As ministers of the gospel, none of us desires to fake sincerity in our pulpits. However, even with the best of intentions, we can be susceptible to it at times. One definition of sincerity from Merriam-Webster is “honesty of mind; freedom from hypocrisy.” As we consider the definition of sincerity, we can better understand how we can fall into faking it.
Here are seven warning signs we may be faking sincerity in our preaching. If any of these are present in our lives, chances are we are faking sincerity on some level.
I mention this first because without consistent growth in our walk with God, we are vulnerable to a lack of sincerity in our preaching. Our time with God opens us to His working out our own salvation journey through the process of our sanctification. We have not yet arrived at the pinnacle of our spiritual growth. It is a daily climb.
"Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:12-13, CSB
Our people will only grow spiritually to the level the leadership grows. When we falter in our spiritual walk, it will affect our preaching and, in turn, our sincerity from the pulpit.
How we live in private is as important as how we live in public. Even if no one knows but you, God does. What He knows will eventually be reflected in our preaching. You cannot be sincere in the pulpit if you are living a lie—even if you think it’s private.
When we plagiarize, we are not sharing our own words but someone else’s. We are stealing. The New Oxford English Dictionary contains over 171,000 words we regularly use. That doesn’t include slang and unusual words not in our regular vocabulary. Surely, we can come up with words to express our thoughts without plagiarism. If you like someone’s usage of an outline or quote, give them credit. It exemplifies honesty to our people. If you use another’s outline, even with their permission, do not do it often. Doing so gives the impression of laziness in sermon preparation.
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." Psalms 19:14, CSB
It is a sacred task to deliver God’s Word to His church. It is not about us but Him. We are not to exalt ourselves but God. Imagine if Jesus were sitting in the audience, would He see our pride or humility? Do the words we speak glorify Jesus or us? Our focus should always be to glorify our Lord. That will never happen if we disregard a heart of humility. True humility always exemplifies itself not only in the words we speak but also the way we address our people.
The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:18 of the importance of being filled by the Spirit of God. Before we enter our pulpits on Sunday, we must spend ample time in our prayer closets. We should desire to be filled not just on Sunday but every day. Being filled with the Spirit demonstrates our dependence on God. As we rely on the Spirit to empower us, there is little room for pride to take hold as we preach. Pride is the ultimate sin that leaves room for faking sincerity. It becomes less about God and His glory and more about us.
None of us are perfect. I have listened to many pastors who will never mention their failures or susceptibility toward sin. If we don’t let our churches see we too are flawed, they may feel the standards we set from the pulpit are too high for most Christians to obtain. Just as we are transparent concerning our failures, we need to always point them to the victory that Christ gives. We must be transparent in our sinfulness and transparent in how Jesus gives us the victory. Anything less bleeds a lack of sincerity.
I mentioned earlier the importance of our private versus public life. I addressed the application, however, in terms of the sermons we give on Sundays. But we should preach to ourselves before we deliver the message to our people. We need to humbly ask the Father, “Lord, what do you have to speak to me about before I share this with Your church? Is there any sin I need to repent of and seek Your forgiveness for? Is there any encouragement or comfort You are desiring to give me that in turn will work through me to comfort or encourage Your people?”
If we prepare our hearts in this way, we won’t be “preaching at” our people. We will be coming alongside them and “preaching to” our people. They need to hear how God has spoken to our hearts before even standing in the pulpit. Our churches can discern the difference. We want our people to come away saying, “We heard from God today through the message!” Our desire should not be for them to say, “We heard a good sermon today.” We want our people to know they have heard from God.
If God were to rate you on a scale of 1 to 10 concerning your sincerity, where would you fall? As we avoid these seven traps, we can preach consistently with a heart of sincerity, ultimately desiring God to be glorified with the words we speak.
Steven Blake is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, Georgia. He is married to DeLynn, and they are the proud parents of three daughters and 11 grandchildren.