The issue of hypocrisy is a major issue I am dealing with right now in my church as our church every year would attend discipleship conferences at Willow Creek. The conferences were helpful and productive but are now under attack from members who never attended but have heard the allegations about the senior pastor of this church and are stating how all churches are full of "corrupt ministers". The idea that we all have a worldview whether we realize it or not certainly fits this category as I have met many people who are not making an existentially consistent worldview argument consciously but unconsciously are "undercover detectives of the "see and gotcha" police. Upon review, I am not pleased with how i dealt with these objections. Too many times, I was defensive concerning the allegations instead of being offensive with the information that could change the perspective of the doubter. Instead of defending, I was deflecting. The chapter reading and lectures have given me new ways to deal with issue. First of all, we are all works in progress. Instead of denying the existence of hypocrites in the church, my response should be, "where else should they be"? No one leaves a gym if they see an overweight person there, where else should they be? The gym is meant to help their condition. No one gets upset going to a hospital and states they will never step foot in it again because there are too many sick people, again, where else should they be? Everyone is not perfect and people will make mistakes but God is able to forgive, cleanse and restore. Also, we can not always assume that everyone who is in the church has the church in them. The parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30 suggest this possibility. I am not skilled enough to know who is who, only the skilled reapers know the difference between the wheat and the tares. Our charge is to "to let them grow together until the harvest". God will deal with it because he is the only one qualified to do so. This suggests that since Jesus is the only that can distinguish between the right and wrong, he is our example. Instead of looking at the failings of men, we should be pointing people to the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ. Josh McDowell posited, "Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was not a hypocrite. He lived consistently what He taught. Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done in the name of Christianity." Jesus never condemned Thomas for doubting what the other disciples said about him being alive. In fact, he invited Thomas to come closer, to inspect and touch, see for yourself. This should be my response to people who have doubts about the church. Come closer and see Jesus for yourself. I should look at the doubts that some people have about the church as evangelistic opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Ray E. Owens is pastor of Macedonia Church in South Bend, IN. Learn more about him on his blog or the church website.