By Robert Harrell
Over the years I have conversed with many different people who have explained to me that they used to go to church, and due to disappointing circumstances at that time, they no longer attend anywhere. Many were let down by what they perceived to be hypocrisy among the church members and in the leadership, and so on. Can you say that you sympathize with these disheartened ones? Have you made such grandiose remarks like, “They’re all a bunch of hypocrites”? It just may be that you have been seriously wronged by one claiming to be a Christian. If that did happen as you say, I say to you that I am sorry. Christians should act like Christians. Pastors should be godly men who live upright lives, but we all certainly have our faults, and some of these failings are major ones.
The Apostle Peter in the twenty-first chapter of John’s Gospel, after he is reinstated to loving fellowship with Jesus, asked about the beloved Apostle, John. He said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” ‘Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” It was as if to say, “Peter, what that man does or does not do has no real bearing on you. If he remains here indefinitely or leaves tomorrow, it should carry no weight with you. You are only responsible for yourself! Now get to that!”
An adult has to stand on his or her own two feet. You must may your own decision about God for yourself. The Bible says, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” When you come before the final bar of God’s judgment, you will only give an account of yourself to God and of no other man. It is appointed for each person to die once, and after that, you will stand at the railing of the Almighty. Those who have rejected His Son will shake with fearful expectation, others who have committed their lives to Christ, will stand with confidence, because “perfect love casts out fear”.
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Yes there are hypocrites and pretenders in the church. There are weeds among the wheat, and there always have been. There were firebrands in the camp of Moses, false prophets in the days of the prophets, Pharisees among the throngs which followed the Lord Jesus, trouble-makers in the primitive church and all throughout the church ages. Also, I might remind you that some of the ones most wounded in church circles are those in Christian service! I have had over the years several friends in colleagues in pastoral work, and none of them have come through unscathed. They can say with the Apostle Paul it has been, “…through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise”.
Someone said, “It takes a small person to hide behind a hypocrite”, and I suppose there is truth in that witticism. I might add, “It takes an even smaller person to be a hypocrite.” And what is a hypocrite? A play-actor who wears a mask. You must not be one as well. You must be real. You must take responsibility for your own decisions and beliefs. If you call yourself a Christian, then be counted among the Christian community. Pray and ask God to take your eyes off people like “Alexander the Coppersmith” who did Paul great harm (2 Timothy 4:14). Ask God to take your eyes off of others in the pulpit and in the pews. Reach out to Jesus standing on the water, if you are sinking and nearly perished, and cry out like Peter did after he stared at the boisterous wind taking his eyes off his Lord, “Lord, save me.” Friend, He will!
Rob Harrell is originally from the Detroit area, and he has living in the Blue Water area for 20 years. He is 61 years old and has three grown children and 6 grandchildren, all of them living in Michigan. He has served as a pastor in Michigan, Connecticut and Virginia, and currently leads a home church, Oakwood Fellowship in Port Huron. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in Psychology, from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is a resident of Fort Gratiot, and enjoys golf, reading, travel.
Oakwood Fellowship meets at 10:30 am Sunday mornings. For more information contact Robert at (810) 385-6877.
Great article. Thank you for your thoughts and insights.
In doing research on my series I’ve been posting with BWHL on the “Marxist Beliefs of the Liberal Left,” the standard narrative of American religious decline should go something like this: “A few hundred years ago, European and American intellectuals began doubting the validity of God as an explanatory mechanism for natural life. As science became a more widely accepted method for investigating and understanding the physical world, religion became a less viable way of thinking—not just about medicine and mechanics, but also culture and politics and economics and every other sphere of public life. As the United States became more secular, people slowly began drifting away from faith.”
Of course, the above tale is arguably inaccurate, in that it seems to capture neither the reasons nor the reality behind contemporary American belief, including why some people are attending church than previous generations. For one thing, the U.S. (84%) is still overwhelmingly religious, despite years of predictions about religion’s demise. A significant number of people (88%) who don’t identify with any particular faith group still say they believe in God. Moreover, roughly 40% pray daily or weekly. While there have been changes in this kind of private belief and practice, the most significant shift has been in the way people publicly practice their faith: Americans, and particularly young Americans, are less likely to attend services or identify with a religious group than they have at any time in recent memory. But why?
The PEW Research Firm conducted a comprehensive survey that sheds light on this question, and includes good data behind this shift in public religious practice, and what does the shift look like in detail? PEW’s survey results details the way people choose their congregations and reasons why they attend services, or not. While Americans on the whole are still going to church and other worship services less than they used to, many people (24%) are actually going more—and those who are skipping out aren’t necessarily doing it for reasons of belief.
For insights into several key questions on America’s changing religious practices, click on the attached (below) link. The PEW data will provide great insights to the answers you seek.