Permission to be honest

Why is it that members of our congregations can seem to be growing and maturing well and then all of a sudden give up the faith or engage in gross sin?

I know that the devil is ever crouching at the door , ever seeking to devour whomever he may. I know that he is also no gentleman, taking delight in kicking a person when they are down. So I should not be surprised that these sorts of things happen. But is there something that we can do to prevent this happening?


One thought I have is that we are in danger of structuring our lives together that we can present as one thing, while in fact believing and doing another. That is the definition of hypocrisy and the Lord Jesus warned us to beware of it (Luke 12). In fact

He likened it to yeast. Now the thing about yeast is that once introduced it grows and  gets into everything. So my worry is that as one person practises hypocrisy, without even becoming aware of it others begin to copy hypocrisy.

Overcoming the hypocrisy epidemic

One of the ways that hypocrisy gets a foothold is through expectations.

If I think that every Christian has life sorted then that becomes what I think life should be like. So I am not honest with others about the issues that I am facing and so these issues never get addressed but rather keep festering and growing until they explode.

Take doubt as an example. I keep running into people who think that because they sometimes have doubts they are faking being Christian. John the Baptist had doubts. Through his disciples, he took his doubts to Jesus (Matthew 11) and instead of being reprimanded for doubting, Jesus told John to look again at what he has seen and heard. Honesty enables us to deal with our issues, and also to get the God given benefit of each other to help us through them.

So how do we promote a culture of honesty? By being honest ourselves. This is a ministry that we can all, in fact must all, be involved in. Stop pretending and others will in time also stop pretending. Then we can help each other not to have hearts hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Another thing that some people can do to promote honesty is the hypothetical. ‘Have you ever felt…’ or ‘have you ever thought…’ or ‘have you ever…’ are such helpful statements because I have noticed that when you put some idea out in the open for discussion it actually helps others to be honest because what they had wanted to discuss but never knew how to raise is now in the public arena.

There are many, many more ways to promote honesty, but we must not let hypocrisy become part of our loves together. It destroys the individual and our community. 

Feature photo: genibee

Archie Poulos is Head of Ministry at Moore Theological College and Director of the Centre for Ministry Development.

Comments (1)

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  • Greg Atkin
    December 13, 12 - 9:29am
    Thanks Archie. Great article. I think the "permission to be honest" culture in a church grows from the top down. As leaders share, then congregation more likley to share thier struggles too.