On Being an Authentic Christian

It seems like everyone wants to know what being an authentic Christian is like. I've heard sermons before wherein the main thesis was, "What does an authentic Christian look like?" Recently, a pretty big Christian blogger wrote about being authentic, and he points out good things to think about. In his article, Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, says a few important things that have to deal with strengths and weaknesses. He says that you have to discover your strengths and manage your weaknesses. I couldn't agree more. One of the things that plagued me for most of my Navy career was the fact that I didn't know who I was at the core. I didn't know what made me who I was. I didn't know my strengths and my weaknesses.

The thing that Mr. Hyatt doesn't lay out, however, is that we aren't always the best judge of what our strengths and weaknesses are. For this reason, we need mentors. When I was being mentored by a Navigator in San Diego, I was asked what I thought my strength was. It turns out that it wasn't an easy question to answer. However, after a few meetings, my new mentor knew what my strengths and weaknesses were. As to my strengths, he said my biggest was my ability to learn. That is an important strength, and I didn't even know I had it. That strength turned into an ability to figure out what it would take to get a promotion to Chief Petty Officer because I learned what was required of me. That strength also led to what is probably my biggest strength now...becoming a good mentor to others.

Mentoring is all about being authentic, to a point. Your protégé doesn't need to know everything about you like an accountability partner would. However, he must know that you're using your strengths to help him. I have that situation now with a Sailor at my command. I've already learned that he wants to be involved, but he doesn't just get his feet wet. When he goes in for it...well, he goes all the way. That sort of ambition is a pretty good thing if it can be tempered and utilized for the right purposes. I'm happy that one of his strengths is his willingness to take risks.

So you see, strengths and weaknesses do make up a great deal of who we are. The only thing I would counter with is that we are not always the best person to know those strengths and weaknesses. That is why you need to be in a mentoring relationship, both as a mentor and as a protégé.


Nato said...

I agree that being authentic includes knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and I also agree that we are often poor judges of what our own abilities and limitations are. However, I don't know if this (and having a mentor) are all it takes to be an authentic Christian. I'm sure you didn't mean these two things to be an all-inclusive list, but I am reading it to be that way. Sorry if I misunderstood the purpose of this post.

I believe it is I John where it states that if we love the Lord, we will follow His commandments. To me, that is the foundation of being authentic. How can we call ourselves Christians if we don't strive to follow Christ's commandments? How can we even begin to mentor others if we don't have our lives in working order? I don't have a theology degree, but off the top of my head, I can't recall anywhere in the Bible where I'm commanded to have a mentor or be mentored. I am, however, commanded to go and tell the nations, and to not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Isn't that where authenticity begins?

Dan Smith said...

Actually, Matthew says, "Go and make disciples," so the answer is yes, mentoring is commanded. The problem is that most of use fundamentalist type believers (even those of us who have left that conviction) think and act like "saving" a person is all that Christ requires. That's not true. A good portion of the Bible (letters to Timothy, Titus, etc) are from mentoring/discipling relationships.

Nato said...

I agree with you, Dan, but you didn't answer my questions. Is mentoring the foundation of being authentic, or is living the life of Christ? Sure, some of the apostles of the New Testament built wonderfully working mentoring relationships, but did Moses? Did Jeremiah? What is common among all of them is that they stood fast in their belief and lived the life (obviously they weren't perfect) of Christ.

I don't think I said anywhere in my previous comment that saving souls is the only requirement of living an authentic life. In fact, I said that following the commandments of Christ is (which you could argue that mentoring might be one of them). Anyway, my overall question/thought was based around the idea that mentoring is an important part of being a Christian, but I don't think I agree with you that mentoring or being mentored is the foundation of living an authentic Christian life.

Dan Smith said...

I think I understand your point more now, and I agree that being an authentic Christian is following Christ's commands. However, discipleship (in the form of mentoring mostly) answers the question of guidance and accountability. The issue in this blog post was in response to the idea that living authentically meant knowing your weaknesses and strengths, and for that, I do believe a mentor is vital.

Also, Moses did guide, at least to some degree, Joshua. Jeremiah doesn't seem to have had a protégé, but several other prophets did (ie: Elijah).