“Dave allowed God to navigate him through the pain of religious moralism to arrive at insightful, compelling, and gracious wisdom. He remains a sincere lover of God’s church and people as he directs weary pilgrims to safer lodging.”
—John Lynch, coauthor of TrueFaced and Bo’s Café
Have you been betrayed by a Christian friend?
Are you disillusioned with the church?
If you have been hurt by Christians, you know all about anger and resentment. But what about a workable solution? How can the words and actions of “bad Christians” be addressed so the mistakes are not repeated?
When Bad Christians Happen to Good People offers a workable response and, ultimately, a new way of living. In this revised and updated edition, you will find healing for hurts infl icted by others. At the same time, you will discover ways to help Christians and church leaders recognize the damage that is done by unexamined assumptions, words, and actions.
After dealing with his own hurt, Dave Burchett now shows believers how to:
■ Live as Jesus followers, not rule enforcers
■ Stop using religious performance as the standard for accepting others
■ Let go of moralism, legalism, and an allegiance to trying harder
■ Discover God’s grace as a daily reality, not just a word to use in evangelism
Working toward a solution will benefi t your own life at the same time it helps others. Whether you have been a bad Christian in the past, or have been hurt by one,
there is a better way to live.
Discussion Guide Included for Individual and Small-Group Use
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Dave Burchett started his career as a disc jockey in Ohio, and later moved into sports broadcasting. An Emmy Award-winning television sports director, he has directed events ranging from baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan’s sixth no-hit game to the Summer Olympics. The author of Bring ’Em Back Alive and a blogger on Crosswalk.com and theFish.com, Burchett writes honestly and authentically out of his personal experience. He and his wife, Joni, live in Texas and have three adult sons and a daughter in heaven.
Read an Excerpt
Club in Town?
The greatest single cause of atheism in the worm today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
Author Flannery O'Connor once noted that "sometimes you have to suffer as much from the church as you do for it." Perhaps the most painful experience of my marriage came courtesy of the church.
My wife, Joni, gave birth to our daughter in 1985. But our happiness dissolved into grief when we learned Katie had a terminal neural tube birth defect called anencephaly, which had prevented her brain from developing. She basically had just the brain stem. Katie was not expected to live more than a few hours or days. The doctor in the delivery room described Katie's situation in physicianspeak that I will never forget. "Her condition is not compatible with life," he said.
Our shock and grief were immediate because Katie obviously had no chance for a normal life. There would be no cure, no hope for even modest improvement. I went through the painful process of calling family and friends and telling our two sons about their sister.
But Kathryn Alice Burchett confounded the doctors and lived. She was never able to open hereyes. She couldn't smile. Katie lacked the ability to regulate her body temperature so her room temperature had to be monitored. Part of Katie's deformity was an opening with exposed tissue at the back of her skull that had to be covered and dressed regularly. Joni loved and cared for Katie in a way I will always respect and never forget. She insisted that Katie come home with us. I worried about the effect that caring for Katie at home might have on the boys. Truthfully, I was probably more concerned about the effect bringing her home would have on me. But Joni would not have it any other way, and when she sets her mind she is scrappy. So I showed my spiritual wisdom by agreeing with her.
Katie found her place in our family's routines. She could drink from a bottle. Katie responded to her mother's touch and even grew a little. We took her on a camping trip with us, and she was a regular at the boy's ball games and events.
Sometimes people would make hurtful or mean remarks. A kid at school taunted our oldest son because his sister didn't have a brain. (That was something that the classmate had no doubt heard at home, and it reminds me that we should always be cautious about what we say in front of our children.) Once, when we wanted a family photo, we dressed up the troops and went to the photography studio of a major national chain. The photographer insisted that Katie needed to open her eyes. We explained patiently (for a while) that she physically could not open her eyes. He informed us that we couldn't get our picture taken because their lab would not develop a picture if any person in the group didn't have their eyes open. Katie totally upset their system, and they would not be flexible. We finally left without the photos and ended up going to a private photographer. Still, all things considered, our life with Katie went about as well as it could.
Then the church entered in.
One Sunday morning before church, a friend called to tell us that Katie would no longer be welcome in the nursery. The moms had met and decided (without any input from us) that Katie might die in their care and traumatize some volunteer worker. They worried that the opening at the back of Katie's skull could generate a staph infection. Actually, the nursery workers did not have to deal with infection; the opening was covered with a sterile dressing and a bonnet, and it required no special attention during the brief time she was in the nursery each Sunday. Besides, Katie did not interact with the other babies. Clearly, a little caution would have eliminated any possible risk. And we knew she was going to die. No one would have been to blame. Since we were in a church of only 150 people, I think they could have found us fairly quickly if necessary. Given the opportunity, we might have been able to put the workers' fears to rest. But the decision had already been made. Katie was no longer welcome, and our church had done what I would not have thought possible: They made our pain worse.
Joni was devastated, more hurt than I have ever seen her before or since. I am sure our friends didn't intend to wound as they did, but the hurt lingered for years. And the pain was multiplied by the method. We had no warning that there were concerns. We received no invitation to address those concerns. Instead, a secret meeting was followed by a phone call to tell us what had already been decided. And I'm not the only one with this kind of story.
I know a pastor in the Midwest who suffered the tragic loss of his wife to leukemia. Within a matter of weeks, the board asked him to resign because they did not want to be led by an unmarried pastor! This grieving man had to change denominations in order to continue his ministry. It is a miracle and tribute to God's grace that he kept going at all.
In my hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio, an acquaintance finally decided it was time to get his family into a local church. He loaded up the crew and visited one nearby. The church immediately showed a tremendous and heartfelt concern for his ... grooming issues. You see, Roy had the audacity to show up in God's house with a full beard, not unlike Jesus' in the picture hanging in the foyer. A church leader met Roy on the way out.
"So are you going to start worshiping with us?" he asked.
"Why yes," Roy replied. "We want to start coming to church."
The church leader looked at him and said, "Well, I hope you will have shaved by next Sunday." That was over twenty years ago. Roy has still not found a regular church home.
Hypocrites or Healers?
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hyprokrites, meaning one who plays a part, an actor. Probably no word is more destructively used in describing Christians than hypocrite. André Gide once defined a true hypocrite (an oxymoron?) as the "one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity."
Inevitably, my first and natural reaction upon hearing the word is to think of people I consider guilty? of hypocrisy. When the Reverend Jesse Jackson revealed his relationship with a mistress, I pulled out my hypocrite hammer to smite him. My first reaction should be to ask God to search me and see if a similar lack of discernment lives in my own heart. Somehow, that request has not yet become automatic.
One of Christ's severest rebukes concerned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Matthew 6). These religious leaders liked to be seen and heard when praying, recognized when giving, and pitied when fasting. Had the Jerusalem Broadcasting Network been on the air, you just know that some slick-haired Pharisees would have hosted the prime-time programs.
Today the church condemns those who drink and smoke and live immoral lives while we churchgoers engage in gluttony and gossip and selfishness and bigotry. The unchurched stand by in amazed, bemused, cynical, or angry observance of our hypocrisy. And they lose respect for our message.
As a young man, I sat through many sermons about devil alcohol and demon tobacco followed by a church potluck where apparently the demon of calories was a welcome guest. It seems to me that morbid obesity is also a desecration of the temple (our body). Is that not also wrong? Overweight churchgoers often explain their extra pounds by citing low metabolism or thyroid disorders. I acknowledge that, for many, there is a legitimate medical reason why weight gain is a constant struggle. But shouldn't we also keep open at least the possibility that someone's addiction to nicotine might be similarly genetically predisposed? Or that someone with a weakness for alcohol or pills could possibly be related to a brain chemistry imbalance that exacerbates that problem?
Before you dash off to write a nasty letter of condemnation for my views (you will have many more opportunities; I suggest you keep a running tab and send a comprehensive diatribe later), let me say that I believe with all of my being in the life-changing power of God. I know He can empower an alcoholic to become and stay dry. I have witnessed that fact. I believe God can give a smoker the strength to snuff out that last cigarette. I am convinced God can enable a person to flush pills and drugs down the drain once and for all. But isn't there an uncomfortable flip side to that faith? Shouldn't we also acknowledge that God can give us the power to walk away from the buffet table? That He can give me the strength to bridle my tongue when I become privy to gossip that would hurt another person? Should I not recognize that God can enable me to keep driving that unsexy old car or keep watching that small screen television with no picture-in-picture in order to free up my resources to help someone in need of life's actual necessities?
I marvel at the example of Christ and His approach to sinners. Obviously He could not possibly have condoned the lifestyles and actions of many who surrounded Him. Yet He seemed drawn to the spiritually needyand they to Him. Prostitutes, lepers, and tax collectors all felt the need to hear what Jesus had to say. (Note to my IRS friends: In that culture tax collectors were turncoats who unfairly extorted their own people for personal gain. Nothing at all like the honorable members of our fine government tax organization evaluating my home-office deductions on this year's tax return.)
It seems that the people most uncomfortable around Jesus were the religious, the churchgoers as it were. Those who are most ill need the physician's time, and Jesus gravitated to the ER cases. I have friends who are physicians, and probably no patient annoys them more than a hypochondriac. These unfortunate people drain the resources and time of medical personnel, resources, and time that could be far better used healing the truly sick. It seems to me that Jesus dealt with the hypochondriacs of His day (the Pharisees and religious people) with that same attitude. Jesus had little patience with those who failed to recognize their true spiritual symptoms. But He was always willing to see the spiritually ill.
The church should be in the business of addressing spiritual illness. When you are deathly ill, you don't start thinking of going to the health dub: "Well, this will be a good time to get in shape. I feel horrible, and I think I'm going to die." Yet many churches have somehow communicated that only the spiritually healthy are truly welcome at church. Many people think their lives are too far gone to be accepted at church, when in fact that brokenness just about makes them ready to receive God's amazing grace. But too many feel that going to church would make them too uncomfortable or heighten their guilt. They sense they would be judged and treated with condescension.
Yes, some of these feelings are self-inflicted wounds. But more are not. We must examine the possibility that we are doing things that make hurting people stay away from the church. Do you ever think your health is too messed up to go to the hospital? Assuming you have insurance, does a hospital ever communicate that you are just a little too sick to come in? "We don't like the look of your illness. Find another place to go." When did the church step away from its responsibility of healing emotional pain and meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs? Steve Martin used to say, "Comedy isn't pretty." Sometimes ministry isn't either. Sometimes it won't be neat or polished or slick. Sometimes it requires us to pay a price.
Most of us don't much like to be around the truly spiritually ill. It tends to make us uncomfortable. Treating the spiritually ill is draining, and it comes with no guarantees for success. We would rather hire someone to clean up the mess and report back to us at a praise service.
Yet how can we preach Christ's love and not care about the AIDS epidemic? So what if it doesn't "touch" us or if we find its primary means of transmission unsettling? How can we talk about God's grace but ignore other people's physical needs and bow to the idols of success and money and power? How can we talk about the importance of giving, and then spend money on things we don't need, often to curry the approval of people we don't really care about? How can we minister to others when we don't first meet the spiritual needs of our own families? How can we win the respect of the world when we cruise around in luxury sports cars and turn our faces away from homeless people?
Do we think that if we ignore the problems perhaps God will not hold us accountable?
Our family has a wonderful golden retriever named Charlie. He is a connoisseur of used Kleenex and paper towels. Charlie knows I disapprove of him running off with tissues, so each time he nabs one, he dashes to the family room and sticks his head and front quarters under a Queen Anne chair. Charlie doesn't realize that 75 percent of his body is sticking out and his tail is wagging wildly. He thinks he is safe from retribution because his face is hidden. It is a ridiculous and humorous scene.
Is it any less ridiculous to think that we Christians can avoid our responsibilities as Christ's representatives and operatives on this planet? Are we Christians any smarter than Charlie when we avert our gaze from the needs of others and convince ourselves that God won't notice? Somehow I don't think God smiles and says, "Oh, that Dave, he was just too busy to notice his friend was in pain. But that's okay." No. Instead, my selfishness sticks out just as noticeably as Charlie's rear end. (There is a certain symmetry in that analogy.)
Country Club Christian
I was raised in a very strict church where rules and regulations smothered the concept of grace by their sheer weight. No jewelry for women. No mixed bathing. (That one was a wild fantasy for my adolescent hormones until I realized they meant swimming.) No musical instruments other than a piano or organ in the church. I never did find the biblical basis for that one.
"And thou shalt have no stringed instruments or percussive idols."
No long hair for men. No short hair for women. No shorts. No cussing. No makeup. No pants for women. No card playing. No movies. No dancing. No smoking. No drinking. I actually sat through a sermon where the preacher spent sixty minutes trying to explain that the wine of the New Testament was actually grape juice. So Jesus turned the water into Welch's? What a wedding feast that must have been with great food and a fine vintage grape juice.
"It's a lovely little vintage ... stomped just this morning."
On and on the list went. If any activity involved an ounce of pleasure, you could be pretty sure the answer was no. No television. People in our church used to put a sheet over the television when the preacher made a house call. As if the good reverend wouldn't know that a "Devil's Box" stood under that cover. Obviously God wouldn't know either. I mean, how could the Creator of the universe possibly know that the box-shaped object under the big sheet was a television?
The list of no's went on and on. The effect was predictable: We experienced no joy, no peace, no assurance of God's forgivenessand no interest from anyone outside our miserable little circle. I suggested renaming our sullen little group the First Church of Misery Loves Company but We Probably Won't Love You.
Some of the things allowed in this church were really more repulsive than the things banned. Things like racism and bigotry. There was not a stated policy, but you would have never seen a "colored" (our loving and enlightened term for African-Americans) in our church. It was just understood. They had "their" churches, and I guess we thought it was okay for "them" to worship "our" God if "they" had the decency to be discreet about it. Actually only the more spiritual in our body called African-Americans "coloreds." For the less enlightened it was "darkies" or worse. Members of our church also railed against Jews. I have heard from the pulpit how the Jews were ruining our country, while the fact that the Savior happened to be one was ignored. And don't even begin to mention "queers" or "sodomites," as we so colorfully called the gay population.
No wonder so many people feel so alienated from the church. I often feel alienatedand I'm a member of this club!
But Jesus' church is not a highbrow country club. The church should exclude no one. The church should welcome those unwelcome anywhere else. Anyone can attend. And yet most churches are not a place where people feel comfortable if they are living a life that is not moral. In fact, the church is often a place where most people don't feel comfortable if they're just living life.
Apart from God's grace and the maturity to see each human being as His creation, we are prone to reject those who are different from us. Have you ever wished that certain people wouldn't speak or be so prominent in your congregation? You would be more comfortable bringing unchurched friends if those slightly embarrassing brothers and sisters weren't there, or at least were invisible. My family reunion would look much better (trust me) if it were by invitation only. But when you include the entire family, you get a few embarrassments. And your family is no doubt the same. So it is with my church family. That is a simple fact, given what we have to work with: sinners.
We need to trust God with those who are a little embarrassing to those of us who are not. (How amazing that our prideful minds can even think like that.) We might even take the bold step of befriending them. Believers who hang around with a homogeneous group of carbon-copy Christians limit their own growth. But more on that in the next chapter.
The Sinner-Sensitive Church
I recall dating a girl long before I met my beloved Joni. (This book-writing stuff is dangerous.) I asked her to go to church with me. She was not a Christian and did not know the official rules. As you might have gathered, our church published them in a multi-volume set. She arrived at church wearing a strapless dress that the congregation found scandalous. In her mind she was simply wearing her best dress to church; she had no idea she was doing anything wrong. Actually, she wasn't doing anything wrong, but you get the point. From the moment we walked in, the two of us felt the saints' reproachful laser-beam stares of righteousness drilling into us. Instead of asking God to make her heart receptive to His Word, I spent the service worrying about what this pea-brained congregation thought of me. I must be honest and report that a handful of gracious people in the body welcomed us, but most folks were just busy being appalled.
This would not happen in the sinner-sensitive church.
The sinner-sensitive church (SSC) is my proposal for a new church movement toward making everyone feel welcomed and loved. The SSC would model nonjudgmental attitudes. Issues like having tattoos, body piercings, weird hair, or ugly shoes would not necessarily denote demon possession. The SSC would pledge not to gossip because we would realize that it is only by the grace of God that we are not the current targets. The sinner-sensitive church would value every spiritual, physical, and financial gift, no matter how big or small. This church would appreciate but not elevate the person who built the new wing with the large financial endowment. The SSC would make it a practice to reach out, touch, and care for one another sacrificially because we know that we all fall down in life and in our Christian walk. At the SSC we would have executives holding hands in prayer with laborers and not thinking twice about it. Blacks and whites and Hispanics and others would break bread together because we are all sinners in the eyes of a color-blind God.
The sinner-sensitive church would give freely out of profound gratitude to a God who somehow saw fit to give us an undeserved chance. The sinner-sensitive church would practice the prodigal son ministry; running to welcome those returning from mistakes and bad decisions and sin. Our members would get involved in other people's lives. We would hold our brothers and sisters accountable to godly standards. Marriage would be cherished. Families would have a community of support during problems and trials. The congregation of the SSC would not be so self-centered that we would demand the undivided attention of the pastor at every little crisis. Other believers would help meet many of those needs that we now prefer to leave to the "professional Christians" on staff. The people of this church would come with hearts ready to be fed but also realizing that God has provided resources beyond any available in history to meet our spiritual hunger. And should we walk out the church doors still needy, we would know we can draw from the marvelous resources of Christian books, music, radio, video, tapes, Internet, and studies to meet our needs. Any one of us could be filled to overflowing if that were our desire.
The sinner-sensitive church would also delight in the company of other spiritual travelers and make it a priority that no one ever felt alone. We would make each other feel valuable but, on occasion, a little uncomfortable. Being comfortable in church is not the primary goal. I am not always comfortable at the dentist's office. I often arrive in pain because I have neglected to do what I should have done. The staff always makes me feel welcome and even cared for. Then the dentist confronts me with the truth: "You have let this go too long, and I must hurt you (a little) in order to heal you. You will have to pay a financial price and spend time recovering before you are completely well." Those are the facts of my dental hygiene sin. The sinner-sensitive church would not back off the truth either. Decay in the enamel or soul must be addressed. We will tell one another the truth and explain that the process might be a little painful. We would participate in ongoing preventative maintenance and help one another deal with problems as soon as possible, before they become even more painful and expensive to fix.
The SSC would worship with enthusiasm, whether singing hymns or praise choruses, because God is worthy of that praise. The sinner-sensitive fellowship would have a sense of profound reverence because we have received God's grace, the most amazing gift ever offered. The sinner-sensitive church would be so excited about this grace that the incredible news of the gospel would be as much a part of who we are as our jobs and our families.
Excerpted from When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett. Copyright © 2002 by Dave Burchett. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
|Introduction: A Brief Disclaimer||1|
|Part I||Silencing the Lambs: The Indefensible Things We Do to One Another|
|1.||The Unfriendliest Club in Town?||13|
|2.||The Schism Trail||31|
|5.||Whose Idea Was This?||67|
|Part II||Why Won't Those Heathens Listen? Thoughts on How We Lost Our Audience|
|6.||Our Walkin's Ain't Matchin' Our talkin'||83|
|7.||CSL: Christian As a Second Language||95|
|8.||Godly or Gaudy?||105|
|9.||Jesus Wept...and He Still Does||115|
|10.||The Culture War: Rambo or Conscientious Objector?||125|
|Part III||Reality-Based Faith for Survivors: Being Real in an Artificial World|
|11.||This Is a Hard Teaching!||149|
|12.||Six Things I Learned About Evangelism During Election 2000||167|
|13.||Don't Know Much About Theology||193|
|14.||All God's Children Got Souls, Even the Annoying Ones||207|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If I can be perfectly honest, I have a lot of anger inside of me. A good portion of it is directed towards my fellow Christians. If I can be blunt, the average person attending the American church can be a bit of a meathead. (I’m including myself in this demographic – I’m a rather oblivious person from time to time ¿) So when I saw this book, “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People” by Dave Burchett, I clicked ‘order’ nearly immediately. I was intrigued. I tell you what, ladies and gentlemen, this book is fantastic. The author is funny and thought provoking, an unusual combination. I’d never have imagined that a single book (save the Bible) would cause me pause and consider so often. Every three pages I would be stopping and asking God to help me change. Guys, let’s face it. We have all failed as a church. But this book could be a remedy to that. This book doesn’t bash Christians in the face. It instead holds their hand as they are convicted and shows them a way to fixing their problems. I highly recommend this book. Five out of five stars. This book is excellent! I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
People can be hurtful. Christians included. Unfortunately, that hurts is sometimes intentional. Fortunately, it is not always intentional. It is sad to say that this hurt , at times, comes from those who should certainly know better and who have been given the strength and spirit to refrain from such practice. Dave Burchett, author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People; Where We Have Failed Each Other and How to Reverse the Damage, has written a smart, honest, and insightful book that pulls no punches when calling out the bad behavior that Christians display today. Burchett offers no excuses. Instead he offers a fresh perspective on the fragile relationship between those he considers his target audience; those who have “been hurt by a judgmental person or church” and the “Christians who inflict the wounds”. Burchett has smartly divided his book into three common sense sections: The Indefensible Things We Do to One Another (evaluation), Thoughts on How We Lost Our Audience (diagnosis), and Being Real in an Artificial World (prescription). Burchett does a great job in his evaluation of Christian conduct today. He writes that Christians are at times hypocritical, prone to fuss and fight, guilty of further harming the already wounded, and successful at majoring in the minor things. Chapter three (Would Jesus Spend His Time on This?) is the most powerful in this first section. It shows how easily distracted Christians are today from what should be their true focus in life. The author’s diagnosis, or the reasons Christians are losing their audience, is shamefully accurate. Issues such as an inconsistent witness, church language, and the contrasting portraits of love and forgiveness are given as reasons for the pushback. Chapter nine (Jesus Wept... And He Still Does) is especially powerful. In the third and final section, Burchett offers a prescription for Christians to become more genuine before a watching world. Stressed are embracing the hard-teachings of Christ as being vital to growth and witness, a return to biblical literacy, and the exercising of grace when dealing with those in whom we disagree. Chapter thirteen (All God’s Children Got Souls, Even the Annoying Ones) is truly convicting. His call to “hate the message and love the messenger” is spot on. A book such as this one needed to be written. What I really like about this book is that the author’s views and critiques do not come from a sterile laboratory, nor is it simply an academic exercise. Instead, by his own admission, he has been hurt by Christians and as Christian has hurt others. His style of writing, containing humor, scripture, and real-life stories, is engaging and insightful. A great work on a serious subject. I highly recommend. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
When Bad Christians Happen to Good People – Dave Burchett ©2002, 2011 Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs You just can’t go wrong with a title like When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. And Dave Burchett (who is NOT a theologian by profession, by the way) backs it up with the subtitle “Where We Have Failed Each Other and How to Reverse the Damage.” I will be the first to admit that the lion’s share of books available in Christian bookstores today that are aimed at helping Christians be more like Christ have a strong bent toward finger-pointing negativity. Our preaching tends to do the same. Either Christians are pointing accusatory fingers at the non-Believers around us highlighting the sin that is dragging them straight to hell, or we are involved in abusive name-calling of one another reminding each other how short we come when measuring up to our image of what Christianity should look like. (May I raise a quick “guilty” hand admitting my own participation in this unhealthy faith? We can work on it together.) Many of these books (and sermons) are coming straight from the studies and mouths of some of the most sought-after Christian preachers and writers today. And then Emmy Award-winning television sports director Dave Burchett throws in his two-cents’ worth. Perhaps it is his lighter tone, or the fact that he is a non-clergy-type taking an honest look at what the Christian church is and has become that is appealing, but whatever the cause, in this second edition of his book, we find a sincere call for Christians to be more, well, Christian. Burchett uses examples from his own experience with the unforgiving air of the forgiven and encounters with others who are actually living like Jesus to weave a Christian Living book that is arguably the most helpful one in the market today. He not only points out the shortfalls that have given the church a black eye over the years, but he also drops the answer to such failings throughout the book. The answer, according to the book, is to stop trying to be a good Christian and let Christ through His grace take care of that for you. This book has and will earn its author more headaches at the hands of the self-righteous bunch of Christians who are monitoring the halls (his allusion, not mine), but no one expected shining the light on unpopular truth to be easy (history is filled with the blood-stories of martyrs who have proven this). What makes this book worth your while if you are a Christian is it’s readability and its personable approach to becoming more like the One whose name we bear. If you happen to find a copy of the original 2002 version of the book, go ahead and read it, but if you can get your hands on the new 2011 edition (with some newer material and a softer tone), I would suggest it as the one to read. In fact I think it deserves 5 out of 5 reading glasses. —Benjamin Potter August 31, 2012 [Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]
This title strikes a deep, hollow, minor chord in me. As a pastor, I find those people that are most resistant to Jesus are those who have been injured by those who bear Christ’s name. The deepest wounds come from those we trust, and we are supposed to be able to trust our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a need for a book like this: a book for surviving hurts that have been given by those who are supposed to love their neighbors as they love themselves. The concept of the book is right there in the title and sub-title. Does it deliver? Burchett delivers up some very fine points. The first chapter points out that bad Christians are just that: bad Christians, not non-Christians. We are still sinners, and sin gets in the way. He does not jump on the holiness rollercoaster that says the person who hurt you is not a Christian if he or she hurt you in such a way; the person who caused the hurt is a Christian who sinned. The first chapter has some great quotes, and I want to simply lay out a few here so you can get a taste of Burchett’s prose style: "Many of the unchurched folks I talk to base their rejection of Christ on a bad experience with a Christian. In reality, that can be a lame excuse that disguises the real issues at hand: who is Jesus Christ and what does that mean? "On the other hand, I believe a disturbingly high percentage of Christians leave the church and even the faith because of a bad experience with an individual Christian, a Christian leader, or a group of Christians… This Christianity thing would be amazing if Christians would just stop getting in the way." After laying the groundwork in the first chapter that Burchett is not claiming that bad Christians have given up their ticket to heaven and targeting his audience (Christians who are frustrated with other Christians), he moves on to target some of the specific causes of Christians harming other Christians. First up in his crosshairs is legalism. The chapter focusing on the silly laws we lay out for each other includes a great insight into Burchett’s sense of humor. He claims that Christians should throw a Festivus pot luck, which would include (of course) an airing of grievances and feats of strength. In this chapter, he suggests that churches should be welcoming to sinners, and yes, this will create problems. Sinner-sensitive churches will offend the sensibilities of many – just as Christ offended when he reached out to tax collectors and prostitutes. The chapter ends with an indicting paragraph: “Christians, like physicians, should vow to do no harm. But forgive us, Lord, because too often we do inflict harm.” The next chapter looks at how Christians like dividing out over the silliest things. Burchett again reminds us that the church is made up of sinners: “The church is dysfunctional because it can’t be anything else. Seriously. Just look at who attends.” This chapter makes some good points about being forgiving over sin, but I feel that he leaned a little bit too far and started saying that we shouldn’t divide over false doctrine. He never states that outright, but some of his statements lean that way. He does ask an important question, though: If you are tempted to leave the church, is it an issue of pride? Many of his points in this chapter are helpful, but again, I think he may be leaning too far into saying, “Don’t leave your church, even if it’s false doctrine.” (I will admit, again, this may be me reading too much into a few specific sentences.) The next chapter really caused me to pause and consider. It asks WJSHTOT, which I should probably cross-stitch on my whoopee-cushion. It stands for “Would Jesus Spend His Time On This?” He talks about Christians getting involved in crusades and causes that simply aren’t worth the congregation’s time. He targets the issue of praying in public schools, and I found myself cheering him on in his stance, though I suspect he didn’t win too many brownie points from most evangelicals. He then returns to legalism in a slightly different form, labeling it “fear-based Christianity.” He nails several targets handily. Finally, he looks at how stupid it was of God to leave the “marketing” of Christianity to sinful, all too often selfish Christians. He doesn’t call God stupid, mind you – he simply points out that he would never have done the marketing this way! Having looked at the many ways that Christians hurt Christians, he turns and looks at how Christians have lost the world as an audience. He targets several areas in the next few chapters, including how so often Christians act no differently than the unbelieving world. If our Christianity doesn’t change us in day-to-day ways, why would anyone examine what we believe? He offers a great CSL class (Christianity as a Second Language). Burchett does a great job showing just how strange our Christian way of talking is to someone who didn’t grow up in the church. Then he focuses on “Christian products” as completely unnecessary in most cases. He takes a look at militant Christians that go to war with the world. Finally, Burchett starts examining ways to teach the church to do better. He begins by saying that so many Christians don’t know what they believe. They can’t explain grace. They can’t talk about Jesus in any real way. They have dumbed down Jesus to an acceptable, safe level. Burchett recommends that the church gets back into the Bible and simply read it and see what it says. I found the advice refreshing. He talks about how the simple “sinner’s prayer” is too easy – not that grace isn’t free for the sinner, not that you have to earn forgiveness, but so often new Christians aren’t led to see the depth of God’s amazing love. (I will note that as with many books, this one proclaims decision theology without any kind of shame over it. He does not see how “making a decision” in and of itself is works righteousness, something that Burchett soundly denounces in the rest of the book.) A chapter focuses on how “All God’s children got souls, even the annoying ones.” And it’s true. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, but even these annoying Christians are in fact my brothers and sisters. That means that ministry (and faith in general) is messy. It’s hands-on. He also points out that Christians are meant to mature; why should we be surprised when a brother or sister sins? They’re still sinners! Why should we be surprised when a young Christian sins? Why should we be surprised when someone who grew up in the church doesn’t know the basics when they haven’t done much more than sit in the pew for the last forty years? He suggests that Christians need to show themselves to be different as an opening to explain why they’re different – instead of claiming to be different but never having actions to back up their words. Let the world notice our light, and then let them see the oil that powers our flame. Don’t try to splash them with oil and then light them on fire. That doesn’t work so well. Finally, Burchett turns to grace. He shows that what we have is so very different from the rest of the world. We have forgiveness. We don’t have to become anything… because we’ve already been transformed. We don’t have to change… because God has changed us. We do mature into what we already are, but we currently are new creations. We need to remind Christians of who they are – not force them to be something they’re not through law and fear. I greatly appreciated this focus, but it really could have been infused into the entire book instead of just the last chapter. Overall, Burchett has a lot of smart things to say. He targets some problems and his conversational style is easy to read. This might be a good read for a layman or even a council study if a church is looking to discover how it can do better. His answers are spot on: Know who you are in Christ. Show love. Know better and better what God tells you in his Word. I do wish he had spent more time on solutions than pinpointing problems, but he does explain that the first version of this book was cathartic – it was more him explaining why he had problems in his congregation. Now he’s aiming to be part of the solution. This volume is a second edition; entire chapters have been added. Based on his notes on how this edition is different than the first, I would strongly recommend that if you’re going to read this book, get this new (2011) edition. Don’t bother with the first. So, there you go. This is a great conversation-starter. Grab it and consider what he says. Does it reflect you? I found myself indicted several times. It’s a good thing that I already know the solution: I am forgiven in Christ. He has made me a new creation. Time to get back to who I really am. Legal nuts and bolts: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Every now and then I come across a book that just looks like a fun read. And this is one of those books. I mean, the title should make you cackle with laughter or at least chuckle softly if you are a more reserved person. Anyway, as the title suggests, the book covers the various hypocrisies in the modern Church. I say modern because it does not dive too deep into Old Testament prophet books that go into the hypocrisy. But the book does quote heavily from the New Testament and the words of Yeshua. I personally liked the part where it talked about modern-day Christians not knowing enough theology. Because--let's face it--if you can't explain what you believe or if you don't even know what you believe, that's a recipe for disaster. While this book has some fun humor in it, it can be a bit slow at times. But, for some people, they really need to read it. This book has tough love. It will be hard to read at times, but it delivers Truth. Trust in Yeshua and take the plank out of your eye. I'm still working on that. ;)
Burchett finds a great perspective on one of the churches biggest struggles. His introduction is a great start to acknowledging his place (as well as every other Christian's) in the Church. We all have great flaws and can sometimes be better at displaying our less-then-great qualities then the qualities Christ has called us to have. Burchett is no theologian or major christian figure. He is not out to make Christians out of the whole world like evangelists. Instead he points out what all Christians need to hear to be better theologians and evangelist. THANK YOU DAVE! Stay strong in your ministry.
When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett is the must-read book for anyone who has been hurt by a Christian, whether they are a fellow Christian or not. Burchett has released an updated version of this book that was originally released in 2001. His faith and understanding in God has changed, and he wants to share that with his readers. He has a message that many Christians will not want to hear and will most certainly not want others to read. Christians are supposed to be perfect, so exposing our sins for the world to see is sure to upset some readers, but for others, this is exactly the message the world needs to hear from our community. I have been so deeply hurt by two churches in my past that I haven't attended church in over a year. My faith is deeper than it ever was in a church, but I know that it's a missing part of my life. It's been hard for me to be willing to trust again and step inside another church. I picked up Burchett's book because the title spoke directly to me. He appeals to anyone who has ever been hurt by someone from the church. His writing is sometimes acerbic, occasionally humorous and always insightful. What really makes this book a stand out is that it goes from sympathizing with readers about their pain, to challenging them to rethink their own faith, and finally to acknowledging areas in which they may have harmed someone else through their faith. I was personally convicted in a couple areas of my life (including my lack of church attendance) that I am addressing. Burchett is brutally honest about his own sins and that allows readers to think more honestly about their own. Some great quotes from the book: Faith based on fear has the potential to become like a marriage based on abuse. Remember, the church is full of sinners, and if they ever fix that problem, you and I are gone. The hospital never tells patients they are too sick for help, but the church often treats the spiritually ill with contempt or condescension. Burchett includes a bill of rights for non-believers that should be mandatory reading for believers which includes the right never to be treated in a condescending manner, the right to never have faith forced on them, and the right to be loved no matter their response, plus more. Christianity has gotten a bad rap, deservedly, in recent years, and Burchett deals with that unflinchingly, and then turns around and offers readers ways to change themselves and just maybe the world.