Faces on Faith: Shipping out the hypocrites
I have also always loved the church. I found that people were caring, compassionate, encouraging, honest.
I think I always kind of understood, even as a kid, that Christians were folks on a journey of discovery of Who God is and who He is helping us to be … forgiven and fruitful.
Because of that I have this little fire in my soul that simply compels me to welcome people to know God and to be a part of His caring community, the church. That’s why Melvin, a redneck farmer in northwest Missouri was such a challenge for me. He didn’t think much of God and wanted nothing to do with the church.
Sipping on coffee with Melvin one day in the little cafe on main street in the rural community where I pastored I asked, “So Melvin, why don’t you come to church?” He didn’t hesitate. “Because of all the hypocrites there!”
I said, “So what do you mean?” He replied, “All the phonies. The folks who pretend like they are something they are not.”
I walked away from that conversation with a real burden for a painful truth Melvin had spoken and a quandary of how things could change.
Next Sunday I preached an unforgettable message. (Well, at least I remember it). It was called, “Let’s Get Rid of the Hypocrites!” I explained to the church how people who were being one thing in the church and another out in the community needed to go. Their actions were keeping people out of church.
So I asked, “How many know that Christians are not to lie?” Hands went up. I asked, “How many of you lied this week?” Some hands went up. I said, “You need to go.”
How many know that Christians are not to gossip? Hands went up. “Anybody guilty?” Several admitted it. I pointed to the door. After naming five or six more vices, about 90 percent of the folks had raised a hand. I should point out no one had actually left. They were waiting to see where this was headed. I had even raised my own hand twice.
I said, “Maybe us all leaving isn’t the answer. Besides if we all leave so the folks can come who aren’t coming because of the hypocrites here then when they get here it will probably mean we just have a whole shipment of new hypocrites. Maybe the answer is we need to take more seriously our actions and attitudes when we head out the door.”
But you know what else. What I saw as those hands went up humbly across that gathering of people I loved. They weren’t pretenders. They were strugglers just like me. They were “becomers,” being shaped by God one day at a time by His grace and power.
The church is a redemptive place for people on a journey to know and encounter the living God. It never was intended to be a gathering of perfect people, but a opportunity for imperfect people to encounter the powerful grace of God and be transformed.