I grew up in the church. If the apostle Paul was the Pharisee of Pharisees then I was the AGee of the AGees. Before we moved to Africa, I was the picture of what a good Christian boy should be. I had all kinds of patches on my Straight Arrow vest. I even got Buckaroo of the month once. I could recite Scripture after Scripture. I could beat everyone but my brother in Bible trivia. I had the look. I knew when to raise my hands during worship. I knew how to tell a testimony that would make the entire congregation cry. I had it all. Then I didn’t.
My junior year of high school I got expelled for a whole list of accusations which ultimately were untrue. I couldn’t prove my innocence though, so I was forced to come back to the states with my family, live in a tiny two bedroom apartment, and go to a counselor for 6 months in Akron, Ohio. One of the big things my counselor made as a requirement was to be in church every time the doors were open. I had known a single missionary in Kenya, and his dad pastored a church in Akron, and his best friend from college was the youth pastor, so it was clear that was where I should go.
The first time I stepped into the youth service, my Hypocrisy Syndrome came out in full force. I looked up on stage and the guy playing guitar on the worship band had super long hair, earrings and tattoos. I looked around and I saw tons of guys wearing hats in the sanctuary. I thought to myself, “Shawn, this youth group is so blessed to have you in it. You are going to be such a positive influence on it. The youth pastor is probably so glad a great kid like you is in here.”
Later on in that service, just like we do every Wednesday night, everyone got into different prayer groups. So some guys invited me to be a part of theirs, and wouldn’t you know it, the heavy metal guitar guy is in my prayer group…AND THEY ASKED HIM TO PRAY!!! I thought, “Well, this should be interesting. Don’t they know that they got a guy sitting right here that could bring the house down? And they’re gonna have this tatted up dude pray?” Then he prayed. I heard a passion in his prayer. I heard brokenness in his prayer. I heard something different in his prayer. And I sat there that night and realized something:
I wasn’t a Christian I was a hypocrite.
I looked the part. I knew the law. But I didn’t have what all these other students had. I had no joy. I had no hope. I knew I had to change.
This Hypocrisy Syndrome is what Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing when He said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5: 39– 40). Jesus seemed to be saying to me, “You still seek knowledge of good and evil, as if somehow you’ll reach God. But what you need is me! I am the bread of life, the tree of life, and the living water! Ingest me!”
Part 2-coming soon