Keeping up appearances: is faking it really worth it?

Paul’s ministry was genuinely godly in that his preaching of the gospel was backed by the Holy Spirit’s power manifested in the miracles that happened, in the spiritual gifts that supported it, and in the praise music that accompanied it (e.g. when he and Silas sang in the Philippian prison). Yet for all that proof of his genuineness, Paul often had to defend himself against critics. Much of 2 Corinthians was him explaining his doctrines, why he held to those doctrines, how those doctrines were the core of his ministry and life, and his real suffering for those doctrines. Paul told the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 5:12 why he was explaining all of those things to them:

For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

Paul wanted them to understand he was not commending himself all over again to the church–i.e. he was not laying out his bona fides. His purpose was to show them they could glory and rejoice with Paul for all the Lord accomplished through him as a way to fend off his critics, the bulk of whom were all about keeping up outward religious appearances without giving God glory for what was in Paul’s heart or they lacked godly glory in their hearts. They were like the church of Sardis, having a reputation of spiritual vitality when they were actually dead (Rev. 3:1), and like the Laodiceans who gloried in the outward appearance of their material gain, but were spiritually “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

In our times, we face the same challenges Paul did. Most churches that get media attention glory in outward appearances, and not in heart. This is obvious in their doctrines and actions, even though some of their music is Biblically accurate. Take Hillsong, for instance. They have this beautiful, accurate song with words based on scripture:

Lyrics to United’s Say the Word:

Say the word and there is light (Gen. 1)
Say the word and dead bones rise (Ezek. 37)
Every start and end hangs on Your voice
For Your word never returns void (Isa. 55:11)

Written in a billion skies
Speaking to this heart of mine (Rom. 1:20)
All that I am with all creation
Hanging on every word that You’ve spoken
And it will not be shaken (Heb. 12:26-27)
Clinging for life to all You promise
Hanging on every word that You say (Deut. 8:3c)

It will remain (Mat. 24:35)
And my soul will hang on every word You say (Mat. 4:4)

Word made flesh You wrote in grace (John 1:14)
Promise kept through cross and grave
Over words of stone You spelled out love
And when You say it is done
It is done (Ezek. 12:25a)

(Chorus 2x)

It will remain
And my soul will hang on every word You say
‘Cause I know Your word will never ever fail 
And my soul will hang on every word You say

Yet for all that accuracy in the music, Hillsong’s actions as a church to support the Vatican and work toward Chrislam flies in the face of sound doctrine. They are focused on outward appearances. As Paul pointed out to the church of Corinth above, the best answer to fake religious outward appearances is to glory in the genuine things that God does through real churches and real believers and their real challenges in real ministry.

3 thoughts on “Keeping up appearances: is faking it really worth it?

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  1. I have a question. What do you do when you serve and attend at a church like this. Where it’s coming more from the pulpit. I’m serve at this church but I see through the deception and the lies spoken by the pastor. We’ve contacted his superiors but they have seemed to find him favorable. I have thought about leaving and am seriously considering it. I serve in the youth ministry and have seen GOD move. It just makes me sad to see the corruption from within.


    1. Eli,

      When I was in similar situations to yours (I was a leader in youth ministries before), I was led by God to get out of those churches. I’ve been in churches where fornicators, adulterers, idolaters (e.g. Freemasons), thieves, drunkards, and other unrepentant people were ministry leaders. God gave me several scriptures:

      1 Cor. 5:9-11: I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

      2 Cor. 6:17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

      But that was what God told me personally. What he tells you may be different, so stay close to him and he’ll lead you in whatever direction he wants you to go. When it happens, it won’t even be a question as to which way to go since it will be crystal clear.


  2. Thank you for your words. I’m a bit torn. Mostly because I know I serve the Lord and look at David who served under horrible leadership (Saul) but his heart was set on the Lord. I’m honestly leaning on leaving rather than staying. Again, thank you.


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