7 Signs the Pharisees Are Running Your Church

Pharisees are running your church

So are the Pharisees running your church?

Interesting question.

How would you know?

And perhaps, more appropriately, how would you know if that was you? 

You could argue that the since the religious leaders nailed Jesus to the cross, there’s no way you would have done that.

But seriously, how would you know? If you really read the Bible—I mean really read it—it’s pretty challenging.

I read stories like Matthew’s calling in Matthew 9 and think, I might have been frustrated by Jesus too. When a person hangs out with hookers, criminals and other morally sketchy people, I’d question him as well.  Which of course, would squarely puts me in the company of the Pharisees.

Hence my worry.

How do you know the Pharisees aren’t running your church?

How do you make sure that Pharisee isn’t you?

I’m Not A Pharisee…I’m Just Righteous

In many Christian circles, Pharisee is just a bad labelWe throw it at someone we don’t like, we disagree with or generally think should suffer.

But as I pointed out in this piece (The Top 10 Things Pharisees Say Today), the Pharisees are more nuanced than commonly thought to be.

Part of the tension we lose in the dialogue today is that the Pharisees really tried to be righteous. They knew their Bibles as well as anyone. Their devotion was, purportedly, deep.

And Jesus said they missed the boat. His most scathing words were reserved for people who claimed to be speaking for God.

Jesus' most scathing words were reserved for people who claimed to be speaking for God. Click To Tweet

7 Signs the Pharisees are Running Your Church

So what are the signs that the Pharisees are running your church?

What are the signs that you might be that leader?

Here are 7.

1. Your leaders like to show off

Check those stats. Did you see how many downloads that message got? How many likes that photo picked up? Or that visitor who said he thinks you’re as good as that mega-preacher guy?

Or, worship leaders, think about your mad guitar skills or your new V-Neck or fierce beard.

Or admin types…check out the bullet proof system I put together.


We all want to be better, or cooler (even though cool church is dying), don’t we?

But sometimes in our pursuit to improve our skill, we lose our soul.

Here’s a key distinction.

When you’re focused on how you’re doing more than you’re focused on how the people you’re serving are doing, you’ve kind of lost the game.

When you’re more focused on your performance than you are on the mission, there’s trouble ahead.

Stop showing off. Stop trying to get better for the sake of trying to get better.

Focus relentlessly on serving God and serving people, and an amazing thing might happen. You’ll likely get better.

But at that point, you might not even notice.

Which would be awesome.

Sometimes in our pursuit to improve our skill, we lose our soul. Click To Tweet

2. Everyone thinks they’re a little better than everyone else

One of the big differences between the Pharisees and the ‘sinners’ Jesus hung out with, is how they felt about themselves.

The Pharisees thought they were right.

That’s dangerous territory for leaders because often we think we’re right or that our positions (theological or philosophical) are right.

So, do you think your view is simply better than others? Or that you’re better than others? A little less sinful? A little more together? A little smarter? A little wiser? Spend a lot of time criticizing others and asserting how right you are?

There’s the Pharisee.

3. There’s this love of money thing going on

Money. Could there be a more fun topic in the church?

Ministry needs money to run on. I get that.

As a general rule, underfunded ministries are ineffective in the long run. This is true of any ministry or charitable organization. I actually agree with Dan Pallotta that the most important causes in the world should be the most generously funded. (If you haven’t heard his TED talk, stop reading this blog post and watch it.)

And in church world and non-profit world, there’s a constant push to expand the mission, so there’s regular pressure on giving.

And I think talking about money in church can be wonderful. I really do. Giving, after all, is a spiritual discipline. In the same way I need to read my bible, pray, serve and invest in people who don’t know God, I need to give. All of these things are part of what I do as a Christian.

We all need money. And ministries need money.

But when you start to love money…you’re in trouble.

So how do you know you might love money?

Here are some thoughts.

When you’re excited about what the money is doing for you, not what it’s doing for the mission, you’ve crossed a line.

When you refuse to have any financial accountability or wise people (to whom you’re accountable) speak into the details of your financial life, you’ve allowed money to become a master, not a servant.

Or, answer this: if your church cut your wages, would it also cut your joy (assuming you could find enough money to live on elsewhere)?

Money makes a wonderful servant in ministry, but a terrible master.

Money makes a wonderful servant in ministry, but a terrible master. Click To Tweet

4. There’s too little compassion

In some leadership circles, lack of compassion is worn as a badge of honour.

I used to joke about mercy not being one of my spiritual gifts. Okay, sometimes I still joke about my natural lack of compassion.

Ironically, sometimes a lack of compassion helps you lead well. If you are too empathetic and overly sensitive to how people feel, you will get dashed on the rocks of leadership. Jesus had to push past a lot of competing voices to accomplish his mission. So did Moses, Paul and myriad other leaders.

But as committed as Jesus was to truth, he was exceptionally compassionate. He was frequently moved with compassion. And he rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of it.

God’s compassion is why you’re a Christian in the first place.

And if you haven’t noticed, people outside the church aren’t much attracted to compassionless, self-righteous leaders.

If you lack compassion…repent.

I have repented and am repenting. I’ve got a long way to go, but God will make the compassionless more compassionate if you ask him.

People outside the church aren't very attracted to compassionless, self-righteous leaders. Click To Tweet

5. Leaders expect others to do what they don’t do

Practice what you preach is one of the oldest mantras around. And yet, if you’re a preacher, it can be very hard to do.

You can convince yourself you’re exempt, or you’re just being ‘obedient’ and teaching what you’re supposed to teach, when you know you’re only half walking the walk.

Cue the big buzzer.

Pretending to be something we’re not and claiming privileges we don’t extend to others are 2 of  5 things I listed here that give pastors a bad name with unchurched people.

And remember, those of us who teach actually get held to a higher standard than others.

So, teach with fear and trembling. And humility. And accountability.

6. No one’s closer to God

Strangely enough, the Pharisees were anxious to win converts. So am I.

Yet Jesus condemned the Pharisees, pointing out that they travel over land and sea to win a single convert but in the process, they make him twice as much a son of hell as they are.


So…here’s a question.

Are people closer to God after following you?

Sure, not everyone will be. We’ve all read the parable of the sower.

But after 3 to 5 years, do most people look more like Jesus or less like Jesus? Or to use another metaphor Jesus used, is there fruit? If you claim to be growing an orchard, where are the apples?

Sure, we’re not perfect. We’re being sanctified over time by the Holy Spirit. But overall, people should be moving closer to Jesus.

Are they?

After 3 to 5 years of following your leadership, do people look more like Jesus or less like Jesus? Click To Tweet

7. The leaders are jealous

Spend even a few minutes in the Gospels, and you’ll see the Pharisees and other religious groups get jealous of any advance any other group makes.

Each group wanted to be on top. If the Saducees won, the Pharisees lost. If Jesus made more disciples than they did, their blood boiled.

So how’s your heart with that church down the road…the one that’s growing?

How’s your heart when you hear some other church picked up yet another one of ‘your’ families?

Hate it when other people they tell you they love listening to X’s podcast at the gym?

The jealousy thing even infected John the Baptist’s disciples. But John got it right…it’s not about him. He must decrease. Christ must increase. 

See what John did there? He said it out loud. He gave public recognition and praise to Jesus.

That’s what breaks the power of jealousy.

If you’re jealous, publicly praise whoever you’re jealous of. Celebrate them.

It will break the darkness inside.

That will also give you a clear heart and mind to get on with your mission. After all, you likely live in a region where there are thousands…okay, tens or hundreds of thousands…of unchurched people. Focus on that.

Publicly celebrating the people you envy breaks the power of jealousy. So praise them. Click To Tweet

What Do You Think?

Before we jump to commenting, please know, I write this not to make the church worse, but in the hopes that in some tiny way it makes the church better.

I need to look in the mirror. Everyone who leads a church does. Far too much is at stake.

The church has enough critics (just read through the comments on this blog, any newspaper piece on religion, or pretty much any online place that talks about the church). But if we take the criticism we usually reserve for others and prayerfully apply it to ourselves, we’ll get better. We will.

And we have to.

I believe the church is the hope of the future.

So we just need to get better and healthier. And when we do, we’ll be far more effective.

Any additional signs you see that show that you may have turned Pharisee?

Scroll down and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

7 Signs the Pharisees Are Running Your Church


  1. Paul Fishman on July 21, 2021 at 10:41 am

    The Fascist Pharisees were the accusers of Jesus Christ the very same way as Satan the righteous is the accuser of the Believers in Christ. Satan in his righteousness is NOT based upon truth but lies and half truths rooted in himself and sinful human nature. The very same thing the Fascist Pharisees as righteous hypocrites accused Jesus Christ was based upon lies and half truths. Both the Pharisees and Satan are in the same camp sharing the same objectives.

  2. Thomas Dummermuth on May 23, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Anti-Judaism at its best.
    You can do better.

    • Joshua on September 18, 2021 at 9:52 pm

      I think he got this spot on! 👌

  3. Jeanette Delphia on March 6, 2021 at 10:12 am

    That is how I feel. I always attack the troublemakers who target me to terrorize. They cause upsets that activate my PTSD. There are dangerous people at church. It seems all about money. If you pray for a husband, you are gossiped a tramp. If you pray for a job, you are called a deadbeat. If you pray for relationship healing, you are gossiped a bad person. Yes, going to church can be treacherous. People there stir up trouble. I have had very bad experiences there.

    • Beulah on July 18, 2021 at 8:17 am

      Don’t focus on the trouble makers. Your focus should be on what God wants you to be. Some people lose their way because that way is narrow. Sometimes they need to follow a steadfast person who is confident in who they are in Christ.

  4. BRADY MAYO on March 5, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    The way I look at it is most people are in either in two camps: The Elder Son or The Prodigal Son. The Elder son type pastors and leaders are all very good at creating the image they want others to see. In fact these charlatans are experts at image control. They like to use words such as “sold out” for Christ or “completely surrendered” AND if you are not, then you are probably going to hell. I have never felt any closer to God after reading or listening to anything these pastors had to say (you would know them all by name but I decided not to include it). Some of them preach a God that commits genocide of woman and children for His glory. They preach that God judges regions of America with tornados and hurricanes. Also, remember that the Elder son was easy to point out all of the ways he obeyed his Father and how unholy his “lost” brother was. The verse that comes to mind when I hear these guys speak or read their books is Romans 8:15 “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Or 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” They like to put fear in the hearts of their flock by threatening them with hell. These guys love their hell. They write books to protect their eternal torment doctrine and get very angry when you mess with it. Many of them (who have made millions writing books and speaking ) go out of their way to let the public know the awesomeness of their good works – how they have given up everything and lived Holy lives. They continuously scan their flock for proof of their unfruitful lives and use fear and shame to intimidate and manipulate them into giving to and staying in their church. I believe all of these guys are from the reformed school of thought and the reformed or Calvinist make really good Elder Sons. Now, just to be fair I am not saying that these men are bad people or that they are not sincere. I think many of them have good intentions but they are no able to see that they have become the Elder Son. As the story goes the Father loves the Elder Son just as much as the Prodigal.

    However, there are those pastors that I do not believe are Elder or Prodigal in nature. They are not fruit inspectors but they preach good fruit. They do not draw attention to their lives through a strong public presence so they can sell more books or to show how holy they are becoming. They do not need to live out their holy lives through public demonstrations of healing people, saving the lost (giving a head count), or demonstrating evidence that they are “sold out” for Christ. Most of us have never heard of them. They would be the type to choose a donkey instead of a stallion if they had to choose one or the other for transportation. They do not preach hate, fear or condemnation and you would never know how much fruit is in their lives because they are not going to make it public. They preach love, joy, forgiveness and grace. One of these guys is Thomas Talbott who wrote an incredibly joyful and beautiful book called “The Inescapable Love of God” or Robin Parry who lives a very private life.

  5. Chanel Israel on November 3, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    I am writing this with a heavy heart. I was following a Bishop and his wife on social media for a year. I had heard some negative reviews about both, yet, I decided to follow my own judgment and see for myself if there were any truths to the rumors. The wife who became the Overseer of the church was an excellent teacher, and I gravitated more to her that to her husband, the Bishop. He would use swear words, call people names and demand that followers sow the amount that he chose. Often he would ask for nothing less than $500, on a daily basis. He put others down who could not afford his amounts, and he would often call “the haters” names and say “your mother is a fraud!”, when people would refer to his shady dealings, or his record of scamming. Then there were times that he would entice a physical altercation by saying ” I’m not no punk, I will lay hands on you the way that I did in prison” Referencing his stint in prison for 7 years. There was quite a bit of intimidation mixed with his teachings. And his wife, the Overseer, would endorse his behavior, at times looking like a battered wife in submission to her controlling husband. The focus of his teaching topics was money. Recently during one of their lives, someone messaged me about his behavior compared to another pastor who was offering some financial classes at a fee that he associated with sowing. I responded to the live thread by accident, and although only part of my message was posted, the Overseer, responded to me so hastingly, telling me that I was disrespectful, and she blocked me from her page. Her comment and the fact that she blocked me sent a negative message to many people that I had tagged to follow her, including my husband and some family members who were eager to know God because of the things that He had done in my life. I tried to apologize to her for the misunderstanding, but she is so angry that I “embarrassed, and disrespected her husband” even after I explained the circumstances. While I no longer want to be a part of her ministry, I am wondering if there is some other way that I can let her know that I am not upset with her, and I really wish her well?

    • Sunny on November 4, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      This Overseer woman had a clear and strong reaction towards you, and she chose to cut off the relationship by blocking you publicly. Yet, you are the one trying not once, but twice, to rebuild some facade of relationship with her. You said you dont even want to be part of her ministry, yet you desire to reach out to her for a second time, in an effort to rebuild the connection that she knocked down.

      When people have strong emotional reactions such as this Overseer, it’s likely not about you at all. There is something inside of THEM that THEY need to wrestle with and understand.

      I encourage you to allow this woman to do her own work, while you do yours. She has shown you over time who she is. I invite you to believe her.

      As for your relatives and their interest in God, keep seeking the God of the Bible. He’s real. No Facebook blocking could ever overpower him and his ways.

  6. Robin on November 14, 2019 at 10:45 am

    So if your church meets all but one…. what is the answer?
    This would be the third church we have joined and feel as if we don’t fit in anywhere. Is it me? Or has the church become a hinderance to the believer than a help? I’m devastated at times and lonely. So many chains of everyday responsibilities weigh me down daily. I shouldn’t have to wonder if I’m in the house of the Lord similar to asking a magic 8 ball if I will win the lottery. I will never turn from God but I’m exhausted by how difficult churches have become. Stop the big lights, high tech sermons and concert like worship. Go back to the basics and stay humble. Church is a like a competition for people with the I’m more popular than you are high school mentality. I see right thru people most times. I see their avoidance of eye contact and their search for someone who shares their love of money. Meanwhile struggling to pay my electric bill. I dread the offer for prayer at the end of the sermon. It never helps I always feel like a walk in patient five minutes before closing time. People don’t care and it’s hurtful.

    • Russ Wakefield on November 17, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      Spot on! today the church is a place of competition…as one old time pastor says…“The Church right now has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, is more superficial than supernatural.” ~Leonard Ravenhill.

      The church in the US today is dead, Its been well said, as the leadership goes, so goes the people. look to the word of God and see the truth to this statement. This is why so many Christians are leaving the 501c3 incorporated churches and moving to worshipping God in spirit and truth in home or private gatherings…when one is governed by the state as the non-profits are they in turn must worship there master of their creation and when becomes a 501c3 inc. church they are creatures of the state and its all done in the name of money…The biggest names in the church today are the Pharisees of yesterday…they say it will cost you everything to be a Christian, yet look at how they live…high on the hog. They are the wolves in sheep clothing…and they are leading the brethren into deep water, yet we as the sheep, need to stand up and not submit to these wolves…its not being rebellious, it is a resistance to the tyranny or corrupt leaders. Stand firm on the word of God and do not compromise and if you must, walk away from the church of big business here in the U.S. and seek the Lord for guidance.

  7. Nomad on June 7, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    How about the “ if you aren’t at the level I think you should be you are just a Luke warm Christian and not actually saved” Pharisee, the ones that are always threatening others salvation to motivate them.

  8. Michael on January 15, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Pharisees’ of today same as in Jesus’ time, they were afraid of loosing power, position, or status. They liked all that and did not want to give any of up in any way.

  9. theartist on January 14, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Hi Carey, on point #3 you invited everyone to go to #TEDTalk on YouTube and listen to Ted Pallotta. In the beginning of his message, this is what Dan BOLDLY stated “Being gay and fathering tripletts is the most socially innovative and the most socially entrepreneural thing I have ever done.”
    Forgive me as I dare not to become the “Pharisee” but I had to fight through THAT OPENING MESSAGE to ge to THE MESSAGE you wanted us to hear/see from Dan.
    My opinion but TEdTalks are often liberal slants that do not openly embrace the Gospel of our Lord? This is my oberservation, not an attack. Thank you Carey.

    • Marcus on August 21, 2020 at 5:19 pm

      He doesn’t care. As long as the church is “growing,” it doesn’t matter to Carey how liberal its theology (or political ideology) is or how many attendees receive little to no discipleship after they get “saved” (as long as they cough up their weekly tithe).

  10. Brenda on January 13, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    wow – grat list. or maybe a sad list because I just resigned form a church that had all 7 signs. Sad but true.

    • Rene on March 9, 2020 at 2:09 am

      Yes you just mentioned my situation here . I was part of the worshiping team but because I was not bringing enough money I was let go in a technical way, cutting off time at the pulpit . but none Christians are being condecorated because of the money the provide to church and to the pastor

      • Susan Welsh on May 23, 2021 at 8:39 pm

        Great article Carey. Definitely caused me to pause and assess any areas that I may be operating with the wrong intent. Appreciate your candor.

    • Debbie Ridinger on June 20, 2020 at 10:56 pm

      I attend a church where it’s almost all family running it. I have been there now almost a year, and it is concerning that in all this time, a very small select people will even speak to you. The pastor and his wife rarely even say hello. They have 2 son’s and a daughter who also minister. The daughter has spoken to me a couple of times, but the others have not ever gone out of their way to even say hello. Money is the biggest topic of every service. You are told that you will now be blessed Peroid if you don’t consistently give tithes, offerings, special offerings, and extra above and beyond all that first fruits when they decide it’s time for that. The pastor is the only one who interprets when a spoken prophecy comes forth. That is if he lets it come out at all. I have seen him stop people from speaking if it so suits him. His son is the one who takes care of all the money that comes into the church. They don’t give you an annual receipt of your tithing or offerings unless you ask for it.( found this out the hard way) they don’t have a bulletin, you have to go to face book to engage with their page to interact with the ministry. If we miss a service we are shamed for it. If you have any opinion about anything you are encouraged to keep it to yourself. I went to a prayer meeting a few times, but was very discouraged because the pastors wife put people down several times. I just quit going to them. I guess I asked too many questions lately with some of my concerns, because now I am being shunned completely by the pastor and his wife and most of the congregation. It’s not even a large church about 150 or so, and that’s only if they all show up at once. I believe the people praise the pastor more than they praise God. I have been down hearted for awhile now and am hoping to find a more loving church body to become a part of. Would appreciate prayers. God bless.

  11. Dianne Ramster on January 13, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Another sign perhaps worthy of mention: Interpreting another person’s suggestion for change or improvement as a personal attack, and criticizing the character of the person giving the suggestion. This is a subset of point 2 – but a specific behavior of a leader who wants to believe he is beyond improvement. One of a leader’s responsibilities is to listen to the input of others, even if it isn’t applied. This requires confident self-esteem and maturity to resist taking offence.

    • Sunny on May 28, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      Yes! This is a great point. I was the person who dared to say “no” when a church leader presumed that I must do as they expected me to do because they were the Pastor. The volunteer task they were requiring of me was a compromise of my integrity. (And actually was illegal!) When I said no and graciously and quietly stepped away from volunteering, I was accused of “not being their friend anymore,” being untrustworthy, not being a team player, spreading gossip, and being a troublemaker. All this was because I said no to the volunteer task that the pastor expected of me. The character of my entire family was attacked, and we’ve been hated on by much of the church staff. They have assigned motives to my/our behavior that are based on their own unfounded presumptions. I now see the insecurity of the pastoral leadership reflected in their refusal to answer questions or be challenged by anyone in any way. Tragically, we have many friends at this church and miss them greatly. However, it just isn’t safe for us to be there anymore. The Pharisees can’t see the damage that they have inflicted, and they have chosen to scapegoat us for their misguided leadership decisions. There is no accountability for them at all. Very sad and tragic for all involved.

      • RichJ on October 1, 2019 at 11:40 am

        Even tougher, you didn’t say you did this, you should have explained your reason for stepping away. Not that it would have changed any minds but the truth would be in the open.

        • Sunny on August 21, 2020 at 9:49 pm

          I actually made three attempts to speak with the appropriate leadership and tell them why I stepped away. (Illegal and unethical demand of a volunteer) None of them had time for me, and the lead pastor later defended his irresponsible elders/ staff. He indicated that they were all very busy “cranking out the next Sunday.” When he finally listened to my reasons for stepping away, it was 4 months later. By this time, my “shepherd” had already made his mind up that I must be causing trouble, sinning, etc. I believe that he wanted a reason to blame me and get rid of me. When I attempted to present to factual truth, I was not believed or heard. He had already made his mind up and rehearsed bizarre lies that he used to accuse me of sin. This “shepherd” revealed himself as a wolf.

      • Marcus on August 21, 2020 at 5:15 pm

        Must’ve been a megachurch or some other “growing” congregation.

  12. Kevin on January 13, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Carey, all i know is we came out of the word of faith ministry about 10 months ago, my world was rocked, my pastor had the guts to stand up there and cakl it out ! Me and my wife were floored as we were involved since new christaians 21 years !
    Almost every week or month god is rebuilding my belief and faith in his word, i found you on the internet from one ladys post on a subject i was looking for, thank God, with teachings from yourself, anystandly, francis chan and countless others my walk has xhanged from a selfrightious pharisie to becoming more like Jesus and Paul, we still have a long ways to go but i can tell yea bro that hes shedding scales off almost daily ! Iam not a great reader but iam reading and spending time with him and in books like yours and others daily ! I have come to realize its normal to be messed up and its alright if we dont have. All the answers ! We need to show humiluty and look at the unchurched the way Jesus looked at them !
    We are no better than them or anyone eles, we are all messed up looking to get through this life together, the only diffeence we have a hope that we can share and a testamonie of our faith and what gid has done in our messed up life, unchurched people look at most xhristains as holyer than tho becouse they see them acting differnt than then speak or live !
    I like reading and listening to your blogs and others too that hit on these topics, keep up the great mission bro !

    • David on July 16, 2019 at 9:55 pm

      Kevin, we also came out of a Word of Faith ministry. Thankfully, God’s amazing grace so covered us when the attacks on character came. It amazes me how protected we were in the midst of it….no bitterness nor unforgiveness… The Lord really gave a passage of scripture that became where we lived from through the most difficult times…. “May the Lord be the judge between me and thee.” He just said “Let it go. Leave it to me. Don’t pass judgment. Move on.” And we did.

      • Marcus on August 21, 2020 at 5:14 pm

        Carey loves Word of Faith churches because they’re “growing” and have great “leadership.”

  13. Tiffany on December 10, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Something that I could never wrap my head around , was the ( just for example) Baptist Church down the road hates the other Baptist Church down the road or thinks their church is better. I mean they’re the same domination, just in different buildings in a sense. The Bible speaks of Division and I see everyone of them as being divided, when in fact they should be brothers and sisters in Christ. For me , it’s basically like saying that I have a sister that lives in the same household with me and another sister that lives in her own home, it’s like saying I love the sister whom lives with me more because she lives in the same home, but the other one doesn’t..

    • Dennis on January 13, 2019 at 2:05 pm

      I feel the same way, Tiffany! I visited a small community in Arkansas a while back, sort of an “active adult” or “retirement” community. Among a population of 3,500 or so there were so many churches I lost count. Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran, Church of God, Church of Christ, Church of God IN Christ, plus a few more “splinter” denominations. Most if not all offered ONE Sunday service at 11 am, and judging from cars in the lots attendance was weak at all of them!
      Just imagine what a Kingdom influence they would have if they all got together in support of a common cause like making disciples or ministering to those in need. But no. They all shelter in place from the influences of each others’ churches. It’s bizarre.

  14. RoKoLove on August 13, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Loved it! It’s as simple as checking the heart…If it’s about Jesus and people than I think we are on the right track. The enemy of our soul is treacherous and if we aren’t careful we will fall short every time the focus is not on the Cross. Thank you for encouraging not just leaders but the body of Christ as a whole. Multitude of blessings!.

  15. essi on July 30, 2018 at 3:43 am

    Interesting post, can you please link the Bible Scriptures as reference please. I would like to know where the Pharisees demonstrated these behaviours

  16. Letkholun on June 4, 2018 at 1:21 am

    This is a great message. You have hit the acheles heel I was looking for.

  17. Pst Matthew on May 27, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Sometimes we get over zealous about our so called correct stand and knowledge and we see the other minister as not in tune with biblical doctrines. I had that problem, even though the people i am critical about seams to be doing better than i. Praise God i know better now.

  18. Jim Kenney on May 24, 2018 at 10:59 am

    A sign for me is putting rules or doctrines above relationships. Jesus healed on the Sabbath as he put his relationship with people above rules that existed at the time. He allowed his disciples to gather grain on the Sabbath because their well-being was more important than rules about the Sabbath. When confronted with the woman charged with committing adultery, he put the well-being of the accusers ahead of the law in providing them with a way to avoid having blood on their hands, and he put the well-being of the woman ahead of the law. I noticed a post ahead of this about a concern about liberal preaching of the gospel. Jesus did not ask his followers to believe what many churches today ask their members to believe. His focus was totally on their relationship with God, their relationships with others, and their relationship with themselves. I believe the arrogance of believing we have the truth and others are going to hell for not sharing our truth is another sign of the Pharisees.

  19. Nate on May 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    This is a convicting and eye opening article. I had to repent immediately! Thank you for sharing.

  20. Amy on May 16, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    I am totally a Pharisee. Wow. Thanks for the mirror today. God is good.

    As Keith Green wrote, “Holy Spirit, I surrender, take me where you want to go, Plant me by your living water, Plant me deep so I can grow. Jesus, you’re the one, who sets my spirit free, Use me lord, glorify, your holy name through me. Separate me from this world lord. Sanctify my life for you. Daily change me to your image, Help me bear good fruit.”

    • Anthony DiMaio on May 16, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      Wow… you are really showing your age now…. Keith Green….LOL

  21. Lora on May 16, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Wow, thank you so much! I love all of your posts, but I think this is now my all-time favorite! This is definitely a mirror that we should be willing to look into regularly, and often, to ensure we haven’t, and don’t, become unknowingly blinded to our own behaviors and motives.

  22. Dale Pratt on May 16, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Outa the park, Carey – actually, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees seemed to be Jesus’ target, but the point is too painfully well-taken. Of all the stuff I want to guard against in my walk with Jesus, it’s the religious performance syndrome of Phariseeism. I just hate it when Jesus says, “That’s not working for me!”

  23. Anthony DiMaio on May 16, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Great post. Looks like it was repurposed, but always needed. What is the antidote for Pharisee Syndrome? Suggest the Holy Spirit. Also noted that the word Pharisee and are phonetically similar, thus implicating similar DNA.

  24. Nweike on May 16, 2018 at 7:04 am

    Thanks for this article. I normally share my story by saying that, I was born a Pharisee who thought my religiosity would save me until I was humbled by my failures and embraced the saving power of Christ Jesus.

  25. Pat on April 7, 2018 at 3:04 am

    When someone is jealous “praise them”. It leads to empty praise and it doesn’t seem to help some really get over their jealousy. Instead it masks the issue and the person proceeds to seem contradictory when their actions don’t match the praise leaving the one receiving empty praise sad.

    • Steven Mitchell on May 16, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Hi Pat,
      I feel your frustration and I think your observation goes to the essence of Phariseeism, the idea that outward behaviors can manifest inward goodness. Jesus put a great deal of pressure on this when He preached. He set a pattern in the Sermon on the Mount, saying, “You have heard that it is written…, but I say to you, truly,…” The practice of adultery, murder, even “good” behaviors like prayer and fasting, were cast as less significant than what was happening in one’s heart (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28; 6:5-8, 16-18; 15:1-20). Only a good tree can bear good fruit (Luke 6:43). What is in our hearts works its way out eventually. A new heart is something God gives us as a work of his Spirit (Ez. 11 and 36). Even under the most extreme pressure, we exhibit only hope because God’s Spirit discloses His immense love directly to us, heart-to-heart (Romans 5:5). Thank you for your sensitivity and honesty!

    • theartist on January 14, 2019 at 11:30 am

      Hi Pat,
      I found out when I begin prasing and thanking God, my heart softens toward my “intended target.” As I do so this in all sinceriety, my hearts undergoes a transformation. The Holy Spirit does His work and the end result is not “empty praise” but a thankful and repentant heart.

  26. […] In Christian circles it is usually considered a significant insult to suggest that someone is a Pharisee. Knowing the hard time these religious leaders gave to Jesus, and the harsh words he said about them in Matthew 23 – well, who would want to be a Pharisee? Yet if the essence of being a Pharisee is being legalistic and harshly zealous about faith, quick to dismiss others as beyond the pale and even quicker to declare oneself righteous, many would suggest that there are more than a fair few Christians who fall into this category. Now obviously they couldn’t mean either you or me, but let’s explore some key differences between being a Pharisee follower and a Jesus follower. It could be that you would like to add to the list, and feel free to do so in the comments (and why not look at Carey Nieuwhof insightful piece, 7 signs that the Pharisees are running your church).  […]

  27. Marie on January 18, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    O’ yes these posts are fantastic and brutally open. The Pharisee blog was a punch in the gut. I will pass this one on, already did ! I can think of a pastors right now that are like this and I use to carry the guilt for thinking bad about them, so I guess my judgement was right after all😏

  28. Bob Kopczeski on December 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Jesus dealt with the Pharisees re: adultery: (an evil and adulterous generation) Matthew 12:34. Any Pastors or Church Leaders out there preaching Luke 16:18?
    “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

  29. […] often we shoot ourselves in the foot, with everything from Pharisee-like self-righteousness to downright stupid things Christians do (here are […]

  30. Angel Eyes on September 2, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Powerful! Thank you for stepping out with this!

  31. 4TimesAYear on August 17, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Recent stories in the news about churches charging tithes from widows who couldn’t pay and kicking them out. Definitely Pharisaical.

    • Marcus on August 21, 2020 at 5:09 pm

      Those are the “growing” churches that Carey loves.

  32. Queen of Free on April 26, 2015 at 5:02 am

    This is applicable to any leader who follows Jesus, whether involved directly in leading the local church’s ministry or not. Love these thoughts Carey. Thanks for pumping out this content again. Oh Jesus, turning our hearts and the world upside down. 🙂

  33. Tandy Adams on February 4, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Great post. And … OUCH!! I think one Phariseeical sign is trusting in what or how much we know. Seems to me the Pharisees were very proud of their knowledge/education. I wish I could say I never did that but…

  34. Jonathan on January 28, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Some valid points, but is it legitimate without being a pharisee to criticise those churches/leaders who are liberal, ecumenical/preach false doctrine? Those of us who do highlight apostasy (as a warning to others) are often called pharisees.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 28, 2015 at 11:44 am

      Jonathan…appreciate the comment and the question. Thank you! I think for me there’s a difference in people who point out false teaching out of self-righteousness (they’re wrong…I’m right) and those who reluctantly but lovingly rebuke out of a broken heart for people being led astray. I gravitate toward the latter, not the former. Does that make sense?

      • Jeff on January 28, 2015 at 12:01 pm

        Prayer might be a major factor in this. It’s something I neglect all too often. Pray as if it’s the court of law and hand over all the evidence and all of your feelings towards the circumstance and everything you know. Then ask Christ to direct you. I all too often go through life unprepared but it doesn’t have to be that way.

        • Jeff on January 28, 2015 at 12:24 pm

          It has been said that there is a grain of truth in every false doctrine. When we have an interaction without thorough prayer, the risk of over-correcting is even greater.

      • Chuck on July 18, 2015 at 7:37 am

        Totally loved how Carey worded that response. Spot on.

  35. Jeff on January 26, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I think it’s so freeing to realize that our salvation is not up to us. Maybe this is foolish thinking but how freeing is it to realize that hell is my default destiny apart from precious Lord Jesus. I already lost. Margin of error: 100%. Chief of sinners. Now, I don’t want to go there but there’s a sort of liberation in getting the bad news first. Like the spot in “Independence Day” where Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum take a breather in the alien ship and realize they suck. Anything good that happened for them after that moment was a total bonus because they were in the red. My uncle works for a food bank and last Christmas they handed out toys to the poor. The people rushed into this pole building and cursed and flipped each-other off and seemed to do everything but practice love. I’m like that. I fight to the death over something that is a gift. How foolish do I look? God gives me the rest at night away from my torment, the food to eat, and strength to work, the earth to live in, the money and blessing of living in a prosperous country, and the gifts and abilities and wisdom to make the best out of this life. He also freely gave me my salvation and freely gave us his Word. And provides bad times to be humbled and good times to reaffirm and renew our trust in His promises. When did I get this idea I deserve to be there?

    • Jeff on January 26, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      In Hell, shaking fist or not, I could have at least somewhat appreciated the comfort I never would have got from the God I never would have known.

      • Jeff on January 26, 2015 at 3:54 pm

        Maybe then the pain of my mother’s labor, the pleasure I felt, the tears I shed, the food I ate, the clothes I wore, the vehicle I purchased, the work I did, the friendships I had, the things I learned, the air I breathed, I love I thought I had would have meant something. But I severely doubt it because there’s no redemption to be had in Hell.

        • Jeff on February 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

          Another words: If you don’t get to Heaven, you never had a chance no matter how many lifetimes your heart experienced. Boom. There’s a relief in that. Maybe I’m masochist but I like knowing the girl I had a crush on in High School NEVER would have given me a chance. The pressure is off. I believe God loves us so much He gives each soul the primmest opportunities possible for them to believe. But I just said some never had a chance!? That’s right. Some choose otherwise. I believe our lives are custom faith growers meant to draw us to Christ. Every heartache we ran from and every blessing we did or didn’t hand over to a Higher Power. Whether it’s in nature or actually hearing the Gospel as a child. I believe everyone is on railway that only moves forward by the engine of previous precedent found in our hearts: God exists (Check) God is good (Check) God loves (Check) God loves me (Check) The Bible is the authority of God’s messages to me (Check) God sent His Son to die on a brutal cross for me (Check) Jesus is who He says He is (Check) etc. etc. You either choose to have had it or you won’t/didn’t. No middle ground.

  36. […] By Carey […]

  37. joshpezold on January 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Great post!! I’d say a sign that “I’m turing into a pharisees” is that numbers become more important than stories. Or another way to say it is… my heart is more excited and focused on the success of attendance than the lives being transformed by Jesus. Both important, but one is a means to an end. I was reading Luke 12 this week and this stood out to me… “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered so that they were trampling on one another (success in numbers), Jesus began to speak first to his disciples saying (turned to his leaders):’Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Keep writing Carey!

  38. John M. Harris on January 26, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I think a good post.

    One thing I’d add though… Both Jesus and Paul are presented as Pharisees in the NT.

    So, it’s not so much that we shouldn’t be Pharisees, but we need to be the right kind of Pharisee.

    • Jeff on January 26, 2015 at 11:01 am

      The only reason we have a Paul was because God loves the religious and the sinners. No one escapes God’s love. (The prodigal son story)

      With that said, Carey, I think a big one for me has been to think I know it all and not spending enough time trying to grasp how much I can’t even grasp how much I can’t even grasp how infinite God is.

      • Jeff on January 26, 2015 at 11:17 am

        “the look of contempt” – so subtle yet so obvious. Now I’m a little too convicted and I’m going to go pray.

    • Pat on April 7, 2018 at 3:07 am

      What bible verses in the NT present Jesus as a Pharisee? Paul claimed to be one, not Jesus.

    • RAINO HLYCHHO on January 31, 2021 at 4:56 pm

      Where in the Bible did say Jesus was a pharisee?
      Remember this. Paul never used a word Pharisee as a positive meaning.

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