Out of Context: James Gilmore

"To me, the church should not aim to be 'real' as an end. The church is there to proclaim truth. Trying to be hip and cool and real does a disservice to the church. We're not called to be successful. We're called to be obedient, even if they don't come.... If somebody doesn't find you objectionable, I wonder if you're preaching the full counsel of God."

-James Gilmoreis co-author of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want (Harvard Business School Press, 2007). Taken from "Keeping It Real" in the Spring 2008 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

May 29, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 24 comments

Laura

June 05, 2008  7:53pm

Okay, so maybe the dude didn't use the right words to express his meaning: most of us, when we use the word 'real,' mean genuine. But this guy–James?–seems to be viewing the use of 'real' in its jargony sense. And, come one, how many times have we all heard 'real' used in exactly that sense–as slang for anything that's cool or 'in' in our culture. He's just saying that the church shouldn't rely on gimmicks to get people in the pews, and he's right. People really want and need Jesus Christ, and JC doesn't need our concept of 'cool' to make Him more appealing. Yeah, we want our churches to grow, but all the tricks and gimmicks in the world won't do anything for a church that doesn't make the truth of Jesus Christ central to its ministry...at least not in the end, when it really matters. And that's being...dare I say it?...real.

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Rob Dunbar

June 03, 2008  7:19pm

Nathan, I understand what you mean. But I have also seen supposed authenticity used simply to manipulate the audience; remember Jimmy Swaggart's frequent tears? God forgive me, I've done it myself (though not by tears). This is the danger I see: Some "realness" isn't real. It's only for effect. I have no problem with true openness; I wish believers practiced it more, first with God and then with one another. That would be the kind of openness that lets people see that we struggle but really want to overcome; that we are willing to be held to account when we sin; that we need the help of other believers as much as they need ours, because grace is given through the community of the Spirit as well as by the Spirit Himself. I think this is what the church was always meant to be; it may be our greatest failure that we are not this.

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nathan

June 03, 2008  10:00am

RE: Several have pointed out the puzzling identification of 'real' with 'hip and cool', which is nearsighted and offensive, and betrays a serious misunderstanding of 'authenticity.' It also supports the critique that the move toward "authenticity" is inspired by–namely, the religious allergy to honesty and openness. But I get it. Calling people to be open about where they are at and who they are, as they are, means leaving off the easier route. That of holding forth cookie cutter "absolute standards" and judging everyone around you and feeling good about your self, instead of humbly coming together around the person and work of Jesus Christ in our lives.

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Phil

June 02, 2008  5:26pm

It seems to me that there IS a tension between authentically expressing ourselves, and being called to be what we are intended to be. If we do nothing but the former, we risk a shoe-gazing narcissism that takes ourselves too seriously and loses sight of the hope of redemption and the call to holiness. But if we only focus on where we're supposed to be and not where we're at, we'll never feel welcomed, and we'll never understand our own brokenness and immaturity. Nathan is exactly right: authenticity is where healing can begin. The Gospel is about grace and transformation, after all. So we welcome each other as we are, and call each other to be what God intends. There's no reason, except out of a distasteful reaction against certain trends in the contemporary church–to pick one over the other. Several have pointed out the puzzling identification of 'real' with 'hip and cool', which is nearsighted and offensive, and betrays a serious misunderstanding of 'authenticity.'

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Bob

June 02, 2008  11:18am

"God has chosen the foolishness of preaching..." How foolish is our preaching? "...to the Jew, a stumbling block and to the Greek, foolishness..." Does the gospel we preach cause stubbed toes to the religious and foolishness to the intellectual? "...a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word." Ditto. "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

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nathan

June 01, 2008  4:01pm

Actually...the goal is not being REAL for its own sake. It's being real because honesty is the starting place for healing. For cryin' out loud, AA gets this. Why can't the church?

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Rob Dunbar

June 01, 2008  10:19am

Add to my previous comment: The real offense of the Gospel wasn't the idea of grace, inherent in the Jewish sacrificial system: a lamb for a life. The real offense was Jesus proclaiming Himself as eternal Son of God with the power to forgive sins Himself, given that power from His Father. The question that nailed Him to the cross was, in the end: "Are you the Son of God?"

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Rob Dunbar

June 01, 2008  10:11am

Being "real" ought to mean being authentic, but I often see it used as something else. It may be an excuse for unholiness, as in: "Well, that's just who I really am." Sometimes it DOES substitute for a gritty street-smart savvy, brought to you by a hip-talking dude in jeans and work shirt on Sunday morning. If that's the true context of our lives and listeners' lives, all well and good. But keep in mind the old actors' creed: "Sincerity–if you can fake that, you can fake anything."

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Melody

June 01, 2008  10:03am

The problem with being "real" or "authentic" is that these terms are like "beauty", which exists in the eye of the beholder. Expository preaching, on the other hand, is not subjective but rather objective. I guess you could say that the only thing is is really 'real' or 'authentic' is the Bible.

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JJ

June 01, 2008  12:25am

I think this quote makes a mistake in assuming to be "Real" = to be "Hip and cool". This is a shallow and misguided assumption. To be real - genuine - authentic... this is a positive and needed thing in all out lives and as some have mentioned above, it is part of expressing the truth. I think to be "Real", if it means being honest & genuine & deep is not the #1 goal of the church - but it is a good goal as part of our life together

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