When a Christian Feels Like an Imposter


When everyone is worshiping on Sunday and seems to be “into” God, you stand with them.

But you’re not feeling the music.

You’re not feeling love for God or for others.

You instead feel alone and disconnected.

You wonder what is wrong with you.

You may even ask yourself, Am I an imposter?

Feeling as if you are faking your way through the Christian life is not unusual. In difficult times, when nothing seems to be going right, that sense can become overwhelming.

But are you really a phony with regard to your faith?

Hiding behind a maskTruth is, most Christians who struggle with feelings of being an imposter need to realize, generally, that people who fake their Christian devotion aren’t self-examining. Real imposters in the faith, those who may go to church and talk the talk but who aren’t truly born again, don’t pose questions of their motives because, for the most part, they simply don’t care. Theirs is not an attitude of wanting to fix their phoniness, so they abide it without worry.

Yes, sometimes God does break through in the life of someone who has been phoning in their faith for years or even decades, but I think that’s not the majority case.

Instead, I think the people who most struggle with feelings of being an imposter are genuine, born-again Christians who have run into some kind of spiritual barrier that has forced self-examination.

What are some causes for feelings of being an imposter?

1. Legalism—Whether imposed by a church or self-imposed, a mandated set of spiritual do’s and don’ts can lead that imposter self-accusation. Everyone else is doing this Christian life thing right, but you’re not making the grade, and you know it.

2. Listening to the Enemy when you should be ignoring him—Satan is real. And more than anything, discouragement is his tool for ruining believers. A discouraged Christian never reaches his or her full potential in Faith, which is what the Enemy wants. In addition, a discouraged Christian is an antiwitness.

3. Disconnection from other Christians—Sometimes, the people in the pews go through turnover. Suddenly, you don’t know who those new folks are, have no relationship with them, and your church just feels different. You find yourself increasingly distanced from the Christian connections you once had. You wonder if there’s something you’re doing wrong, which explains why everyone seems not to care about connecting with you.

4. Change—Your church changed it’s worship music style. The sanctuary was remodeled. You have a new pastor. Your closest friends at the church moved out of the area or switched to a different church. Everything feels different.

5. A new direction in your own life—If bridges are burning through no cause of your own, if everything you were doing feels as if it’s coming to an end, maybe God has a new direction for your life. Maybe it even means changing your church. In short, not all feelings of being an imposter must be negative. Perhaps God is opening a new vista for you or is getting ready to launch you in a new ministry opportunity.

And then there’s that final one:

6. Perhaps you’re not truly born again.

As noted above, that final one is less likely than you might assume when you feel as if you’re an imposter.

Here’s the curious thing, though: Whether you are a genuine imposter or just feeling like one, the solutions are the same:

1. Repent—God desires that all men and women repent of their sins. If you are not a genuine Christian, then you need to repent. If you are a genuine Christian and you’ve just succumbed to ignoring what God says positively about you as His son or daughter, then you need to repent. Even if #5 applies and God is using your feelings of being an imposter to take you in a new direction for His work, repentance is always the place to start. You can’t go wrong with repentance.

2. Humble yourself—Sometimes, feelings of being an imposter can make a person feel superior to others. You alone recognize that you’re a fake and everyone else is too dumb to see that. They’re all imposters too. Or so the self-deception goes. Don’t go there. If you’ve repented, allow yourself to be humbled. You’re dust and so is everyone else. Stop thinking that you’re any better or any worse than anyone else.

3. Accept grace—God offers grace to imposters, whether they are genuine imposters or just mired in the mistaken feelings of being one. Learning to accept God’s grace is key to ridding yourself of feelings of being an imposter. But it has to be learned. Ask God to help you improve in your ability to accept His grace.

4. Draw closer to Jesus—Every answer to every problem is found in Jesus. Really.

I want to expand that fourth solution.

My experience with people who feel as if they are imposters is that the majority are on the cusp of a deeper walk with the Lord. Allow Him to take you there. Deep calls to deep, and that feeling of being an imposter is often God’s way of saying that He has a more fulfilling relationship He wishes to pursue with you. He wants more of you for Himself and for His Kingdom’s purposes.

Because God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with the status quo. He doesn’t want us to be thrilled by mammon, but He wants us to be thrilled by what He values. Feelings of being an imposter are one means by which God can correct the course of your life to look more like His Son’s. In a way, that feeling of being an imposter is real because all of us are imposters if we’re not living in the fulness of life in Christ that He so desires for us.

So while feeling like an imposter IS something of a bad situation, it’s not a hopeless one. In fact, it most often signals the start of a wonderful new direction that God has always desired for you but which you were unable or unwilling to accept because you were not ready.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
—Ecclesiastes 3:11a ESV

Authenticity, and How the Church Ignores It


I think we’re all sick of being marketed to. You would think the Church in America would get this. You would think.

It used to be a joke that the megachurch down the road actually had on its staff a Pastor of Demographics. Now that leading megachurches such as the big daddy of them all, Willow Creek Community Church, have confessed that their entire philosophy is broken and does not produce the desired discipleship results, one would think that churches would get a clue and start moving toward something—anything—more real.

But one would be wrong.

There persists in contemporary churches a disdain for the purity of the simple truths of the Bible and the practices of the ancient Church. We have this business mentality that we like to apply to the way we express Christianity in America, and it taints everything we do.

Though we’re all sick of the slickness of the productions American churches feel they must continually flog, and we’re burned out on prepackaged faith “experiences,” we modern Christians can’t seem to break free of the crapola we force our meetings and practices to conform to. Instead, novelty and entertainment value still reign.

People are dying for authenticity, though. They don’t want to feel marketed to and manipulated. In times such as these, people not only want meaning, they need it for their sanity.

Yet the way we have structured our modern society produces alienation. In America, this is amplified by our national narrative of lauding free-thinkers who beat the system and did it their way without anyone else’s help.

Except the Church of Jesus is not based on being solitary iconoclasts. Ours is a community with with a deep-seated history and a narrative that includes powerful sources of meaning that shouldn’t be subject to constant reappraisal. In its experimentation with being cutting edge, today’s Western Church has purposefully fled that history and abandoned its sources of meaning. That the rest of our culture has already done the same, to its obvious detriment and rot, doesn’t seem to register with church leaders.

The result is the cold, anonymous, sterile stage hall that is called a church building. Stripped of every element of iconography and meaning, it transmits nothing except chilling functionality.

Whereas the early Church celebrated the death and resurrection of Christ in a full course meal that foreshadows the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we now receive a prepackaged communion unit consisting of a dose of artificial-tasting juice with a flavorless, plastic-enclosed wafer serving as the lid, Communion commidifiedthe Body and Blood fully commodified and stripped of all meaning.

Worship consists of a stubble-faced young man who sings electronically amplified Top 40 songs about how lovely God is, his face twisted in a calculated, video-friendly ecstasy that more resembles passing a kidney stone.

Whereas we once sang from books that had been handled by generations, we now sing from projected images that must also move, the transience of their cascading imagery wiping away memory, even as the movement keeps us from being bored.

And our message of grace and the majesty of who Jesus is gets lost amid the trappings of fixing our existence so that our lives look like a success, even if we feel less and less like one.

Real human beings are out there wondering if anyone truly cares. What we give them instead are carefully constructed and programmed faith inoculations.

People are dying for the authentic. They don’t want an efficient church, but a real one.They want a Christianity that bleeds real blood and makes a difference in the lives of people, not just discussing doing so while it pursues other agendas.

No one talks about the emerging church anymore. That movement died because it became what it protested. And even though it was a functional failure, what the emerging church was fighting for remains a critical need.

People are sick and tired of how the Church in America is practicing the faith. We are burned out of the dog and pony show. Our cynical young people understand this, their cynicism in full fester because no one is listening to them, even when they flee the Church. They want genuine connection to what is lasting and worth preserving.

Making concessions to the world’s processes has failed to root us in a genuine faith; in fact, quite the opposite. Whatever roots we had have been dug up, moved from the forest, and transplanted into a styrofoam coffee cup in someone else’s spiritual trophy case. And that’s no way to live.

I don’t think the Church gets this. It doesn’t see how shallow it has become. It doesn’t value what is real. It doesn’t have any idea what people truly need. Oh, it thinks it knows because its leaders read the latest bestseller on how to grow a church, but that million dollar advice in a $20 tome could not be farther from what is truly needed.

Honestly, I think I’m at the point of giving up. No one listens to those crying, “Danger!” No, instead well-meaning people craft a vision that has no basis in the redemptive narrative that is the Gospel. We have instead found our redemption in what the world says is hip and cool, and we dance to that hypnotic tune, oblivious to a world engaged in a desperate search for what is lasting, meaningful, and justifying.