The list I’m about to share will no doubt offend many. So, I need to preface it with the following…
I’m a certified Christian. I got baptized when I was eleven years old. I had DC Talk cassette tapes before they were a thing. I attended VBS every summer. My first concert was Audio Adrenaline. I went to Christian college and went a step further attending a Christian graduate school. I even worked at the 4th largest church in America for 6 years before getting fired. Next, I started a wildly successful Christian publishing company that I ran for ten years. One of my best friends is a teaching pastor at a church of 30,000+. So if there’s such thing as a Christian merit badge, I should have one.
There was only one big problem. My faith had become more about sticking to the Christian script than actually being a Christian.
It bothered me so much, that I knew I had to do something. The one thing that God kept putting on my heart was to go to the birthplace of Christianity. Not later. But right away. I grabbed my friend Michael from Phoenix, and we flew to Israel spur of the moment in February 2020 (not knowing that in a few weeks the entire world would shut down).
We rented a car and hired a private tour guide. He was an older Jewish man named Mark Deckelbaum who reminded me of a character from Indiana Jones. He took us to every possible Biblical site there was to visit all throughout Israel. While we were in Galilee, he told us,
That’s when it hit me. I had been a tourist Christian my whole life…
It was at that moment that I decided I wasn’t going to follow the script anymore. I was going to be real and authentic, even if it killed me. I was finished being a tourist Christian. The highlight of the trip was visiting the Southern Steps and walking in one place where we know Jesus actually walked, and going inside the Dome on the Rock…
The trip culminated with me and my friend getting re-baptized in the Jordan river. We returned home emboldened in our faith…and then the world shut down. In hindsight, I’m so thankful I listened to the stirring in my heart to go to Israel with a sense of urgency.
Covid, despite all of its horrors at worst and inconveniences at best, has been a productive time. More than anything, I’ve appreciated the time to be still and think.
Just one of the many things I’ve had time to think about are all the dirty little secrets that we have as Christians. These are just a few that I’ve uncovered and I’m sharing them in hopes that you too might get off the script and leave tourism Christianity in exchange for authentic Christianity. I think that starts by being honest..
Christianity’s 10 Dirty Little Secrets
1. Politics have taken the place of Jesus
Christians for the most part have embraced the false allegiance of political parties in the place of their allegiance to Jesus alone. And, if that’s not enough, every popular Christian organization, from Promise Keepers to CBN to Focus on the Family to Liberty University, and even The Babylon Bee, and the Christian My Pillow guy, inevitably gets drawn into the bottomless pit of politics.
2. Everyone is following a script
Christians know how to say everything without saying anything. This isn’t a cynical view. This is really how it is. John Crist has made a career of pointing out the script. You probably already know all the phrases. And, I’ll spare you the list of what must be hundreds of lines I heard working in church world, where the script game is even stronger. If you’re on social media, you know all about virtue signaling. It’s a rare thing to meet a Christian that will actually say tangible words and act upon them. “I’ll pray for you,” is a favorite among Christians…but, how many people have actually stopped what they’re doing to pray for you right then in the moment?
3. The central character of most Christian’s faith is themself
Jesus thought of ME and MY sins as he hung dying on the cross. Satan is attacking ME. God gave ME special knowledge to know the right denomination. The rapture will occur in MY lifetime. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens ME. ME ME ME ME ME ME ME. It’s all about ME. Do yourself a favor and read the book Cat and Dog Theology. Once you see it, you won’t be able to unsee it. Hint. The book illustrates the reality that most Christians actions reveal. That it’s all about them. When, in reality it’s all about God and His glory.
4. No one actually talks about Jesus
In thirty years of being a Christian, I can count on one hand the number of times someone has had an in depth conversation with me about Jesus. Christians talk about a lot of things, but Jesus isn’t one of them.
5. American Christians have zero understanding of what persecution means
We just don’t. Ask my friend from Myanmar, who spent more than ten years in a refugee camp, about persecution and get back to me.
6. Christians don’t actually care if you’re gay
Most Christians have enough problems keeping their own sexual desires in check, keeping their own marriages intact, and getting their kids through high school without getting pregnant. Do you think they really have time to worry about your sexual preference? They don’t. Even gay Christians don’t care who’s gay. Of course, some Christians throw around scripted phrases like “One Man, One Woman,” but it’s just the Christian script. The church I worked at even spent $150,000 putting that phrase on an Interstate billboard to virtue signal to the community, but the reality is that it was right before a Presidential election. That should tell you what you need to know.
Several years ago, when it was revealed that a mega church pastor in the western US was having a months-long affair, the majority of the staff confessed to already knowing about it. The majority of the staff KNEW the pastor was having an affair, but business continued as usual. If that’s how it is at one of the biggest Christian churches in America, imagine how it is everywhere else. Gay people would be the farthest thing from the church’s worries if they really cared about what the Bible said about sexual immorality. Half of the elders would have to resign tomorrow for starters. Which leads to the next secret:
7. Everyone is looking at porn
An unnamed volunteer confided to me, “Everyone in the youth group is watching porn.” A pastor confessed that he thought “90% of the men on staff at the mega church he worked at were actively looking at porn.” Most Christians will joke about it, or use coded language to talk about it. But, the reality is that everyone is looking at porn and no one is talking about it directly.
Besides porn, every Christian I know is glued to Facebook and Instagram every waking moment of the day. We’ve already sold our souls to social media. We share Christian memes, satire, and gossip without thinking twice. Have we ever stopped to ask if it’s actually good for our faith? Do other religions turn their faith into a stream of endless jokes and gossip? In the news today, our own government even says Instagram is horrible for children…but the church has been silent on this issue. Probably because we’re all hooked.
8. Entertainment is our real god
The mega church is a show. There, I said it.
I don’t hate the mega church. But, I’m not blind. When you have millions of dollars budgeted for lights, sound, and video screens, that’s called a show. When you spend millions of dollars producing Hollywood style sermon series’, that’s called a show. When the pastor carefully curates the right sneakers to wear on stage, that’s called a show. Don’t be fooled. We worship the god of entertainment.
Maybe that’s just the way it is. But, can we at least be honest about it? Are we allowed to talk about it without being accused of being bitter or cynical?
This morning (Wednesday) I went to an early weekday church service with a few hundred people. One person read from the Bible, we sang two songs, listened to a short sermon, prayed some specific prayers, and spent the bulk of the time taking communion one at a time. No worship team, no electric guitars, no lights, no sound board, no projector screen, no videos. Honestly, it was boring. But, deep in my spirit, I felt refreshed. It was real and authentic worship with no frills. That’s rare these days.
9. Every church is a political hotbed, because every church consists of people vying for power
After I got fired from the mega church in 2011, I read the book The 48 Laws of Power. It was like a lightning bolt of wisdom. It explained everything I had just witnessed for the past 6 years. Power struggles.
And, after talking to dozens of church leaders all with similar experiences, I’ve concluded that power is power. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church, a school board, a corporate board of directors, state Senators, or a little league coaching team. Power is power. My best advice is, if you love Disney World, don’t work there. And, if you do work there, grow a backbone and get wise to how politics work. It’s like gravity. It’s not necessarily right or wrong. But, it’s a reality of life.
There’s a famous preacher that I love. He really seems to have a genuine heart for Jesus and people. But, guess what. Behind the scenes, he stacks as many family members as he can in church positions. In his defense, nepotism isn’t a sin listed in the Bible so far as I can tell. And, take a look at Christian organizations. Dave Ramsey hired his daughter Rachel, who I think is amazing. Pat Robertson hired his son Gordon to lead CBN, whom is one of the best Bible teachers I’ve ever heard. Lots of churches and Christian organizations are family businesses. And, maybe that’s okay.
10. Christians all hate each other
Let’s be honest.
Christians hate each other. I mean it. We really really hate each other.
We hate Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Rob Bell, John Hagee, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, Pat Robertson, and even The Pope.
But, there’s one pastor we hate more than all the rest. Joel Osteen.
Despite the fact that Joel Osteen has led hundreds of thousands of people to Christ, and is the biggest billboard for Christianity, the Bible, and the local church in America today. As a Christian, it would be better for you to go to an Guns ‘N Roses concert than it would be for you to go to a Joel Osteen event. The church I worked at pulled Joel Osteen’s books from its ‘Christian bookstore’. This is the same church that wouldn’t let Bono visit to talk about how we could help people dying of AIDS in Africa. The same Bono who read Bible verses and said a prayer at the Super Bowl halftime show. And, we even disinvited Donald Miller, the famous Christian author, from speaking because he said the “F” word one time in an interview for a website article. The reality was that we hated everybody who wasn’t us.
No Christians actually agree with each other on literally anything. One pastor even famously said, Christians literally can’t agree on wanting Christ to return. There are a thousand denominations and each denomination thinks the others are either misguided, lost or cults. I applied to work at a Christian college in 2005, but had to sign a document that I ascribed to the “Canons of Dordt.” I had been a Christian for 14 years and never even heard of the “Canons of Dordt“, much less sign a paper saying I believe in them above everything else. Later, while teaching at a different Bible college in 2006, I had a student who proclaimed that Billy Graham was the Antichrist. Sadly, it wasn’t a joke.
Christian pastors hate other Christian pastors the same way personal trainers hate all other personal trainers. Of course, no pastor is ever jealous of a church that is smaller than theirs.
My missionary friend confided in me that the number one reason missionaries leave the mission field is because of other missionaries. I was shocked. I asked around to other missionaries and sure enough, she was right. Missionaries really do hate each other!
Christian organizations really hate each other, too. I know too many stories that are so wild most people wouldn’t believe them. I’ve had my own fair share of experiences, too. When I started my publishing company the church I had faithfully served and supported financially for 7 years sent me threatening legal notices. No email. No phone call. No lunch. No meeting. They went straight to sending an attorney after me. Fun times.
Later, when my designer had made a curriculum graphic that looked exactly like the LEGO movie poster, I actually got a nice email from a woman that worked for LEGO and she was amazing. She worked with me to help me fix the logo so it was just different enough to be okay. And she even encouraged me and went out of her way to help me get better at designing curriculum. Wow. That wasn’t what I was expecting. LEGO rocks!
If you find any type of success you can count on Christians to tear you down. If you accidentally write a book about your faith that becomes a best-seller or make a YouTube video with your thoughts about Jesus that goes viral, you’ll be met by a wall of fellow Christians ready to rip you apart.
Yup. Christians really do hate other Christians more than anyone else.
Christianity really is a shit show.
Honestly, it really is.
Bob Russell, one of the greatest church leaders living today, even once proclaimed “Your faith shouldn’t be in the church.” Wow. I wonder how many Christians realize this? We love the church. We go to church. We give to the church. But, our hope is not in the church. Our hope is in Jesus Christ alone.
Until you can see it, accept it, and be willing to talk about it, I think you’ll be stuck being a tourist Christian. Until you admit what everyone else already knows, I think you’re like the soldiers on islands in Japan who still think it’s World War II.
Perhaps, the biggest and best dirty little secret in Christianity is that…
11. God uses imperfect people everyday to share His love to the world.
And thank God for that!
Despite how messed up the church is, God is still using it.
- God is using the famous preacher you hate.
- God is using the church that wronged you.
- God is using the pastor who had an affair.
- God is using the church volunteer who’s been divorced 3 times and heading for a 4th.
- God is using the friend who you think is not doctrinally sound.
- God is using that guy on Facebook that shares wacky conspiracy theories.
- God is even using you. Hooray!
Do me a favor and text this article to 3 people you know who are trying to move towards becoming truly authentic Christians.
Some people have asked if I’m bitter or cynical. The honest answer is no. Despite everything I’ve experienced…I’m still a Christian. I still pray. I still read the Bible. I still go to church. I still tithe. I still send money to support missionaries. And, I still love my next door neighbors who are devout Hindu from India. I still believe in Jesus in 2021. And, I believe Jesus is THE hope of the world and the real answer everyone is desperately searching for.
Article Written for Stuff Christians Know by Nevan Hooker
Nevan graduated from Regent University in 2004. He spent 14 years building a publishing company that was acquired by Salem Media in 2018. He is now a full-time investor who lives in Las Vegas with his dog Arizona.