12 Good Come-Backs to ‘You Hypocrite!’

It’s the critique that church people hate to hear. The hypocrite thing.

It’s everywhere. Research shows that 85 percent of the public views churchgoers as hypocritical. Church people bristle at the accusation. “Of course we’re hypocrites,” one said. “Everybody–not just Christians–is a hypocrite. Eventually we all say one thing and do another.”

But that’s not really what the public is saying about the church. They’re reacting to something deeper and more disturbing. They’re reacting to a lack of humility. They smell a foul odor of false superiority. They smell it when we give pat answers to complex issues. They smell it when we elevate the preacher or teacher onto a pedestal of omniscience. They smell it when we talk ten times more than we listen.

This hypocrite thing is one of the major findings in our new book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. To overcome this negative public perception–and three others–we suggest “four acts of love that will make your church irresistible.” To counteract the hypocrite thing, we advocate Genuine Humility.

This is the kind of humility Jesus talked about: “The last shall be first.” Genuine Humility resists drawing attention to itself. It is not masked with false humility (“I’m so humbled to see our church on the Top 100 list”).

Genuine Humility says, “We’re all in this together.” We’re all struggling along the journey of life. We all stumble. We all have questions, and doubts, and wonderings about the mind of God. None of us is more God-graduated than the next. We are all children of God–rather than officers with escalating ranks.


So, what might we pursue to become the kind of humble church Jesus desires? Let me suggest a few simple ways to show Genuine Humility.

1. Spend a lot more time listening to real people.
2. Show an eagerness to learn–from people in other walks of life, of other ages, with other beliefs.
3. Go on a fast from reading or listening to celebrity ministers.
4. Admit you don’t have all the answers. Acknowledge the mysteries of God.
5. Resist the temptation to overlord your people with doctrinal complexity and academic elitism.
6. Open the floor for your people’s thoughts, questions, discussions and doubts–along with your own.
7. Dedicate more time for your people to publicly share how they’ve seen God act in their lives.
8. Let other, less eloquent, people pray in services and before meals.
9. Admit your mistakes and shortcomings. Say, “I’m sorry.”
9. Get off the pedestal. Reduce your platitude tweets. Ask people to call you by your first name. Be a real person.
11. Take down the “Reserved for Pastor” sign.
12. Don’t publish a picture of yourself with a microphone–the equivalent of a dentist posing with a drill.

Hypocrisy wafts from our insecurity. We so desperately want people to notice us, respect us, like us, and admire us. But we must remind ourselves that we are already esteemed and valued by the biggest and most important audience of all–the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Genuine Humility is a rare commodity today. But when people detect it, they find it irresistible.

14 Responses to “12 Good Come-Backs to ‘You Hypocrite!’”

  1. Great post! You said so many things that are simple
    things to change. These things will make a big difference! I am looking forward to attending your class at KidMin to hear more!

  2. Thom, I know your selling you book…however, you are communicating absolutely great stuff! I’ll buy the book too.

  3. I know what you are saying and I agree with it to a certain point but I also challenge people when they say this because what they are saying about pastors and the church, people do t celebrities and sport figures. It also goes with wanting another to be true but allowing themselves a lot of place to fail or wanting commitment from others but allowing themselves outs if something better comes along. It is also another way of feeling superior over someone else by saying that church people are feel they are superior.

    I also get the feeling and have the experience to say that most of these are pat answers to questions to cover the fact that they really haven’t done much real investigation whether this is true or not. There has always been churches and congregation that fix their stated desires and need, it just takes time to find it. But are they willing to take the effort?

    I know we have to do all of this that you’re stating about we have to also realize we can’t just accept all of these complains at face value, we have to challenge them also. Because until the mask comes down, the person behind the mask will stay the same.

  4. I’m a recovering hypocrite. I’d say I’m “struggling” with hypocrisy were it not so obvious that so much of my hypocrisy is intentional. When you’re dealing with an issue actively for an hour–that’s a struggle. When you’re still dealing with it after 20 years…well, that sort of looks like a compromise that’s morphed into a position.

    That said, no matter who you are–when you’re standing next to Jesus talking about being his follower –you look pretty limp by comparison. Both in the pulpit and the pew, we fail to live up to the holiness of our calling. God knows it, people on the street know it, our families and friends know it, in our own hearts we know it. But we’re the last to admit it.

    Admitting we’re often moral failures doesn’t negate our place in the Kingdom. After all, admitting it was part of what ushered us into the Kingdom in the first place.

    So I’ll admit it: I’m a hypocrite. You’re a hypocrite. We’re all–in some way–hypocrites.

    Now what?

  5. At the Leadership Summit a few years ago, John Dickson, gave his definition of humility, “Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status and use your influence for the good of others. It is to hold your power in service of others.” His book is Humilitas. It is not the whole answer to hypocrisy but I find the definition a helpful reminder and guide.

  6. As a paid CCE, I always act as humbly as possible…I think sometimes to a fault! I am always making sure that I take my turn “in the trenches”. I am the first one to apologize – sometimes for someone else’s short comings. Walk humbly, act like Jesus, and by all means love your church family – unconditionally! Thank you for the article(s)! Always take something w/ me!

  7. “Let other, less eloquent, people pray in services and before meals.”

    Good in theory but lots of time I get the reply that they don’t want to or they’re nervous or dislike speaking in front of groups.

    “Ask people to call you by your first name”

    This is exceptionally cultural.

    “Take down the “Reserved for Pastor” sign”

    if you have a busy church and multiple appointments before you get there, you want to make sure you actually have a parking space when you arrive. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s practicality.

    The rest are definitely great suggestions in my book! Thx for the article.

  8. The Rev. Fay Willsie Reply September 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Well said and so true!

  9. Comments from Facebook about “Reserved for Pastor” signs:

    “Frankly, if you put one there it should be the FURTHEST spot from the door!”

    “It depends on the context. In some circles, it’s all but expected that the “man and woman of God” would have the closest spots. I also know of a pastor that used to park way out in left field of the parking lot, but was a dogmatic leader. So, either way, it can be for show. It depends on the person’s heart, but personally, I would opt for no special parking.”

    “Elitist…sends the wrong message to the people.”

    “I never had a problem with showing appreciation for the Pastor.”

    “My church has a Pastor Parking Only sign for me! (It’s stored in the basement. True story—also telling.)”

  10. The reason there are so many hypocrites in the chuches is because they are not regenerate. They have walked an aisle and never become born again. This is the primary issue of our day. Pragmatic church principles.

  11. Cheryl Lynn Vallette Reply September 27, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for this Thom, I found it very interesting, challenging and thought provoking!! I like most people need more real humility. For awhile I was puttng Celebrity pastors on a pedestal., the only one I should look up to is our Lord Jesus.I have felt a false sense of superiority with myself and others esp with the way others are dealt with, different kinds of issues and problems. One of the reasons I love the Lifetree cafes is they deal with all kinds of issues, people and problems. Thank you!!!
    Cheryl L. VAllette

  12. The best come back to being called a hypocrite, is not being a hypocrite in the first place.

    And the ‘Reserved for Pastor’ sign might confuse someone whose spelling isn’t so good that only Italian food is eaten here!!!

  13. If there is a problem with finding a parking space, build a bigger parking lot or start a new church or park across the street. If there are no parking spaces, it means someone is doing the Lord’s work.

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