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.