel like they can. Someone along the way has told them they weren’t a fit for the current system (directly or indirectly) and they’ve become complacent or they’re not being who God created them to be. There is always room for growth.
From glory to glory my friends.
Does this resonate with you at all? If so let me know in the comments below.