What’s the point of going to church anyway? I mean...some of the meanest people I ever met went to church. And...I’ve met some really nice people who never stepped foot in the door. Obviously, going to church doesn’t necessarily make a person more socially tolerable...but it might help.
I’ve been frequently told, “I don’t go to church because there are so many hypocrites there.” I’m not certain those who say that have first-hand knowledge, but they use it as an excuse nonetheless. On one such encounter, I replied, “You know...hypocrites in the church have been bothering me too; let’s figure a way to get rid of them?” Kinda caught him by surprise; he replied, “Well, hypocrites need church too!”
I’m never certain what folks mean when they refer to hypocrites in the church. Do they mean people who intentionally deceive others into thinking their character is good when it is not? Or...are they just talking about people who sometimes stumble in their pursuit of Christ-like living. Somehow I think their “hypocrite” usage is intended to imply that people in church regularly live no better than those who are not. Hmmm...could that be true?
Here’s what I do know as a pastor: I can’t make people spiritual. Wish I could...but I can’t. The Bible is rich with instruction on living as a positive example toward others, and that’s our textbook. We just concentrate on the precepts of God’s Word at church. People with no intentions of being responsive to Biblical teaching don’t typically stay around very long. What would be the point?
On the other hand, I am acquainted with those who are continually making attempts to develop a closer relationship with God; they attend church.
And...sometimes they stumble in their pursuit. Does setbacks in one’s pursuit of Christ-like living constitute hypocrisy? Wow...hope that’s not the definition of hypocrisy! Navigating all of life’s obstacles without stumping your toe every once in a while is near impossible. It’s unfortunate that an infrequent slip of the tongue or negative reaction is often used as the basis for declaring that the church is full of hypocrites.
Well, I’m gonna keep going to church regularly anyway. All in all, my church acquaintances are an impressive bunch of people when compared to other gatherings of folks. I went to a Georgia-Georgia Tech football game once...sat right in the midst of a tough bunch. It never occurred to me to characterize all football fans based upon that crowd that day. I’ve attended civic meetings, sporting events, political gatherings...the character of my church people beat them...hands down.
So...what is it about church, anyway? It’s the value system. When I go to church, I am hanging around with a bunch of folks who share my value system. They may not be perfect, but they all have the same basic perception of what perfection is all about—perfection through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. That’s why I feel so comfortable around them. They’re like me! And...if you can’t tolerate being around us because we seem like hypocrites to you, we’re sorry; it may help to know that we’re working on it.
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Did you see? We’re “teaching and admonishing one another.” That’s why we go to church—mutual encouragement in pursuit of Christian living. If you’d like to work on it with us, come join in...another so-called “hypocrite” is always welcome.
Pastor Wayne Turner of Fayette Bible Church in Fayetteville, Georgia is also the author of Bible Track, an online daily Bible-reading schedule and commentary which may be accessed at http://www.bibletrack.org.