It's hip to "tell all" nowadays. But is it wise? Not really, argues William H. Willimon in this article reprinted from LEADERSHIP, a sister publication of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. While the essay addresses mainly preachers, it also makes good eavesdropping for those who listen to sermons. Willimon is dean of the chapel and professor of Christian ministry at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

I take as my text a statement by the great theologian Oscar Wilde: "About the worst advice you can give anybody is, 'Be yourself.' " For clergy, that aphorism may be especially true.

Recently I heard a church-growth consultant urge pastors to "be authentic." He noted that boomers, busters, and GenX-ers all like preachers who "share themselves," who peel off the clerical masks and share their humanity. "If you've had a tough week, tell them," he advised. "If you have trouble believing a certain piece of Scripture, tell them."

Authenticity is a great virtue. The insincere ministerial demeanor is a true turnoff for many. The congregation rightly expects us not to talk the talk unless we walk the walk. And perhaps there was a time when we preachers needed to demonstrate to the congregation that, despite the M.Div., the backward collar, or the red rose on the lapel, we were, after all, just poor struggling sinners like them.

I wonder, though, if that day has passed. Lately, there have been so many opportunities for the laity to utter the truism "Well, we must remember that pastors are only human" that I see little need for us intentionally to share ourselves, expose ourselves, strip down, open up, or let it all hang out in the name of "authenticity." Show me a layperson who needs us to expend time in Sunday worship convincing folks that we ...

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