How many, how many, how many . . . drawing numbers into church worship services is a big ticket these days. The church growth picture includes all kinds of facets. And here’s another: Coaching to help unbelievers successfully participate in church worship services. This from the Chicago Tribune in an article titled, The Faker: A heavenly deception.
The writer likens pastors to restaurant maitre d’s and bartenders: They see a lot going on under the metaphorical table but they remain as quiet as a church mouse—at least in public. He says pastors give a free pass to Fakers in the local church. Fakers attend not because they want to, but because they have to out of necessity or politeness or who knows why. Fakers can sit in the local church without even a small challenge from the church's shepherds to get serious about doing business with God. That’s quite an indictment against today’s church leaders, isn’t it?
The Faker says several moves will successfully pull off the deception:
Dress not to impress but to blend in. (This is dubious wisdom, because the writer urges women to guard their hem lines and says men should wear a dark business suits or navy blazers and khaki pants. Really. Not many churches these days have such a code of attire. Blending in actually might require simply falling out of bed and showing up at church.)
Be prepared to wear headgear if needed. Ladies should bring a scarf just in case. Just don’t wear a baseball cap. (I don’t know about this. Can’t recall when I last saw a woman in church wearing a headscarf, or a baseball cap. But a baseball cap on a man seems stylish in some churches.)
Always take a program. Scan it to get an idea of the agenda and what’s expected of you. Locate hymnals or prayer books you may need. (Yes, this is good Fakery advice.)
Bribe the kids. Offer food or money to get the kiddos to sit still and not reveal that you are Fakers. (Ah yes, very good. Teach your children well.)
Get close to the action, but not too close. Don’t sit at the back. Move toward the front so you look more like a regular attender. But don’t go too far to the front because you need to watch others and follow what they do. (The Faker erroneously assumes people who sit at the back have something to hide.)
Sit, stand, kneel when everyone else does. If hitting your knees offends you, then cheat. Slide your rear end to the end of the pew, lean your knees toward the floor and then lean your forearms against the pew in front of you. (This is nothing new. I learned this trick as a boy. I just watched the men of the church and got the hang of it pretty quickly.)
Accept new things that are done with respect and, usually, in silence. If something is restricted to members of that specific denomination, don’t take part unless you’re eligible to do so. (Must be talking about communion here, but I don't get why the Faker would be sensitive to this. A devoted Faker should consistently demonstrate the sincerity of his fakery, and should have no angst about ethics.)
Stay to the very end. Then, slip out the side door. If you must stop, resist saying that you’ll be back next week unless you mean it. (Again, I don’t know why a Faker should be sensitive to this. After all, a Faker’s a Faker, and all is fair game for the Faker's shtick.)
A lot of The Faker's advice is neatly cunning. But it doesn’t work well in churches that have a plurality of good shepherds who know the flock, reach out in meaningful ways to newcomers and lead well from the pulpit and the platform. Still, it's disturbing that Fakers can so easily sit comfortably in many local churches.