This world has always had people who “deceive under an assumed identity, or pretend to be other than what they are for personal gain.” (Webster) Such as celebrity fakes, the quack or medical fake, political fakes, scam artists, some even impersonating the military or police. And in this modern day we have all seen false church leaders.
We met a church leader in Colorado Springs in ’75 who was like a flame thrower behind the pulpit. EXTREMELY loud, hysterical, fundamental, hard core preaching. One comment I recall, “If my daughters get out of line I will ram my fist down their throats, and they know it. . .” He was fully credentialed and on the payroll as an IFB minister. That guy was such a classic that students from the local Nazarene preacher school nearby frequently attended his meetings to see such a “rare” example of homiletics.
I reflect on a character we met in ’77 who was VERY intelligent and congenial. He had two masters degrees and was a fully credentialed clergyman in the UMC. Having worked with him for quite a while, I became aware that he didn’t believe any of the main doctrines of the Bible. He had very liberal views on the origin & authority of the scriptures, other ways to salvation, Jesus not deity, existence of demons humorous, no hell, etc. The clergyman should be on a MISSION to promote core Bible truths. NOT liberal minded rubbishimo, devoid of saving power.
Then in about ’82 we met the classic (false) charismatic. He seemed to be genuine, dedicated, hard working, self sacrificing – that type of minister. The weekly bulletin displayed on the back ALL the conservative Christian beliefs of the PCG. This guy could pray with total confidence & conviction and in the “power of the Spirit.” He had me fooled 100% as to his true character . . . He was the worst hypocrite I've ever met. And how about the foul rash of minister/priest child abuse cases - those guys are "imposters" of the lowest order. See Matthew 7:15-16
An old dead clergyman named J.C. Ryle of the last century had this to say . . . “Of all men none is so culpably wicked as an unconverted minister, and none will be judged so severely. . . We shall discover by experience that all is not gold that glitters, and all are not true Christians who make a loud profession of Christianity.” At any rate it is clear to me now that the false church leader gains power over people and is capable of taking them “to the cleaners.” What is the nature of their “personal gain?” The basic 4 things – possessions, pleasure, POWER, and honor (see “What is the Answer” link #41) I believe deeply that demons who lead people into common sin such as hatred, lying, blasphemy, drunkenness, physical evils, etc., are not the most capable demons out there. The mark of high demonic ability or rank is DECEPTION & DISGUISE to the degree that EVEN mature and intelligent religious people cannot detect the error. Our adversary desires to have “imposters” in places of influence in the church AND Bible colleges.
The scriptures are certainly not silent on the subject of imposters. There are examples in the Old Testament and the New. The Pharisees appeared to be generally false. Then Judas the betrayer of Jesus proved to be quite false. The apostle Paul dealt with some real losers in the first century church. But we have excellent guidelines for the church leader in 1 Timothy 3. “Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money.” v. 2-3 People should carefully compare their church leader with that standard and ask serious questions if they have doubts as to his character. And there is a time to break the “tie that binds,” (as the followers of Jim Jones, David Koresh & Marshall Applewhite realized too late.) “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” Thessalonians 5:21 I have personally been labeled “divisive” by certain ministers. But if they had seen some of the absolute falseness and hypocrisy that I have seen up close, they might agree to my cautions.
Finally, I would say be Christian & involved in the church. There are wonderful benefits involved. (See "What’s in it For Me” Link #28) But be aware of “imposters” in the church. Too many people have been burned and are turned off to God & His blessings because of rank hypocrites. Choose Jesus & His Spirit – they are alive.
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