A Theory?

I have a working theory that I would like to share and receive feedback about. The idea of authenticity in our expression of faith is getting much attention these days- and for good reason. For faith to mean anything it must be authentic. For us to make any difference at all in our faith-walk we must be sincere in that walk. This is really a no brainer.

But what does authenticity in expressing our faith really mean? Could it have different meaning to different folks? Likely, and it could very well be this that has caused confusion within the church. Consider this:

  • For some older church members could authenticity mean adherence to a doctrinal system including a more traditional style of worship? This is what many were taught was primary in expressing faith. This is where many feel most comfortable. Any attempt at change challenges their idea of authentic Christianity.
  • For the baby boomers could authentic mean a more expressive type of faith? Possibly in reaction to tradition many in this generation seem to equate authenticity with the freedom to worship more expressively. Much emphasis has been placed on a praise oriented style of worship and grace-centered teaching and for many in this generation authenticity is felt primarily in expressive worship.
  • The next generation- that of the late 20s and 30s pose a challenge in defining authenticity. Could it be that they are not sure? From my observation these are the least plugged in among the entire church body and are still searching for what authentic faith means to them. Not coincidentally they were the generation that most felt the direct fallout from the conflict over the meaning of authenticity among the previous generations.
  • The latest generation does not have any problem identifying authenticity. They not only know what it means to them, they are fully engaging it. The folks in their teens to mid-20s see hands-on ministry as the best expression of authentic Christianity. They enjoy Christian service that gets them into the streets- among the people- especially those in need. They do not seem to possess the worship style concerns of previous generations nor do they have the same sense of loyalty to a particular church as their parents and grandparents. While this alarms many, this group is not content to sit in the pews. There is an energy here centered less around an institutional church approach and more around a personal ministry approach. These would be among the first in our churches to volunteer for relief work in Haiti. (Please continue to pray for this hurting country.)

Now with any such theory, it is far from static. Certainly lines blur among the generations and other ideas of authenticity exist. But if this theory has any merit it could help us better understand and respect each other.  This then could create a healthier and trusting atmosphere in which we could all learn and grow together.

What do you think?


9 Responses to A Theory?

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    I am possibly old in years(68) but not that old in the church. I became a Christian when I was 40. We still had some brothers at that time that were pretty orthodox in their views. You don;t see too much of that anymore. Your divisions of believers is probably correct and help to understand the differnt age groups, but the problem arises as you come down the ladder is at what point do you end up with a feel good religion. The enthusiasm has to be balanced with some truth principle that don’t change.

  2. dannydodd says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Linn. As with any theory it needs to be shaped by the wisdom of others.

  3. Linn Hartman says:

    Just an additional thought-The thinking of your age brackets are good for today, but I don’t think that they work as people age. In other words as the enthusiastic teen of today moves up to the 30-40 year old of tommorrow they will not have the same outlook as you describe. They will build on their experience for good or bad.

  4. Kay Watson says:

    I agree that the meaning of the word authentic varies generationally. My take…being somewhere in the middle age bracket…is that Christianity and worship style are two different things. People may equate the two, but in my way of thinking Christianity is a lifestyle. Christlikeness. Authenticity in any area simply means true, real, transparent.

  5. Jim Sexton says:

    “The next generation- that of the late 20s and 30s… these are the least plugged in among the entire church body and are still searching for what authentic faith means to them.”

    Perhaps your very definition provides a clue. Something that is plugged in generally means that it is an appendage to an existing body and is there not to make any changes, but to add function. I believe that this group is not wanting to be plugged into an existing body, rather they wish to be be seen as the body… simply put, we have alienated them by making them part of our body rather than having them and their ideas, faith, and witness be simply the body.

    Going along for the ride, religiously speaking, gives the sense that it isn’t our ride, we are just allowed to sit and go on the journey. Like the difference between getting a lift in someone else’s vehicle or driving in our own. They want for this to be their faith, their belief, and their church… not an affirmation of their parents set of those values.

    Perhaps, like my own walk (although I am in my 50’s), they have seen anything but authenticity in those around them. Who would want to ‘plug in’ to a group that is largely observed to be filled with hypocrisy, power plays, and posturing? They want nothing to do with the ‘christianity’ of their parents if it was nothing more than the modern version of the Jewish ‘descendants of Abraham’ who sought to discredit and destroy Jesus himself.


  6. jim says:

    “authentic” faith is living it even when you do not have churchm family or work support. Doing the right thing because you have to. It has nothing to do with what time church service starts or whether we sing four part harmony

  7. Darin says:


    Good thoughts.

    While I agree that many do couch the conversation of authentic faith as you have noted, I think that is part of the problem.

    Faith as trust in God is far beyond style of worship.

    Unfortunately that context has controlled the question for far too long. Even the way young people respond, more active socially, while good, is not necessarily authentic faith. Many people with no faith at all understand because they carry the image of God that helping people in need is important. I’m not sure they need faith to do that.

    Abraham moved and was called faithful. How many people think in that context? Most people move because they want a new job or a new town for some personal reason and then look for some place to find authentic faith whether that be sound doctrine or more emotional grace-centered worship or a church that does more to help people in need. Authentic faith says “where does God want me.”

    Where is He leading and where does my story fit in to His great plan. If that is moving fine but I’m not sure we even think of authentic faith that way. Noah built an ark not for social service or helping needy or better worship or even right doctrine, he did it to save animals and a family from a great flood. He did it because it was God’s plan.

    In the end we may simply be creating new ways of doing church instead of fostering authentic faith and because of our cultural context we may never even notice.

    P.S. Yes James says an active faith will help those in need but we should never mistake that fact with the greater story God wants to tell in all of our lives. I have seen this first hand where this notion that we need to help people overtakes the reality that Jesus is still the way and the ultimate goal is connecting people to God through Him. Helping those in need is a command of God but it is not necessarily more authentic faith.

    Just my 2 cents. Some might say half-dollar or half-baked, depending…

  8. SteveLavin says:

    I would be hard pressed to improve on Jesus definition of authentic Christianity. “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” I believe that includes devotion to worship AND service. By definition it includes a healthy struggle between the two…both individually and generationally.

  9. 14theroad says:

    John the Baptist put it this way ( referring to Jesus ) “He must increase, but I must decrease “. John 3:30

    At the root of the Gospel message, Jesus asked His followers to “follow me”. Authentic Christianity is to be true to that call, to follow Jesus. Therefore it will manifest itself differently in different environments and generations. But it will always have a devotion to the call of Christ

    Matthew 16:24  ¶Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

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