The Folly of Fakery in Ministry

“You fake it ‘til you make it.” So the saying goes. I can’t tell you how many are faking it in the ministry, but I can tell you that the tensions run high with the pressure that comes with ministry—preaching, ministering to people, giving counsel, keeping up with relationships, and all the while, maintaining a strong marriage and family dynamics. Time for prayer and personal study can easily fall by the wayside. Ministry is too often measured by performance. Burnout ensues as soon as something goes wrong—and something always does. So faking ministry may seem to be a temporary answer, until it’s clear that you won’t make it.

It’s the temptation that many ministers face: look and sound the part of the minister, and hope that no one catches you as an imposter. But it’s not just the minister who faces this temptation. It’s also the rest of the church—the stakes are high for not only acceptance but in becoming model members. The pressure for ministers and congregants alike tears up the church within.

Let’s be honest here. The church is stinking of fakery. Trust me, it’s not anything new. Not to point any fingers, but look at the churches in Corinth and all of Galatia. The pressure is real because of the desire to perform because of the expectation that ministers do their part and members do theirs.

Do, do, do. But where’s the grace in all of this?

My heart breaks. It’s almost as if the church is constantly concocting programs that try to regain the favor of God all over again. The definition of grace that I was taught as a boy is “getting what you don’t deserve.” It’s the Sunday School answer that I’ve found revolting, because there’s no God in that definition. Grace is God’s love. Love poured out. Love that defines new life for all brokenness. Love that God gives simply because He said, “You’re mine as you are.”

My young children do not try to act up so that I will love them more. They have the absolute assurance that their dad loves them. This is my constant reminder that grace is real, because God doesn’t see my accomplishments to evaluate my status as a child of God. I have no balance or system to work in order for God to love me more—He demonstrated His love for me, for the church, already in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 5:8). All this because He loves me and He wants me to love Him above all else (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). This relationship is grace, a love relationship that defined the course of human history through God’s work in the church.

Grace shatters the desire to fit in. Grace cripples the desire to be praised by others because Christ has already secured the church’s place by His side. This grace doesn’t need faking, because grace finds us when we are most authentic. Honest. Vulnerable. It’s in our weakness that grace is made sufficient.

Some people liken grace as a freebie, a handout given at a soup kitchen for the soul; the sustenance needed to carry the feeble soul to higher places. But what if grace is more like a declaration of a relationship grounded in freedom? Not free to do whatever one wishes, but free to become a child of God, accepted freely into His good will. Run. Play. Laugh. I see how I ought to live this life. My kids show me what full acceptance looks like—that is, what full-on security offers me.

The church is a place for this experience of deep-seated, grounded acceptance that comes from a love assured by God and reinforced by the community that seeks to love God more, above all things. When the community of God responds in true worship, there is:

  • Joy, which cannot be faked, enlivening the hope in the here and now—and all the uncertainties of the days to come. See Matthew 13:44.
  • Boldness in loving others, without the need of validation from others or any expectation to receive something in return. See Matthew 6:1-4.
  • Excitement in seeing God advancing Kingdom work: lives changing, faith maturing, growing perspectives into what God is doing. See 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4-8.
  • Gratefulness in receiving grace, the love that gives us confidence and security in Christ. See 1 Corinthians 4:7.
  • Humility in knowing that God is working great things in the body of Christ. See Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 5.

Ministry involves everyone in the community to respond to the one true, living hope in Christ. Not performing, but striving for excellence in loving others.

If we can’t get this loving part right, we might as well call ministry what it is … fakery.