Shhh, the Pastor’s Coming!
Most of the time I love being a pastor, but there are some things about the role that can be very frustrating. One of them (speaking for myself anyways) is when people act differently around me than they do in normal life, simply because I’m a “pastor”. Being in youth ministry, I see this all the time. Students have their regular, day-to-day life that they live out with their friends and family. For the most part, they let their guard down and just are who they are without giving it a second thought. Then, as soon as they get around me, a switch happens. Suddenly their language is different, their interests are different, their perception of life is different, and it is all faker than a face-lift on an aging supermodel.
I hate fake. I don’t care much for fake anything—knock-off brand cereal, flopping in the NBA, or auto-tuned singers. But I get especially annoyed when people are being fake. I think that as a pastor, I tend to get the fake version of people more often than the average Joe. I guess the perception is that I’m supposed to be some kind of holy man and so people should act holy around me. Next thing you know, people who normally cuss like sailors are talking like Mother Theresa. People who normally don’t give God three seconds of thought in the day are great theologians. And people who are sleeping around and partying on the weekend are really into the Newsboys and want to make sure I know about it.
It’s really not much fun being around fake people. It can be quite lonely. Rather than actually having a meaningful conversation with someone, I have a pretend conversation with them. They play the part, I nod along, and then it ends. They never showed their true colours, I never got any real chance to show genuine love for who they really are, and the whole thing is a waste of time. Most of the time I can tell when someone is being fake, even if I never let on that I know. I just play the game and hope one day the jig will be up and we can actually have a relationship that is real.
That’s why I appreciate whenever someone is brutally honest with me. I don’t even care if they disagree with me on just about everything I believe in—at the very least we can have a real, meaningful interaction. No faking, no acting, just talk and see where it goes. I love that kind of thing. When I walk through the halls of a high school or the mall, I see students I know in their natural environment. I hear how they talk and what they talk about. I see who they are around their peers. And even though it may include a whole lot of stuff that I’m not a fan of, I would rather they be that way with me and show their true self than fake it and feel like somehow they’ve won themselves a victory.
There are some students that I know who let their guard down around me even though you might not expect them to. They aren’t Christians. They don’t pretend to be. They say things I would never say, listen to stuff I would never listen to, and do things I would never condone. And yet I don’t jump all over them for it, and they don’t feel like they need to hide it from me. They know where I stand, I know where they stand, and that is that. We just are who we are and we have earned each other’s respect. We might talk about those hard things from time to time, and we might agree to disagree. So be it. I actually love when people are like that with me. It’s the way it should be.
What good can come from being a phoney Christian? There is little to gain and much to lose. A faker forfeits meaningful relationships. They must pretend to be someone they are not. They must lie to cover up whatever they are trying to hide. They carry the stress of putting on the mask at a moments notice, depending on who is in the near vicinity. And worst of all, they feel a measure of peace at hiding the parts of themselves that they deem unholy—and yet this peace is never full because it is a false peace, and they know it. So you managed to fool the pastor (or so you think)? Congratulations! You have succeeded in tricking someone you are not ultimately accountable to at the expense of increasing your guilt before the One you are ultimately accountable to. You have deceived the courtroom, but not the Judge. What gain will come of that?
An old Puritan named Thomas Brooks says this about people who fake their Christianity around people but don’t truly live it from their heart:
“Know that it is not the knowing, nor the talking, nor the reading man —but the doing man, that at last will be found the happiest man. ‘If you know these things, blessed and happy are you if you DO them.’ ‘Not everyone that says, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven—but he who DOES the will of my Father that is in heaven’ (John 13: 17, Matt. 7: 21). Judas called Christ Lord, Lord; and yet betrayed him, and has gone to his place. Ah! how many Judases have we in these days, that kiss Christ, and yet betray Christ; that in their words profess him—but in their works deny him; that bow their knee to him, and yet in their hearts despise him; that call him Jesus, and yet will not obey him as their Lord.”
The one who plays Christianity before men but denies it with their life is no true Christian. That person knows this is true, and God knows this is true. If you succeed in fooling others, all you have done is held off what appears to be the negative consequences of rejecting Jesus in a public way…aka, showing your true colours. Sure, you won’t get judgmental glances from other believers or sighs of disappointment from hopeful parents. But you also will be forsaking the love and friendship and blessing of God, and severing yourself from the Source of true joy and life. In other words, you get sin instead of Jesus, a surefire recipe for long-term misery if ever there was one. Fake people aren’t happy people.
Why bother wearing the mask? Why bother trying to please people who’s approval you probably don’t even care much for? Why be someone you’re not? God sees. God knows. You haven’t fooled him one bit. And truth be told, his opinion is the only one that counts. So just be real and authentic and honest about who you are. You don’t have to be intentionally provocative or needlessly rude about it. But for goodness’ sake, don’t fake it. If you do, everyone loses.