Faking Church

Faking Church

Do we really want to serve God—or is it more rewarding to just look the part?
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Ned sits down next to his wife, Tanya, in the church his family has called home for many years. He smiles, waves, jokes, and engages in friendly banter with everyone around him. He is a fixture in the church, having been involved in leadership for many years. Ned is well known, well liked, and deeply admired for his spiritual life. Frank, one of the men he has discipled, waves to him from across the church. Ned smiles and waves back. He remembers sharing with Frank how to live the Christian life. Suddenly he feels a pang of guilt.

Who Are We Serving?

It happens slowly, subtly. Most Christians aren't even aware of it when it happens. The "it" is a spiritual deception. What others see of our faith and service to Christ has become distorted—inevitably in our favor. We've become fakers.

Years ago I was in a church where a new and exciting ministry was opening up. I was hoping to be chosen to lead the ministry. I felt I was the best qualified and was sure I would be chosen. I wasn't. I was frustrated, angry, and jealous. Of course, I didn't show it.

I see it clearly now, how I was motivated by ego, pride, and ambition. But these are "hidden" sins, so very easily cloaked. This is not to say I did not love God. I did. But sadly, I wanted to serve me more than I wanted to serve Him.

By withholding this opportunity, God was working to dislodge a destructive attitude that would threaten to destroy any sincere ministry I might attempt. I had forgotten that my gift had not been given to me for my personal glory.

When you represent God so visibly, such as with a teaching gift, it can be nearly impossible for anyone to detect you're a fake. You're saying such great things about God that you outwardly appear to be the picture of sincerity. No one may ever know. Except for God.

You may read your Bible regularly, listen to Christian radio programs frequently, or watch Christian television religiously. You may read Christian books by the most popular Christian authors, go to Promise Keepers or Women of Faith conferences faithfully. You may be a popular leader in your Christian circles. You may even feel very spiritual at times, but you're a fake, an imposter.

Secret Identities

I have, on numerous Sunday mornings, preached a message that deeply moved members of the congregation. Ironically, I had "prepared" for ministry that morning by arguing with my wife on the way to church, or made life miserable for my children because they were making us late. But years of practice came to the rescue, and I easily morphed into "Pastor Dan." I was instantly compassionate, holy, and spiritual. I was faking church.

When Jesus sent out His disciples on the first mission, they came back and exclaimed with great excitement "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He encouraged them, but also warned them: "Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:17-20). It is addicting to be the center of attention in ministry.

When I counsel with someone and she or he tells me how great a listener I am and how much I have helped, it feels good. When I teach and I am praised for my insight or delivery, it feels good. When I visit the sick and they express their appreciation, it feels good. Doing good is not often as rewarding to me as looking or feeling good. I can do some really good things for some really lousy reasons. Feeling needed, respected, wanted, and significant can become as great a motivation as love for Christ.

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