Every year, Merriam-Webster releases its word of the year. They take into account the usage of words in search engines coupled with correlating current events to select their word. In 2022 the word was ‘gaslighting’ but now in 2023, the word of the year is ‘authentic’.
That sounds super close to a core value of a particular church I am quite fond of. We have been pursuing ‘authenticity’ as a core value at ReCAST since we started nearly 15 years ago. As far as a core value, we are striving for honest relationships that avoid acting as if everything is always okay. I will often say that we want to be a, “no masks allowed church”. Of course wherever people gather, there will be the opportunity for us to mask our feelings. But we want to be a church gathering that celebrates together sharing highlights, while also being a church that mourns deeply with those who mourn.
I believe that this core value has served the church well over the years! I have seen a depth of honest sharing at ReCAST that I have rarely experienced in a religious setting. Through community groups, and even in the Sunday morning gathering, I have found many opportunities to pray for those going through a tough season, a tough week, or a tough morning.
Authenticity has helped us a a church to meet together, as we are. What good does it do to put on airs, pretend everything is okay, and hide behind our plastic smiles? If we cannot be honest about our struggles at church, then where can we turn? I guess maybe that is why therapists are on the rise (maybe ‘therapy’ will be the word of 2024?).
As far as a cultural moment though, the word authentic has a bit of a different twist. People seem to be searching for something REAL. With the sudden advent of AI, deep fakes, fake news, and so VERY MUCH disinformation out there, people have been searching for something authentic.
Christians ought to be speaking loudly and excitedly into this cultural moment as people are searching for the real deal. We ought to be real. We ought to love real. We ought to speak real. We ought to convey that we have been set free from the consequences of our sins… for real!
I heard recently on “The World and Everything in It” podcast about this word of the year that somebody online said, “‘authentic’ is a word of the past, ‘synthetic’ is the new and true now and ‘pathetic’ is where we’re headed.” Not so with the church. We are becoming more and more real . . . More and more authentic, and we are drawing closer and closer to the day that Jesus returns to make His people what we were made to be . . . And there in His presence we will worship Him with true authenticity!