Wow. Another year ended, another new year begun. As I considered what to say about 2015, something struck me:
I heard more hard words from believers in 2015 than ever before. No, not “hard words” as in hard things the Lord told people to say. Just hard words. Words spiked with negativity, frustration, even a tinge of hatred.
I’m a PK. A preacher’s kid. What’s more, I’m a PGK—a preacher’s grandkid. As you may imagine, I’ve heard a lot of strange things from fellow Christians during my 58 years of life. But this last year, I heard things that left me shaking my head.
“Christians have done more damage to my faith than any atheist.”
“The organized church is full of hypocrites.”
“Church people are toxic.”
“I hate the church.”
Not too long ago, while at church, I overheard sentiments of the “I hate the church” variety. From someone in church. And I confess, I didn’t hide my “Are you kidding me??” expression. Which drew that person’s ire. The challenges came fast and furious…
“There are good reasons people feel this way. Most so-called Christians are hypocrites. Isn’t it our place as Christians to address the failures of the church and it’s pew-sitters? Jesus condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees. How is what I said any different?”
Well, okay, how do I say this nicely? What’s different is that…
You’re not Jesus.
He had a right to condemn. You? Or me? Not so much.
As for Christians being hypocrites…um, yes. And your point is? Aren’t we all, in our own ways, hypocrites? A hypocrite is simply someone whose actions belie a stated belief. So if you’re a believer and you ever speak in anger to the drivers around/in front of/behind you, lie (yes, even white lies), steal (yes, those cool pens from work do count), gossip, swear (remember Ephesians 4:29?), and on and on—you’re a hypocrite. I mean, let’s be honest. Do any of us live as we profess to live every moment of every day? If not, then the whole pot calling the kettle bit comes into play, yes?
So why am I sharing all this with you? For one simple reason: to remind you, and myself, as this new year begins, that we don’t write for perfect people. After all, what would be the point of that? Perfect people don’t need what we have to say. They’re, you know, perfect. Not in need of understanding or encouragement or help. No, we write for the real people, Christians and nonbelievers (both of which, by the way, you’ll find sitting in the pews). We write for folks who struggle and fail and try again and fail again—all in glorious Technicolor.
That worship leader with an ego the size of Paul Bunyan? You write for her.
That neighbor who lets his little rat-dog do its business on your lawn. Every. Day? You write for him.
That youth pastor who insists on wearing cargo shorts and a baseball hat to your proper church? You write for him.
That sweet little elderly woman who is outraged by the youth pastor’s lack of reverence? You write for her.
That woman who gossips about any and everyone, savoring every nasty tidbit like it’s the finest Belgian chocolate? You write for her.
That man who sits in the dark every night surfing for porn? You write for him.
That woman who has had more affairs than even she can count? You write for her.
That teen who is facing another day of bullying? You write for her.
That young man who spends hours thinking up ways to torment the teen girl? You write for him.
All those “so-called” Christians, as we like to label them, aren’t “so called” because they’re perfect reflections of Christ. They’re called by His name because they, at some time in their imperfect, broken lives, said yes to the Lord’s gift of grace. That they don’t live as they ought really isn’t your business. That’s the purview of the Holy Spirit, and friends, I advise you to stay out of His way. And, if you’re anywhere near as broken as I am, to keep your mouth sealed lest He turn His holy gaze your way. I guarantee you, none of us will stand in the face of His holiness.
Our job as fellow believers? To fix our focus on our efforts to fulfill the great commandment. You know, the one about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Which means we should be looking at HIM. Not at each other. And when we do look at each other, it should be through the eyes of His grace.
As for writers? If you want to write for the Christian market–which means writing for those folks claiming to follow Christ regardless of how good a job they’re doing—you’d do well to write from compassion. From the humble knowledge that you’re just as broken as any of them. Write from the realization that it’s God’s truth, not yours, that sings into their weary, betrayed, betraying hearts and spirits.
Hate the church. Hardly. Friends, you are the church. As am I. Like it or not, we’re all in this deal together. What’s more, we’ll be in eternity together. And that church lady you so despise? Seems to me it would be just like God to plunk her mansion down right next to yours. Maybe even make you roomies. So why not learn to love her in all her brokenness now?
Welcome to 2016, friends. May it be a year steeped in grace and kindness for—and from—us all.
Bingo! It’s about writing with compassion. I’ll be mulling over this nugget all day. I’ve even printed this article and posted it by my desk.
Outstanding work. Thanks, Karen. Blessings to you and your writing.
Thanks so much for your encouragement.
Amen and Happy New Year! Beautiful, perfect post.
Happy New Year to you, too!
Thanks, Karen, for a good reminder.
Ane, you’re welcome. 🙂
Excellent post. Thank you, Karen!
You’re welcome, Varina.
Good thoughts thanks for sharing. I heard a pastor respond once to someone commenting that the church is full of hypocrites. He said, “No, we’re not full. We always have room for more.” 🙂
Great answer. 🙂
Okay, I laughed out loud at that.
I loved this article and your response to which I shall add, ”Folks, aren’t you glad hypocrites come to your church? Or would you rather they just go to hell?”
Preach it, Sistah!
It’s even MORE concerning to me given my own experience. I was taught to reverence God by my grandmother, and I wanted nothing more than to do just that in my early years. However, I went to a church that did not teach their parishioners to read or study the Bible, so I didn’t. As I grew into adolescence and adulthood, my faith withered because it did not have a firm foundation on which to stand. I knew of churches that were more “involved” and that encouraged Bible study, but The World (media, friends, etc.) said they were a bunch of crazies who were self-righteous, judgmental hypocrites, and I believed them. Then my counselor training heaped even more negative adjectives on this group (not at all supported by research!!!). I avoided “those types” of (Bible-believing) Christians like the plague … until I actually got to know some … and discovered they were some of the most wonderful, caring, giving, selfless, compassionate and disciplined people I’d ever met. I felt lied to, like I’d wasted my life chasing the wrong dream.
So I caution people when they rank on “The Church.” Do you really want to push people away who could benefit from a body of believers???? Yes, those believers are also sinners. But you’re better off directing people to an environment that uses the Bible as a guide, than you are adding to the noise that encourages people to avoid any chance at finding that Body.
Spot on, Sister!
“But you’re better off directing people to an environment that uses the Bible as a guide, than you are adding to the noise that encourages people to avoid any chance at finding that Body.”
Good words, Connie.
But what if you are abused in church
Jesus chose Zacchaeus. His ministry focused on broken and imperfect people who had no hope of redemption under the law.
I used to think I wanted to focus on evangelism in my fiction. But lately, I realize that writing for believers is no less worthy of a call.
Believers read our work for inspiration and healing, and to fill their own empty cups.
Yvonne, I love what you said. Yes us believers need healing too.
“Believers read our work for inspiration and healing, and to fill their own empty cups.”
Amen to that.
Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Karen. My oldest son likes to say that any time you are around “people” you have to deal with crazy and EVERY CHURCH, every organization, and every gathering has people in it. 🙂
If we start with love God and close with love others – the rest will work itself out.
P.S. You must go to my church because I have curled my nose at those cargo shorts on more than one occasion 😉
Kathryn, I was preaching to myself on the hat and cargo shorts. Amazing, isn’t it, to realize we’ve become the “older generation” that tends to look down our noses at “those darned kids.” I find myself struggling to find the balance between not judging and being reverent in God’s house. Can’t wait until we’re in eternity and NONE of this will matter because we’ll finally understand our truest calling is to praise the only One who has the right to judge.
I was taught to look your best for the Father and I’ve tried to teach that to my kids as well. It’s not that I want everyone to wear a three piece suit, but I sure do want them to respect God enough to present their best.
I teach my kids, and I try to keep the nose curling to a minimum, and work hard not to say or do anything that will make others feel like they are being judged.
But I do think the church would benefit from teaching reverence and the better things to do and not focusing so much on the things not to do.
I heard once that if yo spent all your time doing the dos that your supposed to do then you wouldn’t have time to do the don’ts anyway. 🙂
It doesn’t matter NOW
Karen, what a great post today! Our gracious love for fellow believers, especially those we find challenging to love, is probably the greatest attraction for those who don’t yet know Jesus as savior.
I’ve had that conversation many times with nonbelievers about the church being full of hypocrites. My answer to them: the church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. The only way to become a Christian is to honestly face that I am a sinner, forever imperfect no matter how “good” I am and unfit to stand before a holy God based on my own effort. Only then can I accept that I need Jesus as my Savior to have God see me as fit for His presence. My own “good works” aren’t tickets into heaven but signs that I love God and therefore want live in the way the Bible tells me pleases him. If I try to define myself what is “good” apart from His revelation in His written Word, I’m on a slippery slope that can lead me away from God instead of toward Him.
I lead a Sunday school class that ranges from those whose personal “holiness” is so far beyond mine to folks who just got out of jail, where they may have accepted Jesus as their savior for the first time in their lives. We’re all sinners, and we all have the same Savior who bought us out of the just end of our sins. Part of loving each other is encouraging each other to try to live a life pleasing to God in gratitude for the price Jesus paid for us. We study the Bible together to help each other learn more about how God wants us to live, including how He wants us to lead others toward Him. Sometimes that means telling each other we’re making bad choices that need to stop. The key is doing it because we love the person. We need truth within the family, even when it sometimes hurts to speak and to hear. But if we truly love each other, we’ll risk that hurt and be better for it.
Thanks for the thoughts, Carol.
Oh, Karen, you really hit the nail on the head. I cringe when I hear criticisms like you mentioned and always think …”let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
No one has the right to judge but Jesus. Took a while for me to learn that, but when it did, it took. I’m a sinner saved by grace, but it sure doesn’t guarantee I won’t sin again and again and again because I am human and God gave me choices.
Yes, those people you mentioned are the people to whom we write and for whom we pray.
Thanks for a great post and Happy New Year!!!
Martha, I always enjoy reading your comments. Thanks!
I’m a PK also as well as a PGK. I’ve seen messy lives within churches and ministries. The older I get (now 35) the more I understand how broken we all are. It’s always bothered me when Christians take a provocative stance in an attempt to motivate the Church. And by that, I mean song writers and authors who attempt to encourage the church to grow but end up sounding like they hate the church. We are His bride. One bride. All of us together who call Him Savior. How can we hate ourselves, and to use another image, we are one body of which Christ is the head. Hating the body is hating Christ. Thank you, Karen, for loving the church enough to exhort us to speak wise, compassionate words.
More and more, Sondra, I’m thinking it comes down to letting go of bitterness. Now, I’m not saying I’m good at that. In fact, I’m definitely not. But until we learn to do it, we can’t open ourselves to be a part of others and their lives. Our hearts harden, and that’s never a good thing.
I love this! Thanks for helping paint a picture of what the church looks like. It looks like me 🙂
I love that!
Yes and amen, Karen! We are all in desperate need of God’s grace…both for ourselves and to offer others. When we can see the people around us–especially those who rub us raw–through Jesus’ eyes, then we can love them as Jesus does. And we can be more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in our writing.
I loved your words today!
Yes! We are imperfect and we write for imperfect people. Perhaps we should put a sign over every church door that says, “Yes, we’re hypocrites…that’s why we need to be here.” Great post, Karen.
I liked your proposed idea for the sign above every church door. I know I feel like a hypocrite a lot of times; I don’t live up to what I know, and even when I try, I fail. I still go to church, and I write devotionals and submit them. Sometimes I wonder why I go to church, when I’m a hypocrite. But I find God’s love and grace there–which is the only way to becoming less of a hypocrite.
Peggy, it’s not so much about calling ourselves hypocrites as simply acknowledging we’re broken. We all have issues. And we need to be where we can be honest about that and find help from those who’ve faced the same struggles. Church isn’t about being, it’s about becoming. None of us is a clear reflection of Christ, but with each tiny victory through and because of Him, we inch our way toward peace and freedom.
That’s why we go to church.
Karen Girl Friday
Karen, this post resonated with me on so many levels. Thank you! I’m a pastor’s wife. I can relate to the church “thing.” In fact, I just looked through Word Press year in review for my blog. The report shows my most popular post in 2015 was “Confessions and Lessons Learned from a Pastor’s wife.”
Thank you for the reminder that we need to keep our eyes on Christ. Holiness took our place for mercy’s sake. The Lord loves me even when I am not likable. And I am not likable a lot. I. Will. Forever. Be. Amazed. By. His. Grace.
“Holiness took our place for mercy’s sake.”
I probably needed this swift kick in the pants more than I care to admit.
I myself truly honored to share my heart and words with broken, the down-trodden. But those with the super- sized egos? I confess it feels like a waste of time— maybe even like casting pearls before swine. It appears their perceived perfection makes them impenatrable.
So. I should pray about this.
Thanks for pointing this out, Stacey. Sometimes a supersized ego is really hiding great vulnerability, even from that person. The brilliant intellectual, the wealthy business person, the people who think they are already perfectly fine because they do good works – they need Jesus at least as much as the person in jail or living on the street, but it can be harder for them to recognize and admit it. College campuses, research labs, business and political organizations, country clubs – we need to bring Jesus’s light and love into those dark places, too.
Carol and Stacey, good reminders. Thanks!
But the church as it is currently constituted does deserve criticism. It is failing in its outreach to the world and to its in-reach to those in the Body. Telling people “oh, stop being such a negative Nellie” is a great way to perpetuate the artificial and superficial tendencies that are killing us.
Give me the negative folks anytime. It’s those types of people who are actually challenging the status quo and who are seeking something deeper.
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rick, I don’t think a post to counteract church bashing is exactly like telling people to stop being negative. Rather, I think the idea is to make us aware of our own sin that we might come to God in repentance.
I find it hard to believe that people who say they hate the church are actually doing anything to change the mission of the church.
In addition, I find it quite a generalization to say that the church is “failing in its outreach to the world.” How is it that missionaries continue to pour into places like Kenya and China and Indonesia and Ukraine? How is it that Christians are establishing ministries to rescue victims of sex trafficking?
How is it that ministries to students and international students continue on high school and university campuses? How is it that ministries to the centers of cities have sprung up to bring Christ to the urban poor? What about churches that reach out to the homeless with food and clothing and shelter? Or crisis pregnancy centers or homes for unwed mothers?
Because you may not be aware of these things, Rick, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.
I actually work for an international Christian aid agency, so I’m quite aware of the good that the Church is capable of performing, thank you. That being said, the American church (like any other institution) needs to take a step back and take a hard look at itself. You mentioned the urban poor; the church may be doing pretty good as far as soup kitchens, but the church’s politics often exacerbate the problems of our nation’s cities. And it seems we yell loudest about gay marriage and abortion, rather than poverty or homelessness, so pardon me if I don’t share your view that we are tireless on behalf of America’s poor. To the contrary, I see a lot of Christians who are more than happy to trim food stamps so that “laziness isn’t rewarded.” Our collective reputation is fairly Pharisaical, and we need to address that.
RustbeltRick in reply to your post I would like to add my own sincere opinion. According to scripture “gay” (homosexual) activity, let alone marriage and abortion (murder) have the power to keep someone from entering the Kingdom, poverty and homelessness does not.
In my own life I have experienced extreme poverty and was semi-homeless (forced to live in an unfinished concrete block and bare floor basement for years without heat, plumbing, TV, regular meals, etc) throughout childhood while step-parent lived comfortably in house above with “her” children.
At age seventeen I “escaped” to the Army and was sent to Vietnam at age eighteen. At no point was I not sheltered and protected by my Father, Jesus Christ who stepped in for the imperfect humans that had failed me miserably. My human father told me that my real mother, who a few years later eventually abandoned me with my two brothers, was caught by him in the bathtub trying to abort me with a wire coat hanger during her pregnancy. It was illegal to kill your baby then and her DIY attempt to kill her baby failed. As a result I survived the first, but not only, attempt on my life.
So, to those Christians that yell loudest about “gay” marriage and abortion I AM VERY GRATEFUL, GOD BLESS YOU! In my experienced opinion poverty and homelessness is BY FAR less grave in nature as concerns an individual regarding existence as both a human and a spiritual being.
Being in a state of poverty and homelessness is not sinful in nature. Participating in abomination and murder is.
I judge not, there is no hypocritical censorious self-righteousness here, just my sincere and humble testimony submitted for consideration in the hope that someone may find it useful on their journey and in their life.
Karen, GREAT article!
Meant to add this to my comment. (excussssse me its getting late) This came out the year I left Vietnam, never forgot it. (Judge not lest we be judged).
Rustbelt Rick, thank you for your comments. Yes, there is much that needs to be addressed and changed within the organized church. As there is within any group of people. I know, I know, Christians should be better than just any group of people. Which they might be if they weren’t…well…people. We live under a covering of God grace because we so desperately NEED it. Even the best of us is weak and broken. What I’m encouraging here is that we extend grace and kindness to each other in that brokenness and work together to become better. That we not let bitterness or anger or resentment or differences in politics/philosophies/priorities get in the way of what we’re told is most important: loving God, and loving each other. I hear your frustration, have shared it not so long ago. But lately God’s been working on the hardened places in my heart and showing me that it’s nigh onto impossible to be a conduit for His grace and love when I’m holding onto anger or bitterness. We need grace. We need to give grace. We need to live grace. Until we do that, we are just adding to the anger and noise.
That’s my vote, anyway.
1 Timothy 1:15: Paul speaking: “Here is a trustworthy saying. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”
Thank you for that reminder, Karen, because I am unworthy, unqualified, the least likely candidate, and yet I write Christian Fiction.
May I always remember this truth.
Chris, I love that verse. Thank you.
Beautifully said. Thank you for this post.
You’re so welcome, Joe.
Such a timely post, Karen! Thank you. Great reminder as I write my way into 2016.
Write on, Ann!
Janet Ann Collins
What!?!? You mean we Christians aren’t perfect??
Seriously, Karen, you deserve a big hug for posting this. (((Karen Ball)))
Aww, thanks, Janet. I felt the hug!
EJ Brock, author
What a beautiful blog. I am an author, and my series is all about “REDEMPTION” I just released a book titled, “TEKEL, The Weight Of Mercy”, on Christmas Eve. Lord knows it is the published version of this blog. My biggest point in the book was Romans 14:4 “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” God bless you…
Great verse, EJ. Thanks for sharing it.
What a wonderful post! This is exactly why I write…thank you for Reminding all of us of our “why.”
You’re welcome, Brianna.
When my nephews and nieces were in grade school, my oldest niece was telling her siblings and cousins what to do in an oppressive manner. When my brother asked her what made her think she was the boss, she crossed her arms over her chest, lifted her chin and said, “Because God made me perfect.”
I may be somewhat of a loner in my comment, but although I concur in part with what the article says, I wish it didn’t have to be said. In my experience, I’ve encountered too many Christians who hide behind their failure to be “examples of Christ” aka/perfect with this mantra: “Well, nobody’s perfect.” Meanwhile, non-Christians look on, then turn away.
The answer is not to focus on others, but on ourselves through the prism of God’s grace. When we do that, we “grow in grace and in the knowledge of His will.” As we diligently strive to be more like Christ, there will be less opportunities for others, Christians and non-Christians, to wonder about our behavior and to “hate” the church.
Of course, Christians should not become self-appointed moral or spiritual policeman of others, but less we offend the faith rather than be able to defend it, let’s be more diligent about policing ourselves.
“…less we offend the faith rather than be able to defend it, let’s be more diligent about policing ourselves.”
I had to laugh. Here you said exactly what I wanted to say, and did it in a fraction of the words. This is exactly my point. I’m not at all saying we should be cavalier about not living as God calls us to live. What I’m saying is let’s stop judging and looking at others and focus instead on living lives steeped in God’s love and grace.
Thanks, Lillian. You’re not a loner at all. You’re right on target.
Thanks, Karen for your kind remarks, and for not correcting my “less.” 🙂
Clearly you struck a nerve here, Karen. And thank you!
It seems that, more and more, the hip and modern and “evolved” thing is to try to move beyond this broken and dusty structure called “church.”
The problem here is that, while the church might be a structure (one God gave us, by the way…one God knows we wild kids need) it’s ultimately an organism. And yet the organism seems to almost enjoy all the politicking, the cannibalizing itself for a million sideshow reasons. We so love to take stances on issues. What if we all instead humbled ourselves and maybe sought God’s heart, opened his bestselling book? Maybe that is a better starting point than digging in the heels?
I think CS Lewis talks about this idea in Screwtape …when the the “patient” starts revelling in what embarrassing and sloppy company he finds in his pewmates…and starts feeling smug by compare. That pride gives the devil such a perfect toehold, huh?
And didn’t the early church just mushroom because of its absurd and contagious love?
Again: thank you, thank you, thank you. Love love love this post.
Thanks, Becky! Appreciate your insights.
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Really good post, Karen. I agree, agree, agree. Enough with the church bashing. Undoubtedly you’ve heard about the person who was looking for the perfect church to join. Unfortunately, as soon as he joined it, it was no longer perfect.
But I have this to add to what you said to the church-hater. Their response to you ended with, “Jesus condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees. How is what I said any different?” Christians are not Pharisees and Sadducees.
Those religious Jewish sects rejected Jesus as Messiah. They were religious, but they were not coming to God on the basis of grace through faith. Christians, however, if they are the genuine article and not some pretend copy (or wolves in sheep’s clothing), understand that we are saved by what Christ did for us, not what we try to do for ourselves.
There is an insurmountable gulf between Pharisees and Christians, and it’s time we stop accepting a false idea: the Pharisees are religious, Christians are religious; so they’re the same. We might as well say Hindus are religious, Christians are religious; they’re all the same. This is actually the narrative of atheists and progressives—professing Christians who don’t believe the Bible is truly God’s word.
Becky, a good clarification for those who forget that being “religious” and being a follower of Christ are very different things.
Thanks, Karen, for a wonderful reminder that it’s all about grace. God’s grace is why I can call myself a Christian. And that is the same for all of these people mentioned in your post. We are His by grace. With that as a reminder, we should live our lives fully surrendered to Christ living in us. Only when we do that are we able to love those who make up the church. What an awesome witness it would be to the world for the church to show this wonderful love to one another. I am blessed to be a part of a church where there is a lot if growth going on among the members. I pray it would be the same for all of Christ’s followers. Loved this post. Blessings.
“What an awesome witness it would be to the world for the church to show this wonderful love to one another.”
Amen! Remember that praise song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”? May we live in such a way that it’s true.
Laura Lea Smith
I enjoyed reading this post because you hit the nail on the head about how we are the church. And as the church we all should understand that all people are traveling on their own life path and we are all equal in the eyes of God, our angels, and the universe. Hence, we are not to judge but as writers we are to be beacons of love, peace, and healing through our words and actions.
Wonderful post, Karen. God has been pointing me to His grace and holiness everywhere I turn of late. I just finished reviewing Michael Powell’s Moments in Malachi where he states, “The fire of God is fair, but we need not point that out to those suffering in its flames, We need not point at all, but rather embrace. Powerful theology can be invisible theology supporting involved ministry.” The Word says, “Weep with those who weep.” Christ did and what an example of grace and mercy He was. Thank you for your charge.
You’re welcome, Tammy.
Janet Ann Collins
I have relatives who left the church because of church politics and have since grown away from Christianity. But they’d never decide not to set foot in an office again because of office politics. Why do people expect us to be perfect? I’m certainly not.
I think it’s because we follow a perfect Lord. And because we call ourselves by His name, that creates an expectation that we will reflect Him in our words and actions. Which, of course, is our goal as believers. If only that darned humanity didn’t get in the way…
An excellent sermon!
I’m a bookstore owner and have grown weary of writers who whine about their church experience. Some of them have a legitimate complaint, but most are being childish. I recently read one author who droned on and on about his conservative evangelical upbringing. There are worst things in the world than being raised in a church which takes its faith seriously and passionately – even if you find the need to outgrow that particular sub-culture later in life.
Thank you for sharing and may God’s peace and grace be with you in 2016 as you fulfill your unique role in the Kingdom of Jesus.
Thanks, D. I’m learning that when I feel someone is being childish in some situation or struggle, I need to back away and turn my focus again to God and His grace. I spent a lot of years being far to quick to label others as childish or worse, but lately God has been confronting me about it, reminding me I’m as guilty of lacking grace and love as the people who “hate” the church. It’s like I’ve been saying, we’re all broken. The key is letting go of my perceived “right” to label others and keeping my focus on Christ. And on how well I reflect Him.
Heather Day Gilbert
I wrote a longer reply and deleted it!
I agree that we are all hypocrites in some way or another. Christians are not perfect because it’s not a perfect world.
Just read TI Lowe’s post on Christian readers who ream out Christian authors for situations/things they don’t deem acceptable. I know many Christian authors reading this would agree that some of our harshest reviews often come from Christian readers. And yet conversely, some of our most encouraging readers are Christians, too. Often I think that many stories from the Bible would offend some of today’s Christians–because they haven’t really read them. God doesn’t shy away from the tough issues–the Bible gives examples of them for us to learn from. Not that I’m saying we should revel in the nitty-gritty details, but we should acknowledge these situations exist, because I would say many of the families sitting in the pews are dealing with silent sins and want to know they are not alone. Sometimes, fiction can touch people where other things do not.
All this to say, great post, Karen.
Thanks, Heather. Good thoughts.
Uhmmm – you sounded angry… oops I was looking at you – sorry – turning back to Him now.
Beverly, did you mean I sounded angry? If so, I’m sorry! I wasn’t angry when I wrote this.Rather, I was processing something that’s been troubling me. But your words are a good reminder that words on a page–paper or digital–can be misinterpreted if we’re not careful how we craft them. So thanks for the admonition.
I do hope I’m not breaking rules by posting twice, but anyone reading a majority of the comments could consider them as being written by apologists for the imperfections we have confessed to having. If we have admitting to being imperfect, then why are we chastising those who point to those imperfections. As I stated earlier, our focus should be not on accepting that we are imperfect, or scold those who are turned off by our faults. In my opinion, a better way is to confess our faults to one another, do all we can to grow more like Christ, and then point the “haters” to the only Perfect One.
They will see a change in us and “hate” less on the way to becoming a true believer.
Lillian, no rules being broken here. 🙂
And I’m with you all the way. Grow more like Christ. Point to the only Perfect One.
Definitely the right response.
Karen, my extroverted, book-loving, grace-serving blogger friend,
PK Mick here. I appreciated this perspective and I’ve been hearing the same thing a lot this year on blogs and from friends inside and outside the church. And I have to say it is tiring. But I can’t blame them for it. There are a lot of legitimate things Christians need to start owning and accepting about the way they treat people, especially outsiders. I fear this post might perpetuate some of those attitudes.
It seems to me many people who say they “hate the church” have personal reasons for feeling that way. I find there are many who feel they’ve been hurt by people in the church. It may seem petty and childish to us, but I’m saddened that the wounds may remain unhealed, unredeemed until those grievances are acknowledged and validated by someone who can be Jesus to these wounded, self-identified outcasts.
I don’t know why God doesn’t always see fit to heal people of their church wounds directly himself–it’d be much easier for everyone. But maybe he’s waiting for us to really listen and look beneath the presenting offense and ask “Will you share your story with me?” so they can express why they feel unloved by “the church,” and hopefully stop feeling that way. I feel that’d be likely to go further in sharing the grace I know you desire to serve.
Thanks for the post and for knowing my heart.
Your friend and brother always…
Mick, I love hearing your thoughts and heart. What you wrote here is true grace in action: “Will you share your story with me?” Seems to me if both those who love the church body and those wounded by it asked this question, and if they really listened and cared, we’d be awash in God’s grace and reconciliation.
I believe there are real, valid reasons for some to say they “hate” the church. And I agree we need to be Jesus to them.
What troubles me, though, and what prompted this blog, is the broad and bitter brush used by an increasing number of angry people to paint Christians and the church as harmful or toxic. while some may be that, as many or more aren’t.
I’m not advocating denying there are problems and failure and brokenness and sin. What I’m saying is we all are offended and offenders, sinners and sinned against. And, regardless of any of that, we are all called to walk–and write–in grace.
Maybe if we could stop trying to defend God, Jesus, the church, Christians, Christianity, the Bible, (Christian fiction?,) etc. we could hear the heart a little better, instead of reacting with 1) “Who do you think you are?,” (“You’re not Jesus.”) 2) “You have no point,” (“Umm…your point is?”) 3) “You’re just as bad as us” (“pot calling the kettle…”).
I don’t mean to pick on you here. Many things offend me and I have to restrain a lot for others’ sake. But this response you’re advocating sounds like the equivalent of shouting louder and using shame (“Are you kidding me?”) to silence any legitimate betrayal, abuse and ungodliness former Christians experienced by former brothers and sisters, i.e. the church.
Which only fuels the church-haters’ ire, as you said.
Believe me, I’d love to let this go and preserve our friendship. You’ve honored me several times and we’re bound together in this work of having an impact for the kingdom. I ache for your personal struggles and know you’ve suffered incredibly for people–you’re a giver and a deeply compassionate friend. You reach out to people when you don’t have to, just to make them feel welcome, and I’ve been the beneficiary of your kindness through many years.
Maybe a comment here isn’t the best way to say all this. But I sense a scary division happening among Christians who won’t be moved for the supposed “sake of the gospel,” and those who find themselves uncomfortably silenced. Somehow we’ve got to reconcile this widening gap. And I believe our only hope is to forgive the offense and lay down our strong stances, and embrace the bitter, angry, lost look in their eyes and say, “You didn’t deserve that and you are exactly who Jesus has been looking for. Thank you for your bravery and honesty. I want to know what you’ve suffered.”
Eugene Petersen once said whenever he encounters someone who says he hates God, he’ll wait for them to finish and then ask, “Tell me about this God you hate, I probably hate him too.” We all needed that kind of love at some point that could cross the widest divide to help us identify with and embrace the one who was willing to embrace us.
Thank you for a great post. I’ve found when I’m judging “the church”, it’s usually because I’m the one who needs some soul changing work done.
This post is going on the wall by my desk to remind me why I struggle to learn this craft, why I want to be a writer, and who I write for. Most days, I manage to remember that it’s not about me! Most days! But for the days when I struggle with writing and I struggle to get out of my own head, this will be one of the reminders I turn to.
Mick, no worries about preserving our friendship. This is iron sharpening iron, not an argument. And this is the kind of dialogue I believe we as writers and servants of the suffering Christ need to have. Otherwise, how can we write books that truly minister to anyone. If we, as followers of the God of truth, can’t look past offense and hurts and find common ground, we’re lost.
I think you know me well enough to understand I don’t support people hurting others under the guise of Christianity. But neither do I support an attitude of anger and arrogance toward Christians because you’ve been hurt. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are sinning. BOTH sides need to move. To change. To seek reconciliation.
Being a Christian or part of a church is no excuse for being mean spirited, judgmental, or arrogant. Nor is being hurt by Christians or the church.
I’m sorry that my reactions to the person at my church bothered you. In that particular situation, with that particular person, I’d had enough. Because there was no willingness to share or grow. Only the desire to vent.
My intent is never to shout louder or shame anyone or silence legitimate wounds. I admit, though, as someone who deeply loves the church and her people, I’ve grown weary of trying to get through the hardened attitudes–to do as you’ve said and listen, to seek peace and reconciliation–only to be met with more anger. With the attitude that the edict has come down: the church is toxic. End of discussion. I’ve experienced this in person. I’ve encountered it in proposals. And it concerns me, this growing ideology that if I’ve been hurt, I then have the right to cast stones and devalue others.
You’re right, brother, there is a division. But it isn’t being caused by one side over the other. (Shoot, the very fact that there are SIDES in this is wrong!) I agree with what you wrote about reconciling. Can you agree that there’s work to be done by the wounded as well? That those of us in the church, who love the church, need to do as you said. And that those who’ve been wounded need to embrace the church and her people and say, “I’m sorry for my anger and disrespect, and you are exactly who Jesus has been looking for. Thank you for your bravery and suffering in laying the foundation of our faith and freedom. I want to know what you’ve suffered.”
Until both sides are willing to move, to make changes, to see Christ in their brothers and sisters and treat them with grace and love the divide will grow. And the only one who benefits from that is the enemy of our souls.
Great insights, Karen. Thank you for sharing. May we all look into our own hearts, look to Jesus for insight and understanding, then look to others with compassion.
I would like to make a short comment on the issue that seems to be, all Christians are hypocrites.
Teaching Child Development for a couple years focused my thoughts and words to Spiritual Child Development as the issue.
Grow, as you a couple times mention Karen, is the Key.
That is all in the definition and framework issue in my opinion and perspective.
We soulfully, heartfully choose to change, be adopted into spiritual life in Christ Jesus.
We come alive spiritually, born as a baby Christian.
We get milk of the basics.
We get to Kindergarten and learn some of the word code.
And progress through grade school, Jr. High, High School, and on to Spiritual College and then out into the real world of business and home living with weekly reminders and updates of Church and Sunday School.
All along the way we get experience in being in the Jesus Christ spiritual family, the King’s kingdom: learning and doing the rights and responsibilities.
All along the way we make choices to keep growing in Christ Jesus, choose to accept focused help of the Holy Spirit, choose to humble ourselves to be crucified with Christ and stay on our cross, choose….choose.
We go from gestation, birth, growing to mature; with final growth at death’s perfection with Father G -d and His Son in Heaven.
Much of the growing comes from progressive growing in the now access of personal relationship with the Father through His Son Jesus. Key: personal relationship.
So we need to say, Some people need to grow up spiritually. What you see is an immature Christian. Hypocrite is a purposeful choice to deceive. It is not an immature acting Christian.
Great lead-in to explaining the Gospel of Peace, the Good News. This has worked as a witnessing tool.
So my view of action needed is to address the G-d – me personal relationship, developmental maturity growing up phases in spiritual living.
This is my nitch. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How can we spiritually grow up?
My workbooks provide a process to do firm-grip attaching to G-d wider, longer, higher and deeper into his love.
This post encourages me to take my project to the next step as I try to figure out what to do. Reading this was painful as a vivid description of the problem that I can help with. I’ve struggled with feeling unqualified and it slows me down. But reading these painful views that even I have heard, felt, and struggled with at a couple points in life makes me want to help with what I’ve learned.
Checking what I wrote I smile at my, “short comment.”
For me this is short.
Part 2 of understanding why people say……
There are over 25 key character traits and attitudes to pursue in our Biblical Christian maturing and many youthful evils and things of the world to flee.
Each facet of maturing has a percentage of growth happening. Low in a couple. Middle is a lot. High or doing great is few. Perfect is not for earth.
So a lot of balls in the air in different positions of up and up. With more to join in the going higher.
Then there is the need for refreshers, redoes and recovery from relapsing, mistakes, and slip ups.
So the spiritual child development percentage rating can change back and forth on the way to maturity.
Most people relapse 5 to 7 times at least on the way.
I would think there is also a percentage of leaving, fleeing and rejecting evil desires of youth and the world.
So by knowing that saved is a position and authority in Christ Jesus that is unchangeable in righteousness we forgive ourselves and others on our way through days of our lives on earth: we encourage each other kindly.
So addressing the issue of “hypocrite,” and “hating church people,” because…. needs some understanding of spiritual developmental process.
Part 3 plus is considerations to the conversation.
Really enjoyed this post. I sit from outside the church (as a non-theist) looking in, and I see so much good that the church can do in any number of arenas blemished by hatred and greed that goes in God’s name, but has nothing to do with God and everything to do with those who trumpet His service while doing nothing Godlike or Christlike in that service.
I enjoy the PK’s perspective(s) and the conversation via comments.
I would be surprised if anyone answers me. I lost my husband almost 20 years ago. I was widowed young. I went to 10 churches and because I was poor they ALL slammed the door in my face! My Mother who meant the world to mea died on Labor day 3 weeks ago and I went(I don’t know why,) to a Jehovah’s Witness church, and a so-called, “Church of God,” and surprise! They were as frigid as the rest of them. I always thought that god was interested in your heart, not in your band=k account. I live in the worst area of the country, New England!!! From now, I’m between atheist and not sure. Churches should be burned to the ground!!!
Janet Ann Collins
Terry, I’m so sorry about your experience. Those churches must have forgotten what Jesus taught. Or maybe your poverty wasn’t the reason, but they thought you were only there to solicit?
You might try reading the New Testament, especially the four Gospels, to see what Christians are supposed to be like. And don’t judge Christ by Christians. He’s the only one who is perfect.
Wrong!!!! They told me that the church was for only families, married and the lowest person they want there is middle-class. I’m used to people telling me I don’t fit in. I’m not sure if the Gospel of Luke or Mark says that the churches’ purpose was to care for widows and orphans, (Now I’m both,) they are only interested in helping themselves! I may not be an expert on the Gospel, but I do remember a passage that say, “What so ever you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me.” Whatever happened to Christian Charity!? Read the four Gospels???? What for???? Some people who quote the Bible has a lot lass Bible in their heart than those that don’t. Whatever happened to living the Bible instead of just reading it??? I’m not stupid. Yes I realize Christ is the only perfect one, but isn’t a church supposed to represent the teachings of Christ. If it is so, I’m better of being an atheist! Churches should be leveled to the ground!!!!! Jesus taught a lot outside. He had the right idea! You might want to listen to Johnny Paycheck’s “An Outlaw’s Prayer” where he was turned away. Or “Nobody Wants To Play Rythem Guitar Behind Jesus, Everybody Wants to Be Lead Singer in the Band.” Thank you for your reply.
I’m in a similar boat. Pew Research had an article called “No Money, No Honey, No Church.” It’s exactly the same in Indiana, only they usually don’t say it outright.
They want nice yuppie families with Gerber kids, perfect hair, name brand clothes, mommy blogger mom, and CEO dad (or doctor or lawyer.) Long as you have plenty of what counts to plunk in the offering plate they’ll fawn all over you.
My solution? Find acceptance by being a fake. The real me stinks anyhow. Develop a new persona that church folks will admire. Buy or make cheap knock offs of expensive name brand clothing. Modify your talk and flash large amounts of money (your monthly income, but pass it off as chump change.)
Oddly even if you don’t tithe $1,000 a month of your fictional income they’ll joke about what a tightwad you are and still kiss up. If they think you have $10,000 a month and only give $80, that’s okay. They would much rather have you than a poor widow living on $800 a month who gives the same amount.
Talk about your Christian fiance who lives in another state, or a dead fiance or spouse. Never tell them you’re a virgin either. They hate virgins at church more than pagans do. A mark of God’s disfavor and proof you don’t love Him because “Delight yourself in the law of the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart….” Obviously you’re an idolator and aren’t delighting in Him like the Perfect Yuppie Family Units.
So you’ll be the perfect yuppie family every church will court if you can earn God’s favor. He’ll give you His signs of Election, a nuclear family like Real Christians always have and lots of $$$$$$. They are super saints with their acts together. You have failed.
If you’re lucky you can sit in a back pew, and slip out before the final corner so the smug, catty matrons won’t tear you down. Peninah rules!
Janet Ann Collins
Sorry you had such bad experiences.
Thank you, but this is how things are if you live in Central Mass.
What if EVERYONE in church hates your guts and wishes you would leave forever? They do nothing but tell you you have failed God in every way possible and mock you–except on good days when they pretend you don’t exist?
I guess I’m a sorry excuse for a Christian and God hates me too. He rewards everyone who tears me down by heaping blessings on their heads and shaming me mercilessly.
It will never end. Not sure what horrible sin I have committed either.
Every Sunday I leave church struggling not to weep uncontrollably or vomit.
I can’t be a decent Christian. I give up. I’m NOT one of His.
Janet Ann Collins
You’re probably not in a good church. Try finding one where people practice what they preach. If the church is filled with hate instead of love it’s not a good church.
“God’s Junk” …So sorry for whatever you may be going through. Being a Christian today CAN be a challenge, since many have moved away from New Testament Christianity. A very well-known progressive TV commentator has said: ” I have no problem with Christ, it’s His followers that I don’t like.” Fortunately, we can still say to him as Pontius Pilate said to the priests and the people centuries ago: “I find no fault in this man.”
I sincerely pray that you will stop soaking in the actions and opinions of others and pay close attention to what Jesus has done for you and what God has said about you.
The church is made up of broken, selfish people who are nearly blind apart from Christ. I am one of them. We don’t always get it right. I rarely get it right, but I love Jesus and have asked Him repeatedly through the years to teach me to love what He loves. His response was to break me wide open. I fell to drug addiction after more than two decades of walking closely with Him, and He taught me to love people in bondage to addiction. He let my past surface so I could first find healing in Him, and then so I could have compassion and grace for the women who are victims of sex trafficking. He let me die a million little deaths so I would know that every breath I draw is in Him. In the process, He has shown me (and put to death) the self-righteousness that lived in me, the hypocrisy that reigned in me. He removed me from the church and humbled me so that I could see in myself the greatest of sinners and so I could see people as He sees them: broken and hurting. This is why I write. Not to give a list of “do this to be a good Christian” or “this will make you happy,” but to say, “here is the hope for your heart. His name is Jesus. He is not the people who have failed you or hurt you or dismissed you. He is with you and He is for you. And He loves you. He is the Hope I need. He is the Hope you need.” This life is hard and unfair, full of pain and suffering. May Jesus make me like Him. May He use me to bring the balm of His Word of Truth, His love and grace to the hurting and the broken, to the hypocrite and to the agnostic, to the self-righteous and the self-loathing.
Janet Ann Collins
Several thousand American churches shut down permanently every year. All too many Christians refuse to exercise discipline in their churches. They refuse to address the problems that are driving people away. Instead, they point the finger at the people ware complaining as if they were the ones who are in the wrong. I would refer you to what Paul wrote about this matter in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 NIV:
“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.”
From this passage it is clear that the troublemakers should be driven out, not the people who are fed up with their antics. Why is this so hard for some of you to understand?
The church is a difficult place for me because I’ve been in it my whole life. Even my parents thought I would learn everything from church so they didn’t teach me much. From my experience it has been miserable and I’m not talking about hypocrisy and sinners. I’m talking about the one thing Christians do get mad about is the church lacks unity. We lack understanding our brothers and sisters like you did in this passage. I have 1 friend at church and I’ve been going my whole life. How is that even possible? And the reason it is superficial and no one really knows each other. We lose touch, neglect to meet, fail to understand each other, and make excuses. When we do get together we talk about surface things and look a lot like the world water cooler talk yet with no substance. So thank you for noticing people but not everyone is like you. I pray we can have a church that notices people and maybe even want to be a part of their lives like Jesus is to his people.