Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

Is Authenticity as Rare as it Seems for Pastors and Non-Profit Leaders?

Whenever I work with non-profit or religious leaders in trying to brand their organizations, I usually ask the man or woman at the top, “What makes you different?” In other words, “What personal trait separates you from the pack?” The first response I invariably get is “authenticity.” I get that answer over and over. Many pastors and ministry leaders are especially proud of their authenticity, and feel like they are one of the few who have it.

But that usually leaves me a bit depressed. Not because this person really is authentic, but because they consider it so special and rare. After all, shouldn’t “authenticity” be normal for pastors and ministry leaders? Shouldn’t authenticity be the baseline behavior for any spiritual or non-profit leader? Isn’t it a bit sad that we live in an era where “authenticity” is considered a rare trait for pastors and ministry leaders?

But then again, after seeing the divorces, lawsuits, legal actions, and financial questions non-profit and ministry leaders have been facing over the last number of months, perhaps being authentic is more rare that we’d like to think.


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  1. "Authenticity" by who's standards? Some pastors may believe they are being authentic when in fact they are not. "Faith-" or "word-" based operations may tend to skew more toward "faith-filled" proclamations of everything doing fine. They don't wish to rob themselves of what they are claiming with words of doubt and unbelief. By their standards and beliefs, they are being authentic.

  2. Where is the line?  If a pastor admits to having issues, they're deemed unfit. If they don't have issues, then they're thought of as "holier-than-thou". What gives? Maybe transparency (but how much?). A pastor or leader who makes themselves known to those they're leading, is more apt to receive the love and treatment of friendship. and, Maybe Paul's words of "beyond reproach" mean just that. It's extremely tough to live those words – but, man! don't they pay-off well in the end (And in the present!)

  3. I speak as an agnostic reader, and one from divorced parents. I'm a little puzzled by your inclusion of 'divorces' among a list of items which defy authenticity. I see no relationship between being authentic and being divorced–could you expand on this point a bit?

  4. Good point – I could have been more clear.  In the case of some recent high-profile pastors and ministry leaders who have gotten divorced, what frustrates many is they never miss a day in the pulpit.  Whatever happened to taking a little time off, getting your life back together, and perhaps getting some counseling or spiritual direction – before you get back into the pulpit to teach us how to live our lives.  It seems a remarkable arrogance that people who can't seem to get their act together are more than happy to tell us how to live.  In this case, "authenticity" would mean telling us that they've screwed up, and are serious enough about their role as ministry leaders that they want to take the time to make the right changes in their lives.  

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