I read a news report recently about a pastor who had been forced by his Board to resign.
In a statement, the Board said that he’d been repeatedly manipulative and selfish and was more interested in being at the front, than in pastoring the congregation. The statement also said they’d worked with him to fix things for many years, but in the end it became clear he was ‘not willing to live a Jesus-centred life’.
I’m guessing that before the resignation, on the surface, this pastor preached good sermons, maybe raised his hands in worship, tweeted wisdom and helped people on their spiritual journey. But was it all a show? Deep down, was he just faking it?
Before anyone throws any stones, it’s worth me saying from personal experience, that it’s pretty easy to fall into faking it.
Sometimes within the church, we can get so busy that we start to neglect the behind-the-scenes essentials, like prayer and study. As those little disciplines start to drift, it gets easier to hide behind the volume of our enigmatic leaders, skillful singers and beautiful branding. I’m not criticising any of those things (that’s a big part of my church identity) but I know from personal experience, that if you focus on performance over Spirit, it’s very easy to fall into a big black hole of faking it.
About 10 years ago, I did just that. For a whole bunch of different reasons, my relationship with God became quite distant. We all go through times where it feels as though we’re cut off and on the dark side of the moon, but this feeling persisted. I knew what I had to do in order to put things right, but I lacked the motivation. But, despite knowing this, every Sunday for quite a few weeks, I was still leading, speaking and saying all the things that I believed (deep down) but was unwilling to put into practice. I was faking it.
On other occasions I’ve had eyes prayerfully shut in church during worship, while thinking about what I’d have for lunch. I’ve stood in hushed prayer circles and thought how I needed a coffee, mentally crushing the beans and frothing the milk. In my youth group days, I’ve definitely been guilty of scrunching up my eyes and raising especially ‘holy hands’, just so I could impress a boy.
If we’re honest, we’ve all done it at some point. It’s not necessarily deliberate…we’re human and at times, our minds wander. But, when it becomes a regular habit and our inner thoughts don’t match our outward actions, then we’re in danger of becoming fake and (like the statement said), being unable to live a ‘Jesus-centred’ life.
The difficulty is that we all know what a Christian should sound and look like. It’s pretty easy to copy that, without the truth touching our hearts and bones. It is possible to get so swept up in meetings and plans and processes, that inadvertently, it actually becomes a performance.
Perhaps it’s time for a quick spiritual MOT?
Take the ‘faking it’ test
What are you thinking about?
When you’re in a prayer meeting or a worship service, what are you really thinking about? Are you focusing on what’s happening, on what God’s saying? Or are you worried about the chicken in the oven?
Take your own advice.
Next time someone needs comfort or advice, think about what you’re saying. If you’re telling them God is faithful, that He will see them through ((insert other encouraging thought here)), do you really believe that yourself too? Don’t say it because it’s the right thing to say – say it because you know it’s true.
What’s your agenda?
Deep down, we all have insecurities and sometimes our hidden needs and emotional baggage can get in the way. So, why do you really want to sing at church? Is it because you know you’re gifted to lead worship? Or is it because you like the compliments? Why do you really want to lead a committee or plan an event? Is it because you just want to serve? Or is it because deep down, it feels safer when others are under your control?
These are tough questions to ask ourselves. Humans are complex and often flawed. But if the goal is to really live a Jesus-centred life, then it’s good to have a regular spiritual MOT…not to get condemned or tied up in knots, but just to check that our hearts and actions are in line with each other. The emotional and spiritual health of your church might just depend on it.