The Challenge of Authenticity


I had breakfast with Kean today which was a treat.

He was a well established drug dealer in Hawaii when the King made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.  I met him when he was pastoring.

I spent a busy week at his church.  In addition to preaching and sundry peripheral events, I sat across from at least half the people in his congregation, one at a time, listening to their story and seeking to speak some wisdom into their lives.

Meet, scope out and equip in 90 minutes.  NEXT!

At the end of the week, we sat down for my exit interview and he said, “My worst nightmare would be to become just like you.”

I knew it was not meant as harshly as it sounded, and I had known all week I was robustly violating the core social contract of the church.  You see, Kean is a Mercy, and he absolutely, positively, from the core of his being believed that his love would heal the woundedness of the people in his church.

And if, per chance, the wounds were too deep for his love, surely the love of the body as a whole would heal them.

Frankly, I disagreed.  I thought some personal responsibility along the way would help them along.  So each of his people who were on a difficult journey already would bring their pain to our meeting and would leave with a clear, unambiguous to do list complements of this crusty old Prophet.

Kean was not happy watching his people walk out the door carrying a bigger load than they came in with.  Didn’t bother me too much.  I knew it was productive pain, after all, and would help them part ways with their unproductive pain — eventually.

We kept in touch and years later met up at a coffee shop in Whittier and laughed about the incident.

He had long since left the ministry and agreed with me that love alone did not always fix people, and there was possibly room for some imposed responsibility now and then although he still felt I was pretty heavy handed.

Kean’s original comment still stands out as one of the high points of my itinerant ministry.  It is so rare and so refreshing to find authenticity in communication with spiritual leaders.

Kean and I are still miles apart in ideology, even though he now lives in my backyard — and we still like each other.  After breakfast today he pushed back, very overtly, on an area where he thought I was out of line and was hurting someone who was hurting.

But we still enjoy each other, because we are authentic with each other.

This is probably one of my biggest struggles with the religious scene at large.  What do you do with the obvious junk?  The norm is to shake hands, lie robustly and walk away leaving things untouched.

“Thank you so much for having me.  I really enjoyed the time here in your church.  God is obviously on the verge of doing something big here.”

There just isn’t much room for authenticity.  Envision any one of these conversations over lunch, after church.

“Hey Pastor, why is your head intercessor doing all that witchcraft prayer?  I didn’t appreciate it one bit.”

“Pastor, I have been listening to the people in your congregation talk the last couple of days, and it sure looks like you have a pretty strong bias against women.  Is this an unresolved wound in your life we need to explore?”

“Pastor, if I ever come back, please tell the leader of your ministry team he is not to lay hands on me under any circumstances.  I don’t appreciate his Jezebel spirit one bit.”

“Well, Sally, I hear you when you say that  God told you to run your deliverance ministry this way, but can you face the fact that what you are doing is not working and people’s lives are not being changed by what you say God told you to do?  Do we have a problem here?”

“Yes, Fred, the bed in the guest bedroom is very comfortable in the natural, but how did you end up with such a spirit of lust in that room?  Could it have anything to do with the two hundred R rated DVDs on the shelf below the big screen, that someone has obviously been watching?”

“Yes, Mrs. Murgatroyd, I can see that you put a huge amount of effort into fixing this killer breakfast.  And a killer it is.  I imagine if I ate one of everything, it would probably only take a year and a half off my life expectancy.”

You know, we just don’t have those conversations.  The social contract is that if I am invited to speak on your turf, I am supposed to ignore all the junk in the house of the Lord and the pastor’s house and simply celebrate the good.

Authenticity is not in much demand in religious circles today.

I guess that is why I was most willing to have breakfast with Kean.  An authentic Mercy who likes me, doesn’t approve of me, and is able to walk with me is special.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

Copyright March 31, 2012 by Arthur Burk

From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim

This entry was posted in Inner Healing, The Kingdom of God. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Challenge of Authenticity

  1. Linda Rule says:

    I really stuggle in this area at times. Fear of man can sometimes get the best of me. I have to ‘do it afraid” , speaking the truth in love that is. There is a lady now that has a spirit on her that twists & manipulates, yet she says she wants me to share with her the things I see in her. I’ve tried to minister to her for years, but i don’t see any real change & so have many others. Pray, I feel fear when talking to her about this now. I don’t know how to change or move forward with sharing with her though she has asked for my help in this area. Should I be alone with her or get back up?
    Thanks & God bless.

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  2. Bonnie says:

    Sometimes, Arthur, I’m just sure Daddy’s going to haul you off to the woodshed for some of the “honest” things you say. But then He doesn’t. What a gracious Father He is.

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  3. Nancy says:

    This is a timely encouragement for me to keep growing in speaking truth when it is hard to say. thank you Arthur. Also, hello to the person in Ohio who emailed me today about an Ethiopian refugee. I accidentally deleted the email instead of hitting the reply button and don’t remember your name. Can you resend it?

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  4. Grace says:

    Tell me… placing a high value on authenticity… is that more important to a RG prophet than other giftings?

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  5. Sonia says:

    Yes I love this one Arthur!
    I really really do Arthur, so thankful for your sharing your authentic friendship with Kean with us.
    I honor you for you have walked in authenticity, endured the pain, shared the glory stories, expanded incredible truth, taught us, didn’t give up the good fight, shed light in darkness and call us to greater places of authenticity. I honor you Arthur before our Father, before our King and and in spirit with the Holy Spirit.

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  6. Roslyn says:

    I wish I could plaster this on the office walls of my church.

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  7. dorisann says:

    It is exciting to see Aulia responded that you changed their life. Isn’t it worth just one? I suspect you have acquired more grace with your exhortation which is a goal I hold dear. But the hammer still must fall sometimes, because we KNOW the truth WILL set you free! It is a tough job but someone has to do it.Thank you, Arthur.

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  8. Karen says:

    No one want’s to rock the boat, it is scary for people who think they are trapped. I watch my church that split, keep building the wall and talking with wounded offense against the others. I ask them… is this what you will do in heaven too? One camp on one side of heaven one on the other? Really? let it be on earth as it is in heaven… This stuff is reproducing in the people and division continues to flow…
    So I try to be the example prophet…I cross the lines and go to both churches, OH the looks I get!! But the two Pastors are/were like brothers, Would I not see my younger sister if she were on the outs with my older sister, no way! I am a peacemaker BUT this often disturbs the “surface” peace for sure! Reconcilation is my heart but I would settle for forgiveness and doing what Jesus said…before you pray if you have something OUT OF WHACK with your brother, go to him! Okay, not how Jesus might have exactly worded it but you feel me…and I know what you mean by this article. So I am trying to talk to both sides, pray I still have a head on my shoulders when I am done, going where few dare to go! I can’t help it….

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  9. Kimberly Ruth says:

    I see two things that I have ran into as a RG prophet, one is the differences in RG, as you mentioned in the mercy example. I also see the “love without accountability” that often runs throughout churches. Which makes me wonder, are there some prophets bridled with false teaching, preventing them from speaking accountability and enabling victimhood? I have also seen tension with exhorters on this matter – is this part of their RG too or just a symptom of false love teaching?

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  10. Joyful says:

    Authenticity.
    It can’t live in the same shoes as fear of people can it?
    Over a beautiful dinner last night we chatted with new acquaintances for a couple of hours. Mostly getting to know you kinds of conversation. But we were all spiritual people. Members of God’s family and the talk went to interpreting the events of surrounding the destruction of the twin towers in NYC on 9/11. My sense was that our perspectives were not going to line up and my first impulse was to not share anything. I long for better ways to speak the truth seasoned with grace.

    I did end up speaking and it did seem to land awkwardly in some way. Running the movie back today a couple of times yielded a peace in being true to what my heart experienced, even if others could not, or would not join me there.

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  11. amyruleen says:

    Arthur, I know a couple of prophets, and they say the very same thing. They are continually frustrated by the exact same thing that you speak of. I am constantly hearing stories that are identical in some ways to the stories above. So, what IS the answer for prophet? Do you pretend the elephant is NOT in the room? or is it a process of understanding the mercy of God that you couple the truth with God’s lovingness?

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    • Caroline says:

      Amyruleen, your post expresses my very thoughts. I admit/confess I “politely” ignore the elephants if everyone else seems to be ignoring it, too, particularly in situations when I’m not in the position to speak/not recognized as an authority in the group, when I don’t have a strong enough relationship with the others to name the elephant. I’d love to hear how others are authentic in the midst of inauthenticity in such situations. Like that ugly duckling, an example (a testimony!) of being authentic in this post-modern, Tolerant culture will help shift me out of this duck-life. How does one speak truth in love?

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  12. Christina says:

    Guilty! Thank you for that exhortation. There can be no real intimacy without authenticity.

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  13. judi viglianti says:

    Thanks Arthur….always reassuring to know I’m not going crazy..at least not today.
    Judi V

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  14. Aulia says:

    Aloha Arthur,
    Myself and my hsuband were part of those meetings you had here. We were forever impacted and still talk about those “90 minutes”. Thank you.

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    • Arthur Burk says:

      How fun. What a surprise to hear fruit from something that long ago. Can you give me a few comments about you, so I can try to remember who you are? Hey, did I come over to your house one evening or something?

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