How to Tell If You’ve Joined an Imposter Church

imposter – a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain

This post isn’t what you think it is.  I’m not describing an imposter church as those who teach subpar doctrine or use worldly practices or practice unwise methods.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything that calls itself a “church.”

I’m writing to warn you about the danger when you treat something like a church that doesn’t claim to be an actual church.

Potential Imposter Churches

  • I want to caution you about that workout club that seeks to replace a church community.
  • I want to caution you about that group that wants you to advertise their product that aims to fix life’s seemingly greatest issues.
  • I want to caution you about that organization that aligns you with a good cause but robs you of any remaining time to give to a great cause.
  • I want to caution you about that school group (public school group, private school association, homeschool co-op) that requires so much of you that you don’t have much to give anywhere else.
  • I want to caution you about that recreation group that waters down your morals (even if you don’t want to admit it).
  • I want to caution you about that study group that requires so much effort that you don’t have any margin for biblical study.
  • I want to caution you about that child’s travel team that causes everything else to take a backseat.
  • I want to caution you about that ministry, group, school, or seminary that attempts to acquire your unwavering commitment.
  • I want to caution you about that allegiance to that athletic team that is unrivaled by anything else.
  • I want to caution you about that group of friends that help you draw closer to the people beside you without drawing closer to the One above you.

I want to caution you about any group that robs you of experiencing what the church is uniquely supposed to provide.

Please hear my heart: this isn’t coming with a desire to condemn.  This comes from a heart who is seeing a dangerous disconnect in many people casually associating with Christ but completely dedicating themselves to something else.

I am concerned that people no longer have time for a real church because they have given themselves entirely to an imposter church.

Actual Real Churches

The word “church” in the New Testament simply meant “group” or “assembly.”  The word originally could have been used for any type of group, but with the growth of Christianity, we began to use it to describe a biblical assembly of people who carried out biblical directives.  It was a group of people who committed to Jesus and to one another.

  1. They devoted themselves to fellowship among each other (Acts 2:42).
  2. They were constantly together and found commonality among one another (Acts 2:44).
  3. They made sacrifices to meet one another’s needs (Acts 2:45).
  4. They were cheerfully in each others’ homes and lives (Acts 2:46).

I know you potentially might be pushing back by claiming that your group that actually provides those things is Christian in nature.  Trying to attach God’s name to a club doesn’t make it godly.  If anything, you might be in danger of breaking the 3rd commandment by using God’s name with something in an empty manner (Ex. 20:7).

The church is supposed to be your spiritual family.  Does the description of the early church in Acts 2 sound more like your commitment to your church or your group?

Why Has This Happened?

I personally believe this epidemic has increased due to a growing distance within the local church.

  1. The more cultural we have become, the less spiritual we have felt.
  2. The more professional we have become, the less personal we have felt.
  3. The larger the crowd, the more difficult it is to find community.

So, do we stop growing?  I pray not!  Do we attempt to do things halfway?  In no regards!  I think there must be a healthy balance though.

Do you find it ironic that at the time we have seen the rise of a more corporate church model we are also witnessing people wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to smaller and more intimate groups with clear causes?

Have You Joined an Imposter Church?

How can you tell if you’ve joined an imposter church?  It’s simple really.

  1. From what group comes your most intentionally consistent relational connections?
  2. For what cause do you easily find time to invest on a grand scale?
  3. What initiative causes you to sacrifice your time, efforts, and finances in a joyful manner?
  4. For what solution to what problem do you have the easiest time advertising to others?

Do you feel like a casual member of your church and a devoted “disciple” of your group?  Be careful that for all you are currently gaining that you have counted the cost of all you are actually losing.

and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the Day drawing near [Heb. 10:24-25].

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.