I Had Been Living a Lie
One Sunday, I stood before my church, filled with fear. Fear that they would think I had failed them as their pastor, that I had let them down. But I was finally ready to tell the truth—I was sure it was what God wanted me to do.
I hadn’t had an affair or stolen from the church funds. In fact, my sins were small, everyday things; they were all just hidden from view. From the pews, it looked as if I had become everything and done everything a pastor should—and I worked very hard to keep it that way. I had played the part to perfection.
And that was the problem.
I’m going to share the story of an impostor exposed. It’s more than the story of one Sunday morning, though. It’s about how, over a lifetime, a reasonably well-intentioned follower of Jesus can succeed at building an impressive exterior but fail miserably at being the real thing—the person God so lovingly created in the first place.
You may not like me after reading this book. But on the chance God might use my story to help you put down the masks and reclaim the real you, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Factors That Made the Actor
From my earliest childhood memories, I remember “playing the game.” Maybe you played it, too. I’d try to say the right things at the right times to the right people. When the people or circumstances changed, so did I.
As a young child, I tried my best to please my parents. In school I made sure my teachers got my grandest act. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, but looking back, I see that those were just practice runs for what would come later.
As a teenager I did almost anything for acceptance from my buddies. I partied, swore, lied, cheated, and stole. I thought these things would help my popularity. Whether that lifestyle gained me friends is debatable. What it could have cost me in the long run is not. By the time I started college, I was playing so many different roles that I began to lose track of the “real me.”
Honestly, I began to wonder if there was a real me.
At nineteen I became a follower of Christ. And the parts of my life He changed, He changed miraculously. He cleaned house. But in a darkened corner here, a locked closet there, I continued to believe I was better off putting up a front.
Except now it was a new front, a spiritual one. It was still the same old game, just played out on a different stage.
Within a few years, I became a pastor. You’d think that becoming “a man of the cloth” (whatever that means) would have shaken the deceit right out of me. But as a young pastor, I simply turned pro. My church members observed my finest performances. And I fooled many of them, but I didn’t fool myself...
And I didn’t fool God.
I entered seminary after I had been a pastor for a while. One of my professors taught me many invaluable ministry principles. In fact, I still practice most of what I learned from him, and I’m eternally grateful for his friendship and leadership. However, one of the things he shared with me I now believe was not only wrong, but incredibly dangerous. He called it the “pastor’s mystique.” And he told us ministry trainees that we had to guard it at all cost. “People think they want their pastors to be normal, everyday people,” he used to tell our class, “but they really don’t. They want to see you as superhuman, better than the average person. Church members want to believe your marriage is always strong, your faith never falters, and you are virtually without sin.”
I hung on every word, soaking up his advice.
Week after week, my professor returned to his warnings about a pastor’s mystique: “Keep your guard up,” he’d say. “Don’t let them know the real you. Always dress the part. Always talk the part. You’re a pastor now. And you can never let them into your life. Or you’ll regret it.” This sounded logical to me.
He’d obviously been deeply wounded in his ministry and wanted to help us avoid similar pain. I knew then—and still believe—that he meant well. So I took what he said to heart and continued perfecting my “good pastor” act. I’d smile big at the church members, shake each hand with both of mine, and end each conversation with the pastor’s best line: “God bless you.” Somewhere on my journey, though, I forgot that God called me...not to be like a pastor, but to be like Christ.
That’s when my spiritual struggles started. I wasn’t living with gross, unconfessed sin—at least not the kind that gets pastors fired. And my motives weren’t bad. I loved Jesus and His people. Every bone in my body desired to make a difference for God in this world. I poured my heart fully into ministry, enduring long hours, boring meetings, grueling classes, temperamental people, and plenty of good, old-fashioned church conflicts—all for Jesus.
After a few years, I became good at being a pastor. Ministerial words flowed from my mouth. I learned what to say and what not to say. Weddings were a breeze, and funerals were becoming easier. Preaching came naturally, and my counseling skills gradually improved. Most people said I was an “up ’n’ comer,” the kind of pastor who’d rise quickly through the ranks to a bigger church. From the outside, everything looked good. But God doesn’t look at the outside.
The First of Many Confessions
One Sunday, after another week of performing my best for God, I stood to preach His life-changing Word. As I approached the pulpit, the truth hit me squarely between the eyes. I hadn’t prayed at all. Not that day. Not the day before. Not the day before that. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t prayed all week. And I called myself a pastor. That’s when it dawned on me:
I had become a full-time minister and a part-time follower of Christ.
From the outside, I looked the part. “God bless you,” I’d say, followed by the promise, “I’ll be praying for you.” But that was usually a lie.
Stepping onto the platform to preach that morning, I admitted to myself that I was not a pastor first, but a regular, scared, insecure, everyday guy whose life had been changed by Jesus. And if Jesus really loved me as I was (I knew He did), then why should I go on trying to be someone I wasn’t?
I stumbled through that sermon, forcing the words to come out. The message was superficial, plastic, shallow...but true. I held nothing back. It was the biggest public risk I’d ever taken. It was also my first authentic sermon. I had preached many times before, but this was the first time the real me made a showing. In the middle of my talk, something started to happen, something new...
God made Himself known.
The reality of His presence is hard to describe, but it’s even harder to miss. Some people cried quietly in their seats. Others sobbed openly—not so much for my sins, but for their own. Before I had finished my confession, many gathered at the altar to repent along with me.
As the tears and words flowed, God’s peace replaced my fear. His assurance pushed away my doubts. Christ’s power invaded my weakness. In that moment, Jesus became as real to me as He had ever been. The Savior was with me...and I believed He was pleased. “Well done,” I felt, more than heard.
That’s when it all changed. I became a full-time follower of Christ who happened to be a pastor. No more make-believe. No posing. And no playing games. From that moment on, I would be who I am. Or nothing at all.
Leap of Faith
Why would you want to read a book about a pastor’s confessions? Maybe you don’t. But then again, maybe if you give Him a chance, God will do something in you that you didn’t expect. Like He did for me. Be honest with yourself. Are you tired of pretending? Living to please others? Acting a part? Doing everything to cover up who you really are? Stop hiding. Be who God called you to be. Live for an audience of ONE.
Am I saying you have to confess all your garbage in front of a whole church? No. With some issues, that might be what God requires of you. But with more personal matters, it’ll be wiser to divulge them only to a small, trusted circle of friends or a lone accountability partner. But playing the fugitive from truth will never bring you peace. The problem is that it’s easier to stay the way you are—to coast and live an average, complacent life.
You could avoid risk and keep acting. That’s what most people do. In fact, you’ll often be rewarded for faking it. No one will complain. The status quo is always comfortable. You’ll blend in. Even though you know you were created to stand out. But if you’re sick of shallow, empty relationships—if you’re craving deep, sincere community—then you’re going to have to take a chance. You’ll risk harsh judgments, misunderstandings, criticism. But think about the reward.
Imagine living in the freedom and holiness of God. Dream about releasing guilt, shame, fear, and doubts. See yourself closer to God—and the people around you—than you’ve ever been before. The choice is yours: Life as it has been, or life as it could become.
It is my goal to live the most authentic, transparent, vulnerable life a Christ follower can. And here is what I’ve found:
Some people don’t like me. But that would be the case no matter what, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, others not only like me, they love me deeply. And they don’t love the image I once portrayed. They love the real me who God created. And I love them.
The more honest I have become with God, myself, and His people, the richer and deeper my relationships have grown. Before, I was always afraid of being found out. I lived in constant fear of exposure—but not anymore. I overcame my fear because I took a chance. And I’ll continue to take obedient, truthful chances.
This book is all about risks. As you turn each page, you’ll likely experience new discomforts. This road of honesty is the path I chose to take. I won’t play it safe. And neither should you. In fact, you can’t play it safe and please God.
The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Even when our faith is small, God can do great things. I pray that my confessions will help you take that first step toward living a life free of fear...and secrets...and doubts... and insecurities. A life of honesty. A life that pleases God.
The life you were created to live.
Excerpted from Dare to Drop the Pose by Craig Groeschel Copyright © 2014 by Craig Groeschel. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.