A trend that deeply saddens me is the increase in the numbers of those who abandon the church because of the hypocrites, sinners, and creeps they’ve encountered there. To be clear, most church-going people aren’t hypocritical jerks, but as the old saying goes, a bad apple spoils the bunch. Many have a bad taste in their mouth because of the wickedness of a very few.
There are two things that I wish those who have left our number because of the bad apples could hear.
First, I wish they could hear me apologize.
I am sorry that they have been hurt or disillusioned. It isn’t right. The church, though never perfect, is called to be a light in a dark world and a refuge from evil, not a home to it. We simply must do better.
Secondly, I wish they could hear this question: what happens to the church when you leave it because of the sinfulness of a few?
I doubt that many have considered this consequence of their choice. When a good person leaves the church because of a bad person’s behavior, what have they done?
They have actually handed more power and more influence to the bad person.
Their departure means that the ratio of good to bad just tilted a little more towards the bad. There is one less good person whose voice can counteract the bad. There is one less person who can stand up against the wickedness. The chances that someone stops the hypocrite just decreased by one.
If you’ve experienced bad in church, instead of giving up on her, channel your frustration and pain into being the best you can be—and solving the problem, rather than making it worse.
When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was only fourteen years old, he told his family of his plans to enter ministry. Everyone expected him to follow his father’s footsteps into academia. His older brother was particularly appalled and told him that he should not “waste his life” on such a “poor, feeble, boring, petty, bourgeois institution as the church.” Young Bonhoeffer showed greater maturity than many who were much older in his reply. “If what you say [about the church] is true, I shall reform it!”
Perhaps we can follow in his footsteps and make the church a better place today than it was yesterday. There’s only one hypocrite at church that I can do anything about—and he sits in my spot. Perhaps it’s time I get to work on him.