There are several reasons why a professing believer won’t go to Church. Among the most common is this: “The Church is full of hypocrites!” This is true in one sense but false in another. So let’s address it.
The most common group of people addressed by Jesus as hypocritical are the Pharisees. They were the religious know-it-all’s of Jerusalem. The fact that these men took issue with Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, reveals the kind of people they really are.
So what does it mean to be a hypocrite? It’s a superficial attitude of holiness or right living. The hypocrite pretends to be someone he’s not and tells others, either with words or actions, “I am better than you and you are lower than me.”
One day the pharisees asked Jesus, “Why don’t the disciples wash their hands before the meal as it is customary to do?” In other words -“If they do not wash their hands before they eat then they are not worthy to be called God’s people as we are.” Jesus responded with, “You white washed tombs!” Ouch! The very thing they thought made them holy was really just a covering for the wickedness in their hearts. They lived a life of outward holiness that had no effect on their inward man. Let’s reverse the scene for a moment. What if the disciples had seen the pharisees behavior and said to Jesus, “Why do the pharisees still wash their hands? Don’t they know that the way to be holy is to not wash your hands, like us?” In this case, the not doing something can just as likely become the empty hypocritical religion that causes you to think you are better than others, the very thing we often accuse the pharisee of. So who’s the hypocrite now?
Some none-church-goers say, “I can’t stand to be among those hypocrites.” But what if they are the actual hypocrite and it is their heart that is unclean? What if the stay-at-home-Christian thinks that his stay-at-home status is more holy because he is removed from organized religion? In the mean time, and totally unaware, he has created his own religion where everyone on the outside is less than him. He has become the pharisee he was trying to avoid.
Jesus hates hypocrisy, and as seen in the Scriptures, He’s not afraid to address it. He knew that Church buildings all over the world would be filled with imperfect people of all kinds, but His purpose is that in the process real heart change would take place by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you feel that simply being at Church is going to pinpoint something sinful in you, that may be true, but it’s not always because some hypocrite is waiting at the door. It may be that you are only staying away because you know God will expose the sin in your heart. But that’s exactly what you need. And avoiding the body of Christ and the accountability there is actually doing you harm.
If you have come face to face with a pharisee in Church, even if you do again the very next time you go, then pray that Jesus exposes the Pharisaical heart, not only in him or her, but in you as well. Find a believer or pastor that you can trust and ask them to help you and counsel you. Whatever you do, understand that the Church is beloved by Christ. We are his blood-bought, adopted brothers and sister and we need each other. Even when you avoid the Church for a reason you think is worthy, it’s not.