If You Can Fake It, You Have It Made

The three classical elements of influence are . . . .

Logos: The logical element

Pathos: The emotional element


Ethos: The credibility element — the genuineness of the speaker in the eyes of the audience.

“The secret to success is sincerity.
If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” [1]

Ethos is about authenticity, sincerity, honesty, and trust. Does the audience believe that the speaker has the best interest of the audience at heart? Is what he is saying truthful, honest, fair-minded, and genuine. Is there any guile in what is being said and/or done?

Ethos is audience-dependent. Credibility and trustworthiness are depended on who is listening. We understand that we trust certain writers and journalists in our own media habits and wonder how someone can believe what this-or-that one is saying.

The same is true when it comes to preachers. There are those we deem credible, and those we listen to with great reservation.

Lose your credibility as a speaker (or as a pastor) and over time and with enough people, and you will have to search for a new audience. There is a spiritual mantra that is often used to describe that . . . .

“I’ve been praying about it, and the Lord has been speaking to my heart
about considering a different ministry.”

As has often been said, the people will forgive just about anything — incompetence, laziness, mistakes, terrible mistakes, and even poor shepherding, but when they realize that you are inauthentic when they lose trust in you, you may be the official leader, but you are no longer leading or influencing God’s people. You will find it difficult to stir them to get on board.

As I have visited a number of people over the past months, who are still struggling with Covid and the fears connected with this pandemic, difficult health problems, financial trials, and/or rough family situations, I am reminded about the disingenuous nature of far too many pastors who never even paid a visit to them for months, if not a year or more. They portray that they are in regular contact with this-or-that family, but they are duplicitous. If there has been any contact, it has been by a text message, a short phone call, a brief email, or through a deacon. You might think otherwise from the nuanced comments from the pulpit!

When a pastor, associated pastor, assistant pastor, youth pastor has lost credibility, it is probably too late to try to pump out the accumulated water. It may take time, but God’s people get it. The ministry is about him and his, not them and theirs.

Then, you may well witness an exerting one’s pastoral position and office. When the credibility is lost, it easily moves to consolidating power and authority — controlling who serves in leadership positions, suggesting and asking for pledges of loyalty from the staff, changing the constitution and by-laws to avoid further challenges, using other leaders to protect and defend, and calling up sympathy from the pulpit.

Why? Lost credibility — not because of the critics, but because the critics see through the veneer of “faking it.”

Ethos is a genuine concept and operates in all kinds of speaking situations — and it includes the pulpit. When one is seen as disingenuous and duplicitous, the ability to influence is gone, and the ministry is headed for some dry and dusty days until a new leader shows up to resurrect the work.

“Ethos” has taken a beating over these last two years when it comes to the ministry and the pulpit. Not only are there a good number of people who are changing churches, but it is because there are a good number of ministry leaders and church pastors who have experienced a severe loss of credibility.

1. Attributed to novelist, Hippolyte Jean Giraudoux.

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