Written: October 8, 2015 | Updated on March 31st, 2021 | Jun P. Espina | 20 min read
The Rise of Fake Christianity
His “appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.”—Isaiah 52:14 NIV
The Secularization of Ministerial Approaches
Most churches today are unwittingly growing pseudo-Christians, and the primary reason is the secularization of ministerial approaches. One Pentecostal pastor told me, for example, that his approach to raising his church is no different from the main concept employed in network marketing, that is, intense recruitment. Then, once they are inside, he added, “we need to feed them how to succeed in life the scriptural way.” His member, a friend of mine, told me that their members are ever increasing in number and that the church’s parking lot overflows with cars during Sunday services. Thanks to the invention of prosperity gospel and miracleism plus the concept of “RITA” or Recruitment Is The Answer. Sad that this secularization of ministry approaches is now gaining so much acceptance that even the so-called fundamentalists are somehow getting curious on how to incorporate modern strategies in developing the church into the threshold of fundamentalism. “Unfortunately,” wrote Dave Hunt, “secular success/motivation concepts have been erroneously equated with faith and brought into the church.” 1
The Fake Christian and His Spiritual Indigestion
Another disease plaguing most Christian churches is what I venture to call spiritual indigestion. It is about textualism and the parrotlike memorization of verses. It is about giving the congregation more Bible than love for God. We need more than mere God’s Word. We need a close and healthy relationship with God Himself! Sad. The fake Christian does not know he has spiritual indigestion.
In a nutshell, the chief cause of the spread of fake Christianity is not just the advent of secularized ministry approaches. One big ingredient also is the determination of many church leaders to succeed by employing business-world concepts in achieving their goals! I think there is no problem with utilizing industry-standard techniques in managing people, for as long as they are biblical. Incorporating worldly culture into the church like “jollifying” the Christian worship is another story and highly debatable.
Even Rick Warren, a Pentecostal leader (a former Baptist and son of a Baptist minister) and writer, wrote that “[today] many equate being emotionally moved by music as being moved by the Spirit, but these are not the same.” He also said that worship is “deeply emotional and deeply doctrinal. We use both our hearts and our heads.”2 I like the idea that we need to use our heads in worship; we need to be intellectual, not fanatical worshipers.
The Pentecostalized Worship
I don’t agree with Warren’s doctrine, however, of a “deeply emotional” worship in a corporate or church capacity, for the apostle Paul said that “all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.” (1 Cor. 14:40) Transforming the solemn and sacred church mode into a spontaneous, emotional, and entertainingly lively service, as what the Pentecostal doctrine teaches, is unscriptural. Before this pentecostalized worship was invented, the apostle Paul already gave the warning to keep away from it—for it would be putting the Lord’s Church to shame!
Rick Warren said we need to use our heads in worship. But it is impossible in a “deeply emotional” church service since there are people who are seemingly thoughtless when their deep emotionalism starts to control them. That’s why we heard of a “blanket committee” in an extreme Pentecostal emotional service. Its members are designated to cover with a blanket those women who would have fallen on the floor and have unintentionally and unknowingly exposed themselves physically. We have seen on TV how emotional worship works, but it is simply an utter departure from the true biblical model, which is anchored in God’s character of holiness, peace, and purity. Wrote A. W. Tozer: “We must be concerned with the person and the character of God . . . faith itself must rest down upon the character of God.” 3
True Faith Rises Above Reason
As mentioned, fake Christianity is spreading fast because of secularization and humanism in the church and the liberal inclination of her leadership. Reason is always consulted, rather than the old-fashioned faith and trust in the person and character of God. The cliché that “everything happens for a reason” is somewhat dignifying reason to a much higher level. There is some degree of truth in it, but only when we start to change the meaning of the word “everything” at the beginning of the statement. By using “everything,” we are making faith inferior to reason, which is not the case. There are tons of instances in life where reason is dumb. The feeling of guilt, for example, is beyond the province of reason—just like the operation of the conscience or the second birth as experienced by the born-again Christians.
The Fake Christians Don’t Understand the Role of Faith in Christianity
Pseudo-Christians don’t understand that real Christianity is faith-based. I wrote somewhere in this book that, based on the Parable of the Sower, we need to understand God’s word. We need to see the sense of the word fully (cf. Matt. 13:23.) For a mere blind faith won’t work. Why? Because Christianity is logical; it is reasonable. There are things however that reason alone is incapable of explaining. And that is also a part of Christianity. That is why the Bible uses such phrases as “whosoever believeth”; “by faith,” etc. because there are things that are incomprehensible and beyond the power of reason to explicate.
The Fake Christians Don’t Understand that Real Faith Does Not Mean Blind Emotionalism
The deeply emotional type of worship, however, as suggested by Warren, is not the kind of faith I am referring to here. As argued above, the Bible simply says that true biblical worship does not have the minutest clue of madness in it. If the pentecostalized recipe for worship gets popular support, it is because people tend to respond quickly to the call of emotion than to reason. An angry person is one example that emotion tends to dominate reason flyingly. Popularity should not be the basis for determining the truth.
The Fake Christians and their Fanaticism
Everything considered, right faith is not inferior to reason, provided it is based on the doctrines of Scripture. A reasonable faith cannot be equated with blind faith, which is but fanaticism or faith without substantial evidence of trustworthiness once verified with the teachings of the Holy Bible.
A. W. Tozer explains the inadequacy of reason. He wrote that:
Everything was created for a purpose and I claim that there are some things that human reason cannot do, things that are beyond its capacity.
Reason could not tell us that Jesus Christ should be born of a virgin, but faith knows that He was.
Reason cannot prove that Jesus took upon Him the form of a man and that He died for the sins of the world, but faith knows that He did.
Reason cannot prove that on the third day Jesus arose from the dead, but faith knows that He did . . ..
Reason cannot say, “I know that He will come to judge the quick and the dead,” but faith knows that He will come. Reason cannot say, “My sins are all gone,” but faith knows that they are forgiven and forgotten.
Faith simply ignores reason, and rises above it. The brain just comes staggering along behind like a little boy trying to keep up with his dad. The brain, like the little boy, comes along on short, stubby legs, trying to reason . . ..In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason, after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God…It is faith that takes him there, and reason cannot disprove anything that faith discovers and knows. Reason can never do that. 4
Dead Doctrines and Powerless Sermons. Why is God Absent in the Church Service?
Textualism and the Parroting of Verses
The Scripture does nothing in my soul until the Holy Spirit illumines it in my heart and mind. When we listen or read a verse or chapter from the Bible, the sense of the truth does not just occupy our being without God giving life to His Word. Here is an example from Acts 16:14: “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to understand Paul’s message. Preaching is just textualism and the parroting of verses without the Holy Spirit who will teach us all truth. God the Spirit opened Lydia’s heart to understand God’s Word. Let us keep that in mind.
The apostle Paul meant it emphatically when he told the Corinthian church that he “could not speak to [you] as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.” There are immature Christians who could not understand the deep teachings of the Lord. The Bible formula is more feeding in the church by the Spirit-filled leaders—who can “make sense” to the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Feeling their powerlessness in the pulpit, the liberals reinvent the sermon by adding the Scriptures with worldly concepts and interpretations to make it more attractive to the immature or nominal Christians. “Our teachings are attuned to the times,” bragged one liberal pastor. The fake Christians got their teachings from man-made doctrines and from sermons that don’t touch the hearts of the sinners. They got their teachings from church leaders who are not anointed with God. The result is textualism and the parroting of verses in the churches without the illumination from the Spirit of God.
The Preachers’ Lack of Devotion to the Lord Contributes to the Increase of Fake Christians
Strict adherence to such standards as being positive, constructive, and balanced is the modern rule in sermonizing, even though it defeats sole biblical authority. The scriptural and old-fashioned preaching; the conviction-filled, authoritative, persuasive, and the heart-piercing—when given in the power of the Holy Spirit—is now lost in most Christian pulpits throughout the world!
It seems, in my humble observation, that the main object of most of our Seminaries is to develop in the students the love for the pastor’s profession and career. Consequently, the student pastor’s passion for our dear Lord Jesus becomes self-discovery. It is indeed very alarming when a church leadership demands mastery of doctrines before one can be qualified as a missionary worker abroad. Why not require intense prayer, great love for Jesus, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit instead? When the missionary is truly God’s anointed, then the mission field is a given, and the other needs amply supplied.
True, we need to master sound doctrines. But, what is doctrine if it is not explicitly linked to life? The teachings of our Lord are always connected to farming, fishing, the troubles of our heart and all. Or, what is sound doctrine if the Holy Spirit is not there in the preaching to save or edify—if He is not there lighting up the sermon?
Nourishing the Rise of Fake Christians
Doctrine per se belongs to the mind; and its application, to the heart. Today, there is too much doctrinal indigestion in the church. Most of our leaders don’t have complete dependence and seeking upon the movement of the Holy Spirit for the Word of God to illumine in the soul. Not just be bookwormly academical, but be rather anointed to teach and preach. The profound religious urge to depend on the unction of the Spirit and wait for His infilling is the rule. For outside of the involvement and dependence on the Spirit of God, there will only be persistent unbelief and the Big Mac nourishment for the steady rise of fake Christianity.
In the same vein, A. W. Tozer said:
The Preachers’ Lack of Spiritual Anointing
I attended one worship service where the pastor mentioned Plato more than Christ in his sermon. Secular thoughts from the Internet are sprinkled into most modern Christian messages to appear Homeric. The trend is perfect dependence on projectors and computerized presentations as if employing a new version of the Old-Testament seraphim who made Isaiah worthy to proclaim the Word of God (cf. Is. 6:6-7). But this should not be. We need the Holy Spirit more than a thousand computers attached to a super-fast Internet connection. We need God’s anointing more than a brilliant sermon outline. We “are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:20) Our doctrines must always be Christ-glorifying and biblical and full of truth and Spirit-power. Paul said that “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Cor. 2:4) Let’s not reinvent Lot’s powerless message that had reached the ears of his in-laws-to-be as nothing more than one strange joke. (cf. Gen. 19:14) Let’s help curve the growth of fake Christianity. Let us have complete dependence on the anointing of the Holy Spirit, for there can never be salvation outside of God’s power upon the teachings and sermons of our church leaders. “The first need of Christians today,” wrote Dr. John R. Rice, “is not training. We have brains, the culture, the personality in the pulpits of our land. But sinners do not tremble and repent. Saints do not fall in confession and holy re-dedication before God. Drunkards are not made sober. Harlots are not made pure. Infidels are not made believers. It is not training but power that we lack and need!… Most of our preaching, most of our singing, most of our testimony, most of our praying, most of our living is without power. We do not have the breath of God upon us. Heaven is shut up so that there is little spiritual rain. God has turned His face away from us! Oh, the crying shame and sin and defeat and ruin and death of our powerless lives!” 6
The Commercialization of the Gospel
The other problem, I think a more serious one, too, is the commercialization of Church doctrines. Wrote Tozer that in our “evangelical circles, faith is a theme upon which we like to dwell. Some are concerned because there are not more miracles and wonders wrought in our midst through faith. In our day, everything is commercialized, and I must say that I do not believe in wonders and miracles that are organized and incorporated.
“’Miracles, Incorporated”—you can have it! ‘Healing, Incorporated’ —you can have that, too! And the same with ‘Evangelism, Incorporated,’ and ‘Without a Vision, The People Perish! Incorporated. You can have it all.”
“I have my doubts about signs and wonders that have to be organized, that demand a letterhead and a president and a secretary and a big trailer with lights and cameras. God isn’t in that!” 7
Save the Fake Christians
The Word of God being preached scripturally by an anointed preacher saves a soul. I noticed that I am so easily affected, spiritually speaking, as I read the messages of anointed preachers like John Charles Ryle or C. H. Spurgeon. For they preached like true ambassadors of Christ, scriptural, full of vivid illustrations like how did Christ expound His teachings, and without fear of not pleasing their audience.
Departure from the “Old Paths”
People in the church are not saved, for modern preachers tend to depart from the “old paths,” to borrow from Ryle. Their rule of thumb is never to offend the feelings of the deacons and the ordinary church members. But this approach is not biblical. It rather increases the population of fake Christians in the local church. A sermon that is not touching spiritually the sermonizer himself is not God-given; it cannot save the pseudo-Christians. God’s message burns inside the preacher, firstly. It does not come to please the people all the time.
Wrote the Prophet Jeremiah:
Lack Obedience to the Word
We memorize or preach verses from Scriptures endlessly, but do we care to “read from the book… translating to give the sense,” to borrow from Nehemiah 8:8? Or, do we endeavor to make our preaching clear as glass; to make it act like a river of truth, and not as a flood of disconnected biblical thoughts, and stories, and poor jokes? Fake Christians are simply unbelievers who think they are believers. In essence, they are being blinded twice by the devil. Worse, they can be our children. They can be the children of pastors and church leaders, or they can be pastors and deacons—God knows. Fake Christianity is always there, notwithstanding one’s religious rank. The role of the preacher, therefore, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is to make these fake Christians see the truth about really believing and with it, the experience of forgiveness. When the preaching is a failure, it is just like a corporate church prayer that is unanswered: it hardens the fake Christians more!
The Need to Believe and Obey God’s Word
Real obedience to God’s word is the key for the disguised Christians to be finally saved. We are not teaching salvation by works. Don’t make that rush judgment, for one’s good works don’t save one’s soul, according to God. (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Is. 64:6.) However, to borrow from Albert Barnes, we need to believe, for God does not believe for us. Our mother does not believe for us. We have the human responsibility to believe. Dave Hunt has a good quotation from C. H. Spurgeon on this subject:
“If we must trust fallible people,” added Hunt in his discussion about the necessity of faith, “for what we can neither understand nor prove in order to benefit from modern medicine or technology, how much more reasonable it is to acknowledge that faith is necessary if we are to benefit from what God knows and is willing to do for us. It is not a mark of intelligence but of folly to refuse to receive the blessings that God offers us because we were not an observer when He created the universe or when Christ was crucified and resurrected. We must decide on the basis of the evidence—and there is an ample amount of such evidence—whether God can really be trusted… Obviously there is much that the infinite God wants us to know and experience about Himself which cannot be fully communicated to our limited understanding. Those who are too proud to admit this will never know God, for it is to faith that He reveals Himself. And if it is foolish to believe in God, then what must be said of those who trust doctors and accountants and even boast that they believe in themselves!”10
Behaving Like Real Christians
Fake Christians don’t take the meaning and substance of biblical faith for the salvation of the soul seriously into their lives. They have a Church membership for a variety of reasons. The most common one is their sense of acceptance and the feeling that they have now a unique social circle where they are important. They are visited regularly and cared for as a part of the church family.
I saw many fake Christians in my life. Their common attitude is that they love to behave like a Christian, but they don’t take the Bible so seriously as a sacred Scripture containing God’s Word and life-guidance. If they have a Bible in their hands during a church service, their heart is doubtful as always that what they are holding is the very Word of God for man. Some others of them are voracious Bible readers and attentive sermon hearers, but God’s Word doesn’t change them. They are unsaved, and their believing is superficial. The prophet Isaiah has a word for them: “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not” (6:9, KJV).
From Fake to Genuine Christianity
In trying to explain what will happen if a camouflaged Christian will be saved, Tozer invented a good illustration:
On Academic Textualism and the Conversion of the Church Service Into a Seminary Classroom
As I read Tozer in the portion of his book that I quoted above, I was wondering whether or not his doctrine of salvation is faith plus obedience to Jesus Christ. Such is debatable since the thief on the cross did not have the opportunity to OBEY Jesus in the way we understand obedience such as submission to water baptism.
The thief simply believed in our Lord, and he was saved, for Christ said to him: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
Tozer’s point, however, is clear: he is against “textualism.” I heard a pastor telling his church that God’s word is like a pistol: it releases the “bullet,” even if it is fired accidentally by someone ignorant about firing a pistol. In a word, that pastor said that God’s Word will always be powerful once it is given, even if it is shared by an unbeliever. “That is not biblical Christianity. Jesus Christ is Lord,” wrote Tozer, “and when a man is willing to do His will, he is repenting, and the truth flashes in. For the first time in his life, he finds himself willing to say, ‘I will do the will of the Lord, even if I die for it!’ Illumination will start in his heart. That is repentance… he has been following his own will and now decides to do the will of God!… If a sinner goes to the altar and a worker with a marked New Testament argues him into the kingdom, the devil will meet him two blocks down the street and argue him out of it again. But if he has an inward illumination and he has that witness within because the Spirit answers to the blood, you can’t argue with that man… He will say, ‘But I know!’… A man like that… is just sure.” 12
Your Family Members can be Fake Christians
The spread of camouflaged Christianity is not surprising, for the Bible says that doubters and pretenders in the last days will increase in number. As an ordinary Christian, the increase of Christian impostors may mean nothing until one finds out that one’s wife or husband is a fake Christian. It is one thing that I am so concerned about myself: to see to it that I will meet all of my children in heaven. At the surface, you’ll certainly know that all your loved ones are saved since you pray, read your Bible, and worship Christ together often. But we don’t really know if you’ll find Christ deep down in their hearts. We don’t really know, more so with those having Christian parents where they couldn’t experience the sinful culture of this world such as unrestrained merrymaking, immorality, etc., in their home.
The fake Christians need to understand thoroughly the scriptural meaning of salvation. I want to share this sermon from John Charles Ryle (1878) where he commented on Christ’s invitation found in Matthew 11:28, which says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”:
“…Take notice, that coming to Christ means something more than coming to church and chapel. You may fill your place regularly at a place of worship, and attend all outward means of grace, and yet not be saved. All this is not coming to Christ… Take notice, once more, that coming to Christ is something more than coming to the possession of head-knowledge about Him. You may know the whole system of evangelical doctrine, and be able to talk, argue, and dispute on every jot of it, and yet never be saved. All this is not coming to Christ.
“Coming to Christ is coming to Him with the heart by simple faith. Believing on Christ is coming to Him, and coming to Christ is believing on Him. It is that act of the soul which takes place when a man, feeling his own sins, and despairing of all other hope, commits himself to Christ for salvation, ventures on Him, trusts Him, and casts himself wholly on Him. When a man turns to Christ empty that he may be filled, sick that he may be healed, hungry that he may be satisfied, thirsty that he may be refreshed, needy that he may be enriched, dying that he may have life, lost that he may be saved, guilty that he may be pardoned, sin-defiled that he may be cleansed, confessing that Christ alone can supply his need, —then he comes to Christ. When he uses Christ… as the starving Egyptians used Joseph., as the dying Israelites used the brazen serpent, —then he comes to Christ. It is the empty soul’s venture on a full Saviour. It is the drowning man’s grasp on the hand held out to help him. It is the sick man’s reception of a healing medicine. This, and nothing more than this, is coming to Christ. 13
Only Christ Can Supply Us with Our Needs
I was once a church pastor, and one of my most active members invited me to pray over her sick daughter. She expected a miracle to happen in the next few hours, but the fever remained. So she dug out her idol (the Catholic’s Santo Niño or Holy Child) which she wrapped and buried after her baptism around a year before. Then placed it near her daughter and prayed to it fervently that the fever would subside somehow. That woman was simply a fake Christian. Said Ryle that to be a true Christian we need to confess that only Christ can supply us with our needs.
Another woman who professed to be a Christian was so shocked upon learning that her father was experiencing a hypertensive attack and that he could no longer move his body. Confused, she prayed and then began to search for any semblance of an idol (she had idols before her baptism!) in her house. She found at last—courtesy of the spirit of deception—a deformed crucifix with a “headless” idol screwed on its side, which she then placed on her altar. After lighting a candle, she prayed to it faithfully that her father would recover. Fake Christians always work and feel like that. Their idols are more alive and active within them than their so-called “Christ”!
“I urge every reader of this book,” said Ryle, “who is not converted, never to rest till he is. Make haste: awake to know your danger. Escape for your life: flee from the wrath to come. Time is short: eternity is near. Life is uncertain: judgment is sure. Arise and call upon God. The throne of grace is yet standing: the Lord Jesus Christ is yet waiting to be gracious. The promises of the Gospel are wide, broad, full, and free: lay hold upon them this day. Repent, and believe the Gospel: repent, and be converted. Rest not, rest not, rest not, till you know and feel that you are a converted man.” 14
I love the following lyrics from the old hymn titled, “I’m Glad I Got Lost.”
I’m Glad I Got Lost
My old life of sin was getting me down,
Satan was proud, he tho’t he had me forever bound.
But in the still of the night the sweet Spirit came,
telling me I was lost,
but there was a Saviour who saved sinful men.
I’m glad I got lost so I could be saved,
under conviction weary of sin,
that was my only way to know
that I needed to know a Lamb’s blood applied.
I’m glad I got lost so I could be found one wonderful night.
If you are a camouflaged Christian, then be glad that you are a fake Christian—a lost sinner who is without the love of Christ and the thorough understanding of His atoning blood until now. For only by accepting the fact that you are a Christian pretender for months or even years can you start to remove willingly that Christian camouflage of yours. Stop deceiving your friends, your family, and your church that you too are one of them. These lines from the above hymn will then help you tell your salvation story:
I’m glad I got lost so I could be found one wonderful night.”
Be saved—be found if you are yet lost and unsaved. “Rest not, rest not, rest not, till you know and feel that you are a converted man”!
1 Dave Hunt, Beyond Seduction (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402, 1987), p. 103.
2 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI, 2002), p.102.
3 A. W. Tozer, The Tozer Pulpit, Volume One, Book 3, Chapter 3 (Christian Publications, Camp Hill, PA 17011, 1994), p.51.
4 Ibid., pp. 48-49.
5 Tozer, Ibid. (Vol. 1, Book 3, Chapter 1), p.16.
6 John R. Rice, The Power of Pentecost or Fullness of the Spirit (Tennesse: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1949), p. 17.
7 Tozer, Ibid., pp. 48-49.
8 Dave Hunt, Ibid., p. 257.
9 Ibid., p. 86.
0 Ibid., pp. 87-88.
1 Tozer, Ibid. (Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter 1), pp. 18-21.
2 Tozer, Ibid.
3 J. C. Ryle, Old Paths (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, U.K., First Published, 1878, Reprinted 2005), pp. 364-65.
4 Ibid., p. 337.