I’m prompted to write this post because I have recently heard from many non-Christians that they are sour on Christianity because of the perceived hypocrisy of Christians who do not practice what they preach. I think this is most salient for those non-Christians who have been raised in a “Christian” home by parents who may have called themselves “Christians” but were in practice anything but. I also want to write this post because of the scandals that I have observed in various denominations related to abuse of power by the clergy, particularly sexual abuse. How do we effectively evangelize when our witness is compromised by the actions of others (and ourselves)?
1. Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged
Jesus specifically criticized the Pharisees for their hypocrisy because they pretended to be holy but their actions did not match their deeds. As Christians we must realize that we cannot judge others (as the Pharisees judged Jesus) when we ourselves are sinners. Effective evangelism is not going to come from judging and condemning others. This is why I am against going to gay pride parades and confronting people about their homosexuality and carrying hateful messages on posters to put in their face as they walk by you. Judgment and condemnation has no place in evangelism and moreover is not effective because it is compromised by our hypocrisy (let’s take that mote out of our eyes first). This leads to my next point.
2. Do Not Try and Hide Your Sin
Adam and Eve suffered in part because they hid their sin from God. Now we don’t need to tell the people we are evangelizing to every detail about our private lives but we should be generally open about the fact that we are and continue to be sinners. If we try and cover this up or gloss over our sinful nature we are lying and compromising our witness. Share that you are a sinner and how the Lord is working in your life to help you turn away from sin. This way you show that you are the same as everyone else and also demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ to help you (and whoever you’re evangelizing to).
This also applies to the church. If you’re angry about the scandals you read about then absolutely share that. It shows that you know it’s wrong and makes you more credible. Also, share that Jesus Christ thinks it’s wrong. There is no one more angry about corruption and abuse in the Church than the head of the Church.
3. Put the Emphasis on Christ, not Man
Christianity is not about Christians it’s about Christ. I would suggest telling people that the Lord himself says every person will be judged on their own merits and that we all are individually accountable to God. Or tell them how teachers will suffer stricter punishment and how the Lord specifically called out the Pharisees and Sadducees because they were the keepers of the law and were hypocrites. Perhaps also talk about how the Lord went out of his way to embrace the sinners and outcasts who were shunned by society and the religious leaders of the day.
I’m interested in hearing others’ experiences with this. Has this been an issue for you when evangelizing? Any other suggestions as to how to deal with this issue?