Two days ago I blogged about the subject of hypocrisy in those of us who are viewed as Christian leaders. It’s not a popular subject – when Jesus took it on, it helped get him killed. But hey, what are blogs for? So consider this something of an open letter to my peers in the American religious establishment. The rest of you who are laity, please pray for us. We often feel trapped by the systems we’re in and the unrealistic expectations that others have of us. We often struggle greatly and have few places to go with our struggles.
So, I just returned from spending a month in southern Africa. Let’s use the church there as a basis of comparison with those of us who are Christian leaders in America.
- We collect a paycheck, whereas they often don’t.
- We are more interested in getting people through our doors, whereas their top priority is to disciple people for possible martyrdom.
- We send our religious professionals to seminary to become more certain about their theology, whereas they are more humble in what they don’t know.
- Our prayer lives are often anemic, whereas they pray for hours.
- Add to these issues our compromised lifestyles that make us seem like functional agnostics to them.
To sum up, there’s a good chance we religious professionals look more like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day than we realize. As Paul Loeffler commented yesterday, “Ouch!”
What makes this particularly sad is that, like the Pharisees, we may be the last to see ourselves for who we are. One of the main reasons pagans stay away from the church is that, “it’s full of hypocrites.” If you doubt this, go ask a few of them. The bottom line is that we reproduce who we are.
But let’s try to be constructive here and address the question of “What is to be done about it?” As I look at Jesus’ curriculum for his disciples, I see four lessons that they don’t teach you in seminary. Jesus’ curriculum challenges our notion of religious education:
- Learn abandon by leaving your familiar environment.
- Learn ministry by immersion in a new environment requiring continuous ministry.
- Learn dependence on God by ministering without “props.”
- Learn community by living with a group of friends for several years.
Perhaps those of us in the religious establishment might object to this assessment. We’d defend our lifestyles and methodologies. We might even take personal offense, just as the Pharisees did.
Who are today’s Pharisees? Maybe you. Maybe me. Those of us who are “religious professionals” may need remedial help. If you’ve looked in the mirror and decided that changing your hair color isn’t going to fix this problem, let me gently suggest that a dose of humility may be in order. Let me further suggest a book to kick-off your attempts at a makeover: 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me) by John Fischer.
I’m totally SPEECHLESS… I need a recess for a reassessment. Can’t stop saying THANX seth…
In addition, I fear our attempts at a different approach may result in our own methodologies that we become proponents of. Especially us leaders.
Even how the post ends with “Jesus’ curriculum” . That is pretty objective but still pulled out to be applied to us.
Same with Southern Africa, I fear I may want to take on their methodology as if they have “arrived”.
The self-critique brought about by Seth in this post is what keeps us alive. It has throughout Christian (and Jewish) history.
Of course, letting the Holy Spirit rock us and finding some objective fruit regardless of methodology will show whether we have taken the lesson of self-critique wrought by believers better than ourselves.
Subscribe to Radical Living:
Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.