If you read the New Testament you will come across many interactions with a group of religious leaders known as the Pharisees. The Pharisees did everything right. They followed all the religious laws of the day. From the outside they looked holier and closer to God than everyone else. However, Jesus called them out, saying they were “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside
are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matt 23:27)
It seems that in the church (institutional) today what is being hailed as “discipleship” to create Christ followers, is, in reality, creating pharisees. The church is creating congregations of people that are not really sure if the church is God, or if God is God. Full of sensationalism, and power mongering, the congregants are forced to choose a power side, and be the most sensational to be the most “christian”. Churches push all of there special meetings, bible studies, and various groups, which can be good for spiritual growth, however they often become just another opportunity to prove one’s superior spirituality. The people who attend every service and study begin to look down on the one’s who do not. Believing that if they are not attending, they must be spiritually weak or depleted. People begin to serve in every ministry that they can get into, just so they can feel more spiritual. They will serve even to the detriment of forgettig and leaving out those that have poured into their life and love them [i.e. “I would love to help you move dear friend, but I have to serve at church”]. In their desire to be most spiritual, and recognized by the powerful, they forget the call of Christ to love people, and to love Him (they will say they do these things out of love for Christ, however, it is really out of love for the institutional church). By neglecting these two things, they are in danger of falling short of the Kingdom of God.
This type of belief system breeds all things ungodly – judgemental spirit, self-righteous behavior, religion based on works, rather than a relationship based on faith. This creates an ugly person. This is why Jesus called these people a “brood of vipers”. (I have been kicked out of ministries and fired from volunteering for less, I never called anyone names). Many of these people and pastors think that Jesus would be so pleased with their spiritual behavior and church involvement, however, if Jesus showed up in person he would not be accepted, he would be asked to leave, because he would no doubt say the same things to the pastor of today, that he has said to the pharisees. And they would not want to hear it.
The church does not need to spend any more time on creating gimmicks, branding, or logos. They need to stop pushing their studies, opportunities, building projects, and all the great things they (the church not God) are doing. In short, stop creating pharisees, and get back to creating disciples. The church needs to get back to the business it is called to, preaching Jesus, and His Kingdom.
How can you tell if you are a pharisee? Here are ten checkpoints for you to consider (from Christ the King Church, Cincinnati):
- Your focus is more on externals than internals
- More suspicious of others sins than your own sin
- Always need to be ‘right’
- Don’t extend grace to others
- Practice selective repentance
- Prone to ‘pet’ issues
- Test others to include or exclude
- Follow the rules but miss the point
- Rejoice in the sins of others
- Lack genuine joy.