The Search For Authentic

Whilst having a rare walk through a department store this weekend I headed in the direction of the sound and vision section to see if there are any new gadgets I can find the need to have in my life. I couldn’t find any of the latest offerings but prominently featured was a retro style record player that looked straight out of the sixties. It fits into a strong trend I see in retail where consumers are being offered retro products.

iTunes doesn’t offer any songs on vinyl so I didn’t take up any of the bargains on offer. This wasn’t the only brush with retro style culture I’ve had lately, I’m surrounded by it.

The latest hi-fi gadget on offer at Myer

Old School & Retro Rules

I’m having a battle of the wills with the baristas in my local coffee roastery. Each day I ask for the single origin bean on offer and every day they point me towards the ‘old school’ roast. “It’s old school, you’ll love it” they say. This focus on old school is not isolated, everywhere we go as consumers we are surrounded by examples of this nostalgic revival of a cultural style.

Whilst in South Africa recently I noticed a clothing chain called “Old Khaki” which features plenty of retro style clothing. Large shopping centres in Australia are likely to feature aisle pop up shops selling retro style maps and related accessories such as compasses, telescopes and earth globes.

Whilst traveling through the USA I found many menu items in diners advertising ‘steel cut’ and ‘hand rolled’ oats. There are plenty of products these days that feature the use of ‘hands’ rather than machines presumably. This is designed to create the perception of traditional methods of preparation of manufacture, a personal touch and that old school feel bringing back the halcyon days of the past, when things weren’t as mass produced as now.

Weddings are also ‘blinging down’ and going more hipster Etsy style, move over DJ and make way for the square dance band, yeehah!

Craft markets in my area have plenty of stalls where you can buy old school signs and advertising images from the 1950’s. Norman Rockwell lives on in the craft markets of Australia.

Retailers are responding to consumers desire for greater authenticity by faking it. Consumers are falling for it and spending up big on surrounding themselves with reminders of a less sophisticated and authentic past, and I’m one of them; a total sucker.

The Thirst For Real

I’m no different to others around me as I too desire authenticity. It’s hard to find it during an election campaign when you’re bombarded by parochial messaging from political parties and politicians. Ultimately the most authentic things aren’t things, they’re people. We all have friends in our lives who stand out as being authentic: no masking, no posing, no deception, just plain what you see is what you get reality.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks to evangelism is perceptions around the authenticity of churches, and sometimes Christians. As far as perception goes in 2016 the church is in trouble. The message of the Gospel sometimes cannot be heard through highly negative perceptions. The most common negative perceptions I bump up against stem from the ongoing revelations about the connection between the church and child abuse. The other common perception of Christians being judgmental is connected to the high profile debate over same sex marriage.

One Person At A Time

There’s not much the average Christian can do to shift perceptions at a societal level so much that it starts to have an effect in the media and in commentary. We need to remember that our mission is not to be agreeable to the world around us, but rather to live out and be a witness of the Gospel. This may at times put us in conflict with the world around us, and at times may see us shoulder to shoulder with others of a different belief system standing together for justice and compassion.

The key way I can influence the people around me to at least be open to consideration of the claims of the Gospel on their life is to be authentic. Authenticity builds trust and openness which leads to permission. I find that talking about the meaning of the Gospel when I have permission is far more fruitful than when I invade personal sacred space. Manually trying to lift up the shutters doesn’t necessarily create an opening.

Here’s some suggestions on how to build authenticity:

  1. Have some testimonies about failure. Nobody buys the “I met Jesus and now I live happily ever after” line. Talk about struggles, failure and doubts. That’s real.
  2. Don’t include argument or debate as part of your evangelistic arsenal. Nobody ever became a believer because they lost an argument with someone else (they do if they lose an argument with themselves though).
  3. Some quaint Christians still believe in ‘praying someone into the kingdom’. I do, sometimes that’s all I can do given the situation. We are careful in what we do and we think through it carefully but we still rely on the Spirit not by might.
  4. Think of evangelism as a conversation not a presentation. You’re not a salesperson, you’re an ambassador and witness. Part of the process is learning what the other person/s think and believe – it isn’t all about you.
  5. Be prepared to say that you “don’t know”. I don’t trust people who have a slick answer for everything and nor should you. If we come across like that nor should people trust us. We cannot possibly know everything, and there’s no use trying to give that impression. Teaching people to grapple with doubts is an important aspect of discipleship. We may as well exhibit that quality ourselves. Even the Apostle Paul talked about how this side of heaven he could see some things clearly but other things dimly.
  6. Make sure your lifestyle doesn’t contradict your stated beliefs.
  7. Above all things, be known for your love and compassion. Uncomfortable truths are easier to listen to from someone who you know genuinely cares.

Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager and Local Gym Owner, June 2016