By Anthony Lee
Most Christians would never intentionally keep someone from following Christ but sometimes our actions can do just that. In the following article, one pastor shares his heart about some barriers that keep us from reaching our culture for Christ.
Pastor and author Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Our world is fed up with hypocrisy, and statistics back that up. The Barna Research Group did a study with interesting findings. They asked 2,000 U.S. teens and adults the question “What causes people with no faith tradition to doubt Christianity?” Among the top responses were conflict in the world (24 percent), one religion can’t have all the answers (29 percent), human suffering (30 percent), and science (31 percent). But the number one reason to doubt Christianity given by people with no faith tradition was the hypocrisy of religious people, at 42 percent. This is a large margin. It makes sense that Jesus was so focused on the hypocritical religious group, the Pharisees, during His short time here on earth. One of Jesus’ most poignant challenges to them is found in the gospel of Matthew:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matthew 23:13, NIV).
Still today many of our behaviors “shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.”
I have seen people publicly and vocally boycott Disney yet continue to watch ESPN or Marvel movies which Disney owns. If we are going to boycott everything that doesn’t align with biblical values, it will be very hard to find stuff not to boycott. If we choose to make a corporate and public stand against a company or a brand, it could send a confusing signal to those who don’t yet know Jesus. I think it is far more important to let people know what we are for instead of championing what we are against. When we boycott corporately, it sends a divisive, exclusive, and hypocritical message to our broken world. It is not marked with love.
… the number one reason to doubt Christianity given by people with no faith tradition was the hypocrisy of religious people, at 42 percent.Barna Research Group
It is important to stand for what we believe in, and we are all responsible for our personal convictions, but those convictions should not be our public platforms. Let’s get better about publicly proclaiming truth rather than shaming bad behavior. It’s a waste of breath. Boycott privately if you must. The greatest results are found in our spending rather than our shaming. Paul said it best in Romans:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
Positional Authority vs God’s Authority
With the many scandals of pastors in the church, especially among some of the larger churches, I am seeing a real problem with the elevation of our pastors. Many have become Christian celebrities. And when a broken person is elevated so high, the fall is so much greater. We must be careful with the titles we give our leaders. Anytime we elevate a specific person by their position, we send a hypocritical message. We elevate a fellow brother or sister to a place that doesn’t belong to humans. We serve one God. Jesus continues his tirade at the Pharisees in Matthew 23:
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant” (verses 8-11).
Anytime we operate out of a manmade position, we remove the authority of God and replace it with a dangerous substitute. It is far better for church leaders to operate under the authority of God and the authority of God’s Word rather than our own merits.
Lack of Transparency
As long as I have been a part of a church, I have felt the tug to hide sin instead of being open with my faults and failures. It is hard to admit we make mistakes, but we all do. Coming to Christ does not mean we no longer are tempted. Let’s not be hypocritical and pretend we have it all together all the time. People will not trust a form of Christianity that promotes human victory over sin. We all need Jesus daily. And it is in Him that we are victorious. Paul shares with the church in Corinth an important idea that Jesus told him:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Could you imagine what it would look like if the church boasted more about our weaknesses? I think the world needs to hear that we are a mess without Jesus. Anything less is hypocritical.
Often we create a facade of perfection. When we do this, we make it hard for people to belong to our communities if they are open with their struggles. We often say in our churches that we let people “belong” before they “believe,” yet we stop people at the door when it comes to certain sins and give passes on others. Why in some circles is alcoholism considered worse than gluttony? Or why is infidelity considered worse than pornography use? All sin is sin. Let’s just be honest about it.
This is our only shot to get as many as possible into heaven. Let’s get better about not slamming the door of heaven in people’s faces with hypocrisy.
About the Author
Anthony is husband to Eliza and father to two teenage daughters, Juliana and Sophia. He is the lead pastor at Church of the Cascades, an Open Bible church in Bend, Oregon. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Eugene Bible College in 2001 and a master’s degree in ministry leadership from Wheaton Graduate School in 2023. Anthony loves to snowboard, travel in his RV, flyfish, sing, and play guitar. He is a terrible golfer but enjoys hanging with the boys pretending he knows how to play. He is also passionate about raising up leaders and releasing them into ministry