Help! My Church Is Full Of Hypocrites!

My generation is the ‘authentic’ generation. We like our peanut butter organic, our meat free-range, our coffee fair-trade, our bands obscure, and our pictures “vintage”. We used to like Coldplay when no one else knew about them, but now they’re too mainstream. We don’t like big, soul-crushing corporations such as Wal-Mart or Costco. We want realness and authenticity and soul. We want self-expression. We want openness, honesty, and transparency.

This desire for realness and authenticity is what leads so many young men and women to conclude that the church is for losers. After all, the church is full of self-righteous, legalistic, hoity-toity hypocrites. There is no vibrant community, there is no deep faith, there is no openness about sin. There is no transparency of life. Everyone is doing just fine, thank you. Nothing to see here, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for, move along. Which, of course, we “authentic” Christians know is not the true state of affairs.

And there may be some truth to that argument. At times our churches can be overly superficial, and smiley, and “turn that frown upside down because God is good!” At times we dispense scripture verses like vitamins rather than the living word of God. At times we resort to speaking in trite, Hallmark-ish cliches. But, the reality is, every church is full of hypocrites (and yes, that includes you and me).

A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and then acts in a contrary manner. A man who preaches against sexual immorality and then sleeps with his mistress is a hypocrite. A woman who espouses the beauty of a quiet spirit and then physically abuses her children is a hypocrite. But so is a man who wholeheartedly affirms the sovereignty of God and then regularly sins in worry (that would be me). So is a man who preaches about being a servant and then sins in selfishness at home (me again!) So is a man who tells others to pray passionately and then finds himself praying distracted, half-hearted prayers (strike three). So is a man who tells his children to be patient, then sins in impatience (I could keep going). All of us are hypocrites in one form or another.

The great battle of the Christian life is to close the gap between what we believe and how we live. Every Christian is a slowly healing hypocrite. Every Christian is slowly learning to live in light of their true identity in Jesus Christ. There is no such thing as a hypocrite free church. Every true church is composed of hypocrites who trust not in their own authenticity, but who trust in the completely authentic, sin-free, God-man Jesus Christ.

Should we strive to be humble, transparent, and open about our struggles? Sure. God always gives grace to the humble. But more than that, let’s be open and transparent about our absolute confidence in Jesus Christ, the One who saves hypocrites like you and me. Being authentic and open about our struggles with sin is not inherently valuable. Opening up our lives is not inherently more holy. Our openness is only valuable if it ultimately points us to Jesus Christ, the one who rescues us from our sins. Our transparency is only valuable if it forces us to lean more heavily on Christ, the Solid Rock.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat some Velveeta cheese while listening to Nickleback.

Comments

  1. thoughtsfrommyshelf says

    Great Post! Really appreciate the way you write, the pastoral heart, the wit, and wording. I have only recently been checking out your blog, but I really enjoy it.

  2. Neo says

    (Beats chest) Thank goodness that I'm not like those two-income, BMW-driving, mansion-dwelling, latte-drinking Christians in the front row! Ow…. dang, what's this plank-thingie stuck in my eye….?

  3. Elaine says

    "And Altrogge knocks it out of the park, right over the center field fence!"

    Thanks for the encouragement, Stephen, and for the dose of conviction.

  4. tory says

    A good reminder. As someone struggling with disillusionment in the church, it is good to realize that I'm not above it. I like the phrasing of being a slowly healing hypocrite. It just seems to ooze grace and empathy, for self and others. Great post. thanks.

  5. Francine Rico says

    The 'Great Battle' in the Church today is a congregation of people who think the idea of keeping themselves separate (2 Corinthians 6:17) and 'Be ye holy' 1 Peter 1:16 as archaic and not relevant; considering that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. There is NOTHING more 'authentic' than THAT!

    'Christians' daily baptize themselves in 'keeping up with the unsaved Jones' culture. They watch their shows, listen to their music, take their illegal drugs and fornicate with another's spouse. Their husbands are addicted to porn, their sons are on heroine, their daughters are pregnant and their wives call a full bottle of wine 'their little pick-me-up'!

    I find those who seek 'authenticity' and pointing fingers while polluting their temples entirely repugnant! It's ALWAYS someone ELSE'S fault! (Hmmmmmmmmmm, sounds like our current government!!!)

    There is no power in the Church here in America. Too many people are looking to see how they can get their guilt trips assuaged rather than repenting and seeking to serve OTHERS! The title 'Slowly Healing Hypocrite' is a sham. "Oh, woe is me! I'm just not capable of mastering my Spirit. Hey, did you watch Family Guy last night?" You might as well rename the Church 'Occupy Wall Street'!

    Harsh? YOU BET!!! So, is not being able to trust the holiness of those who are called to 'bear one another's burdens'!!

  6. suzanne b. says

    Even though I am from an inauthentic generation (we liked our peanut butter shelf-stable, our meat in the form of Oscar Meyer bologny, our coffee in big cans that you could use as stilts, our bands synthesized, and our photos … actually, our photos were pretty authentic. I think they were the prototype for the current "vintage" photos), I really appreciated this article.

    I have noticed that the phrase "I am just being real" is currently used to mean "I am telling you bad and yucky stuff about me without discretion or discernment, in the hopes you will nod in an understanding fashion which will make it okay and negate my need for the Gospel" and almost never used to mean "God is righteous, holy, and totally in control of everything, and I am a sinner saved by grace through faith."

    So I was thankful for this post and I am really happy you typed it. I especially liked this part: "Being authentic and open about our struggles with sin is not inherently valuable. Opening up our lives is not inherently more holy. Our openness is only valuable if it ultimately points us to Jesus Christ, the one who rescues us from our sins."

  7. says

    Nickelback? And you write such wonderful things about Jesus? That is almost the ultimate in hypocrisy. I am hoping that was your point. Nickelback is one of the raunchiest, ungodly bands to ever get on a stage. http://www.buzzfeed.com/perpetua/chad-kroegers-sexiest-lyrics

    I just stumbled upon your blog and it was really resonating with me until that point. That is the issue I have with this current “authentic” generation. We want authenticity and integrity–unless it means sacrificing our worldly, ungodly entertainment. It’s just so ludicrous.

    I truly hope you were joking. But, just in case some of your readers didn’t get it, Nickelback is not what we should be filling our minds with as believers :)

    • says

      So I would like to delete or edit my comment above but can’t figure out how :( My initial reaction was wait! he certainly doesn’t truly love Nickelback. How could he?? And then realized the point you were making. But in the comments section you sound like you really do love Nickelback. So I am confused.

      If I sound harsh and a little crazy, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound harsh and I am a little crazy ;) haha

      I have such a passion for Christians to understand that our entertainment is not excluded in our desire to be more like Christ. There seems to be such an incredible lack of understanding of this. And it has rendered many, many Christians ineffective and weak.

      That passion sometimes makes me climb on a soapbox (see example above). Sorry about that.

    • Mosschops says

      It is exactly people like yourself why I have found myself becoming disillusioned with the church. Being told what I can and can’t watch or listen to is hypocrisy in its greatest form. I have a brain which lets me tell the difference between fact and fiction, entertainment or truth. I love listening to acdc and bands of the like…..doesn’t mean I’m becoming a satanist, or that I want to get on the highway to hell. All the while I’m sure you drive around in a big expensive car, live in a 6 bedroom house and have a husband who plays golf who wears a sweater which costs more than my entire wardrobe. And who are you to preach to us what we listen or watch anyway???? And I’m sure you’ll use this comment to point out the failings of the people like me, and that you’ll be praying for me and how I was sent by satan to say these things.. As much as you think you’re right, so I think that I am too…
      Much happiness in your bland supposedly Christian life, and I will to in my realist Christian life

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