Note: This article has been excerpted from Living Dangerously: Seven Keys to Intentional Discipleship, by Shawn D. Anderson.
A key to intentional discipleship is authenticity. The authentic nature of Jesus contributed to his effectiveness as a discipler. Even his enemies knew that Jesus would never misrepresent himself. After he had been arrested, mocked, and beaten, Jesus was brought before the council leaders and elders. Luke records the conversation that transpired: "If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am" (Luke 22:67-70). Even in the face of death, Jesus remained shamelessly authentic. He lived dangerously!
There was also no pretense in Jesus' life. When he was sad, he wept; when he felt compassion for people, he healed them; and when he was angry with the Pharisees, he called them hypocrites, fools, and snakes. People who interacted with Jesus knew where they stood with him. A centurion asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant, and Jesus said in Matthew 8:10, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." Peter told Jesus that he would never be killed, and Jesus cried out, "Get behind me, Satan!" (Matthew 16:23). Jesus called it as he saw it because he was authentic. People may have disagreed with Jesus' message or methods, but they certainly could not criticize him for misrepresenting himself.
Too often, unbelievers expect the worst from disciples of Jesus. They watch us—waiting for us to mess up—so they can say, "See, I knew Christians were all fakes." We have often advanced the notion among unbelievers that we are insincere and disingenuous. Unbelievers have told me that they do not go to church because it is full of hypocrites. I agree! Believers are no better than anyone else. We all have faults and shortcomings. We are in fellowship with other disciples of Jesus because we need support and encouragement from them. We worship as a team. We can no more follow Jesus in isolation than we can play a game of football by ourselves!
If we model our lives after Jesus by being authentic in every situation, others will respect us—even if they disagree with us. Our authentic lifestyle will encourage others to be like us and follow Jesus.
The Influence of Authenticity on Disciples
Unbelievers are influenced to commit their lives to Jesus by disciplers who exhibit authenticity in their lives. Our research revealed that both men and women were influenced by the authenticity of disciplers, but men were influenced by authenticity to a higher degree than women. When relatives were filtered out of the data, male unbelievers were influenced by authenticity more than any other trait! Authenticity played the biggest role in influencing men, followed by passion, love, care, faithfulness, trust, and knowledge. Is this surprising? Before any explanations are suggested, it may be helpful to examine which gender is more likely to exhibit authenticity.
According to the research, male disciplers demonstrated authenticity far more than female disciplers. In fact, 74 percent of disciplers considered to be authentic were men, while only 26 percent were women—a ratio of almost three to one!
Not only are men more influenced than women by authenticity, they are also the ones who display this trait in their lives more often. Why is this? There may be many possible explanations. The data may reflect the different needs of men and women. While our research showed female disciplers naturally expressed love to a higher degree than male disciplers, authenticity may be expressed more strongly by men because of their innate differences. This could be interpreted to mean that women have a deeper need for love, and, therefore, naturally demonstrate this trait more strongly than men. Similarly, we can infer that men exhibit authenticity and are influenced by the trait more than women because they have a stronger need for authenticity in their lives.
Whatever the reasons, it is critical to know how unbelievers are influenced according to their gender. Male disciplers need to be aware of their natural tendencies to express authenticity in discipling others, and how it especially influences other men. For women disciplers, it is vital that their abilities to demonstrate love to others is not hindered; but rather, is freely expressed.
—Used with permission by Dr. Shawn D. Anderson, author of Living Dangerously: Seven Keys to Intentional Discipleship (docshawn.com).