How to Know if We’re Modelling or Faking

We’re supposed to model behaviors that we are trying to develop in our team.

The danger is modeling behaviors that aren’t genuine expressions of who we are. This is especially true when it comes to living out our Christian lives in the public. When our public life doesn’t line up with our private life, we aren’t ‘being an example we’re faking or acting. Here are 4 danger areas for me:

Prayer

Jesus was clear on the dangers of praying to be seen. He condemned the Pharisees “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matt 6: 5-6

Recently I was encouraged to go to the prayer room so that the students in my college would see me praying. I considered it then realized that the only reason I would be going there is so that “the students would see me praying.” It would not add to my effectiveness in prayer nor help me to feel closer to Christ. I pray in my office. I pray in a chair in my house. I don’t even feel comfortable for my family to see me pray.

There is a place for corporate prayer but to go to a place to show students that I pray would be just for show in my case.

But how will students know that I pray if they never see me in the designated prayer room? I wrestled with it and determined that I’d rather risk students thinking that I don’t pray than to purposely make a show of it.

How do we help people develop a prayer life without praying in front of them.

Here are a few ways that Jesus modeled prayer:

  • His disciples saw him going off by himself
  • He prayed for others regularly
  • He gave thanks when he ate, including on  the night he was betrayed
  • Sometimes he invited a few a long.
  • In crisis situations he prayed for a miracle –not as a show but because results were needed

Giving

At a church I attended as a teen, the pastor made a point of putting an envelope into the offering at every service. Since he was sitting on the platform, this involved getting up walking down some steps to the front row and putting the envelope in the plate. He said that if the people did not see him giving they may wonder if they needed to give to the church.

Jesus pointed out the dangers of making a show of our giving. He said, Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matt 6:2-4

A good way to measure if we are doing it for show is to give secretly. We should give at times when we will not get a receipt and no one knows where the funds came from.

Worship

There are many worship styles. Some people like to raise hands while others shuffle their feet or dance during the praise songs. Some sing loudly and others don’t sing out loud. In some contemporary worship services the congregation is expected to stand for the entire 30 to 40 minutes of singing.

Regardless of worship style, the danger for the Christian leader is to perform for those around them because they are expected to set an example for others. This is dangerous since it conflicts with our ability to authentically worship God. If we are concerned with those who are watching, we may be less able to genuinely sing praise songs.

I feel this pressure especially when I am invited as a guest speaker and all eyes are on me. If I start worshiping in a way that I don’t at my home church, I am being fake.

What I have modeled, then is not authentic worship but a religious form or pattern for others to copy. If they too model for others instead of having a genuine worship experience, eventually no one is going to be honest in their expression. We are just putting on a show and God sees right through it.

Serving

This is a tricky one. Setting an example for others to see could amount to “doing our righteous acts before men.” Jesus cautioned against this saying, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Matt 6:1

I was teaching a series at a mega church and as I prepared my notes a man in his thirties began to set up chairs in the room. He worked at it alone while I checked my computer connections. When I was done I thought I should at least try to help the guy out. I introduced myself and I asked if he was a volunteer or one of the pastors at the church. He said yes and went on setting up chairs. Later I discovered that he was the lead pastor of that huge church.

He served without being seen by any of the church members. He did what needed to be done because no one was doing it.

The opposite would have been to strategically place himself where all of his church members could see him setting up the chairs or performing some act of service.

The Struggle is Real

I believe that leaders need to lead from among their people. They will rub shoulders with their people as they share in community life. They will pray, sing, serve and give and will still sometimes wonder if they are doing this for God or doing it “to set an example.”

Genuine devotion never seeks an audience but it can’t only be practiced in isolation. The tension in the leader is real. We need to constantly search our hearts and determine; is this just an act or does it flow from our hearts because we love the Lord.

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Ron Powell

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Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com