Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Hypocrisy Problem in Church Today

Lifeway released some interesting survey results recently. They basically surveyed specific attitudes of people that don't go to church. This was the stat that caught my attention:
  • 72% of the people surveyed said that they thought the church was full of hypocrites.
Well.... I never. While something like this can seem like an insult, I do have to admit that these people are correct. Churches are full of hypocrites. Before you think you can predict the rest of my thoughts here and think that I am going to decry the amount of hypocrisy in church today, I want to explore a slightly different path here.

What is hypocrisy, anyway? We throw it around a lot - but what does it mean to be a hypocrite? You can basically look at hypocrisy as a lie - you say one thing and do another. This ties in with something else I read today: a study that claims that the average person tells almost 88,000 lies in their life time (3-5 times per day). So, the sad fact is - we are all hypocrites. Churches are full of hypocrites because the world is full of hypocrites.

The real rub here is that one of the functions of a church is to reveal hypocrisy. And this is actually a good thing. Sure - you go to church to worship and pray. But you should also go to get your life examined from an outside perspective, so that your hypocrisy is exposed and you can actually change it. Not to have fingers pointed at you or to get judged, but to actually help you become a better person.

So what this all means is that people who don't go to church don't want to come, in part, because they see the hypocrisy in other people's lives that has already been exposed.

Great. So.... what can you do about the fact that people don't want to come to church because the church is doing one of the things that the church is supposed to do? Beats me. It's this big lie that we all believe in America that hypocrisy is worse than any other mistake you can make, and that being a hypocrite means that what you believe in is wrong because of your hypocrisy and not because of any actual truth behind it. Or that you should avoid someone because they don't actually do what they say they believe. If this were true, I guess we would all have to lock ourselves in our houses, get online jobs, and never interact with other human beings.

But such is the mindset that we have to work with in modern America. How to convince people that they actually need the very thing that is turning them off right now. Luckily, that's not the real issue here. But it's one that I'm sure will cause many discouraging conversations around the nation on a daily basis. Most churches will probably work to find a way to be less hypocritical. That's always a good goal, but one we will have to work on for the rest of our lives. And probably not the quickest way to convince people to visit your church.

Come to think of it, realizing the truth about global hypocrisy, it kind of puts an interesting spin on all the churches that are trying to reach people by just "being real"? In "being real," wouldn't that mean they would be letting their hypocrisy hang out in the wind for everyone to see? Wouldn't that mean that they are actually pushing more people away - since so many people don't like the realness of hypocrisy? Just some things to ponder on, I guess.


Ella said...

We'll all have a lot that unfolds before our Creator we are not proud of I'm sure.But through the gift of His love and life we are forgiven, but should still strive to work against lies and what you discuss. And not repeating the same mistakes over and over again.



Anonymous said...

I will have to disagree with the author on, his comparison of telling lies & hypocrisy. There is right and wrong, for most people; they know the difference you are sowing the seeds of hypocrisy when you try to define it for others.

I also don’t understand why people need to become defensive, and go into calling hypocrites… who are judging them as not doing the right thing, and bringing out this reaction? Is there a need of self evaluation?

I believe every one should do what brings them others inner piece and happiness. Going to Church/Temple as a routine (or part of what you have to do) and not gaining any thing from it is the worst thing that you can do to yourself and the community, you are loosing faith by making it part of your grind. You should go to the Church if you believe and that will bring you good things and happiness in your life. For others; who don’t see the value should wait until they do believe, and you can feel the presence of the guiding force all around you.

I think the message I have is:
If you are happy, without knowing what a church/temple can do for you; you are one of the more blessed and chosen one and I am happy for you.
If you are troubled, and need solace know that, even if every one has left you the almighty will always be there for you… if you want him.


Matt C. said...

BMN - thanks for your comments. I am not sure if I totally understand the point you are making. I compare telling lies with hypocrisy because it is generally accepted that hypocrisy is lying. If you look up hypocrisy in a Thesaurus, you will find that a synonym of hypocrisy is "lie".

I have to disagree with Church being necessary only if it makes us or others happy. Life is tough sometimes, and you have to do what you know is right even if doesn't make you happy. I remember once when I found $20 at school in the hall when no one was around. I could have kept it, but I decided to turn it in to the principal. That didn't make me happy at all - but it was the right thing to do.

We need Church because we receive encouragement, enlightenment, rebuke, and correction. We also learn how to deal with difficult people. And a whole host of reasons that are even more important than these (I am only speaking to issues at hand and not espousing my entire theology on why we should go to church). It's not always easy - but it's what we need in life to grow. We can seek to be happy - that is fine, but to avoid things that don't make us happy would make us socially and emotionally stunted because we would have to avoid huge parts of life.

My problem is with people that don't go to church because they think the churches are filled with hypocrites. If you don't want to go to church because you don't believe in the Bible or whatever - you are free to choose that. But to make hypocrisy your reason is pretty weak. It's like saying you don't want to go eat at a restaurant because the waiter will only be nice to you because he wants a tip from you. It's where he works, so earning money is what he does. It should have no bearing on whether we go there or not. Same thing with church. People are all hypocritical in some way - that's no reason to avoid church, just like it is no reason to avoid going to the bank.

Ichabod said...

I have spent 15 years in "Church" and agree there is much hypocrisy, so much so that I find myself now stumbled in my faith. I still believe that Jesus is my Savior and has paid for my sins and those of others but the whole church "thing" has become unattactive, after 15 years of steady attendance, I taught in Sunday School and went on missions etc. The pastor I had(at a CC) was mean,prideful and harsh. He taught the bible well but i sure did not see the Lord in his life and the way he dealt with the 'sheep'. many of the women I hung out with for many years have now divorced thier husbands (with no biblical grounds)and I have to ask if the Christian life is 'real', why ? Church cliques, my spouse was not invited to any functions because he was an "unbeliever" ( I married him before I was saved btw.) So much bible study was done by many yet they treat people unkindly. Its very discouraging not to mention the general "me" agenda of many mainstream American churches now days. At church its a latte, a rock concert, 20 minutes of feel good-what can God do for "me" mumbo jumbo and then everyone is off to Dennys for Sunday lunch. I think I'll stay home.

Anonymous said...

What matters to me is having faith in Christ and treating others with love. Basically, I believe that it is important to grow though Christ. If one is truly growing in Christ, their relationships with others will reflect Christ's love.

There is too much emphasis on going to church and not enough emphasis on growing through Christ. People, Christians and
Non-Christians, are frustrated with the hypocrisy within churches-"there is no proof in the pudding." Too many Christians, pastors, and pastor families do not strive to grow thought Christ, but only strive to say they are Christians...that they attend church...that they are saved...
However, there is no sign of growth though Christ in their relationships with others.

The hypocrisy within churches does not turn me from Christ, but it does make me feel very uneasy and unmotivated to attend church.
At the very least, I believe we need to have more Godly families leading the church and more pastors that are truly reflecting Christ. Otherwise, leaders are leading through hypocrisy and I think this is a very serious offense

Anonymous said...

The author says you need to go to church so that your hypocrisy can be drawn out, it's to help you become better. The problem is that more and more people are using the term "christian" and gaining access to positions in church for pre-meditated opportunities of being in contact with children, preying (not praying) on the weak, and more. Those who are there for the right reasons are suffering a bad image and persecution for the multitude who use it as a cover. The hypocrisy comes from those who are fake. If I go to a church, I don't want someone telling me I'm going to hell for my sins while they're having an affair with the another member, or molesting a child, whatever. That's what is meant by hypocrisy...when you are constantly judging and condemning others for their sins to keep the attention off of yours. You can make excuses, you can become defensive...and if you do, I'll know I hit a raw nerve. Before we pray for others to change, for God to fix this "brother" or that "sister" - Pray God opens our eyes to our own problems and helps us become better people. God doesn't need to change the world to suit you...it is His will and His way that we need to accept and understand. People (these so called hypocrites) tend to become vain without realizing it. "I'm saved..you're not...I have the answers...you don't...and if you miss church..you're going to hell" Next thing you know...gossip gossip gossip...and it grows and grows. We could talk about this for hours.

Jason said...

While I do agree, that hypocrisy is a problem with society at large. I believe what the bigger problem is when church leaders themselves will preach on love, healing and restoration, then tear people down. I believe that is the hypocrisy that has rendered today's church to be absolutely powerless. As someone who has recently left a church because the Senior Pastor could not stop himself from being mean spirited and sarcastic to his staff, which I was a part of, I can attest that this is a problem. And, yes we go to church to have our "issues" worked out and striving to lead a "Christ-like" life, we do not however go to church to be abused - which is where the public at large has developed the opinion that "the church" is full of hypocrites. The Church will not gain power until as a whole it is realized that God's will must be done, and until prideful, arrogant church leaders step aside - that won't happen. Only the hypocrisy will be seen, not the will of God.

E-Gal said...

Interesting that Jesus himself said," I wish you were hot or cold but because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth." Imagine that, Jesus wishes we were cold (spiritually dead) rather than lukewarm(calling ourselves Christians and living a life of disobedience to God's Word). To say that one of the purposes of the church is to expose hypocrisy, is true. It is equally true that the church is to be a catalyst in changing a person so that he becomes a person who is "hot" for Christ and leaves his lukewarmness behind. The church show us that we are sick but should not leave it at that, rather it should also exhort us towards the cure for our sickness. Indeed, hypocrisy is a pandemic and we need to wake up to the fact that if we claim to love God and continue to walk in disobedience then we lie and that is the greatest hypocrisy of all. Jesus gave so much for us, surely it is not too much to ask that we give 100% effort for Him. It's time to stop being a "Christian" for the benefit package and start serving God for who He is and not because we want His hand-outs.

Matt C. said...

Okay - I'm going to have to close the comments down on this own, because many of you are just missing the point I am making. Even to the point that you are disagreeing with me by using the exact same points I make. Really weird. This is an old post, so why on Earth are you commenting on such as old post anyways?