When Christians Get It Wrong Leader Guide

When Christians Get It Wrong Leader Guide

by Adam Hamilton


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When Christians Get It Wrong Leader Guide by Adam Hamilton

More and more young adults have opted out of Christianity and the church. The reason? Christians.

When young adults talk about the problems they have with Christianity and the church, they often name certain attitudes and behaviors they believe are practiced too often by Christians: judging others, condemning people of other faiths, rejecting science, injecting politics into faith, and being anti-homosexual. With his familiar style, Adam Hamilton tackles these issues and addresses the how's and why's of Christians getting it right when it comes to being Christ in the world.

When Christians Get It Wrong Leader Guide offers session goals, leader helps, activities, Scriptures, and more, and is intended to be used with the DVD.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501800122
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.20(d)

About the Author

Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, one of the fastest growing, most highly visible churches in the country. The Church Report named Hamilton’s congregation the most influential mainline church in America, and he preached at the National Prayer Service as part of the presidential inauguration festivities in 2013 and was appointed to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Hamilton is the best-selling and award-winning author of Creed, Half Truths, The Call, The Journey, The Way, 24 Hours That Changed the World, John, Revival, Not a Silent Night, Enough, When Christians Get It Wrong, and Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, all published by Abingdon Press. Learn more about Adam Hamilton at AdamHamilton.org.

Read an Excerpt




Main Idea: The critique of non-Christians that they perceive us to be judgmental, hypocritical, and unloving should serve as a warning that many of us have become the very Pharisees Jesus preached against. We get it right when we love rather than condemn those who are outside the church.


Session Goals

This session is intended to help participants ...

• recognize the disparity between the love Christians are meant to display and what young adults often witness or experience

• identify four things Jesus warned his followers against related to hypocrisy

• understand that we are all recovering Pharisees

• recognize that we get it right when we love and give, work for justice, demonstrate kindness, and befriend rather than condemn those who are outside the church

Welcome / Important Reminders

Welcome participants and review the important reminders on p. 8.

Opening Prayer

Dear Lord, we acknowledge that we all act in ways that are unchristian at times. Each of us struggles with the tendency to have wrong motives, be critical and judgmental of others, miss the point, and be insensitive and mean-spirited. It is so easy to point out the sins of others while ignoring our own, major in the minors while failing to do the really important things you demand of us, and pretend to be something we're not. When we act in these ways, we are not following the example of love that you modeled for us and taught us to follow. We're all recovering Pharisees, Lord, and we know that only by recognizing our tendency to be Pharisees do we have the hope of remaining in recovery. Teach us to be more like you, Lord. Fill us with your Spirit so that that others will see fruit in our lives — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control — and be drawn to our faith. Amen.

Biblical Foundation

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:1- 2)

Opening Activity

Read aloud the following excerpt from the participant book:

Young people are more secular than ever before. ... About one in five ... are either atheist or agnostic or [have] no faith. That compares to about one in every twenty people ... over the age of 60. Essentially, people believe Christianity is no longer like Jesus intended. That's why they say it is unchristian. They believe essentially that we're hypocritical ... judgmental ... sheltered ... too political ... anti-homosexual ... too focused on getting converts — that we're proselytizers. This negative set of perceptions overwhelms any favorable ideas about seeing us doing good deeds [in] the world. They see this overwhelmingly negative picture of the church, and they reject Jesus and the church because they don't want to be associated with that kind of people.

— David Kinnaman

Discuss:Why do you think young adults today have such an overwhelmingly negative picture of Christianity and Christians?


Video Presentation

Play the DVD segment for Week 1, When Christians Are Unchristian. Running Time: 15:47

Key Insights

1. Most non-Christians know that Jesus stood for love, which is why it feels particularly off-putting to them when those who claim to follow Jesus act in unloving ways.

2. Jesus taught that God's primary rule was love and that God's interest wasn't in condemning those who were "sinners" but in drawing them to himself.

3. Jesus warned his followers about four things related to hypocrisy: wrong motives, judging others, majoring in the minors, and being two-faced.

4. We need to ask ourselves four questions:

• Am I using God, or am I allowing God to use me?

• Do I point out other people's sins without recognizing my own?

• Have I forgotten Jesus' assurance that our love for one another is how the world will know we are his followers?

• Have I cleaned the outside of the cup but neglected the inside?

5. We're all guilty of hypocrisy, and it's only in recognizing and admitting this that we have any hope of becoming more like Christ.

6. Jesus commands us not to judge, warns us against hypocrisy, and calls us to love all — both our neighbors and those with whom we do not see eye to eye.

7. When we get it right, others see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) — and are drawn to our faith.

Leader Extra

Reducing Spirituality to Moral Benchmarks

What is behind many — not all, but many — charges and accusations against the character and integrity of Christians is the demand for perfection in the life of anyone who claims to be a Christian and urges others to consider Christianity as well. This is not, of course, the true meaning of a hypocrite, but even more to the point, it is not an accurate understanding of what it means to enter into the Christian life. Yet the world holds us to it, because we hold ourselves — and others — to it. We fall prey to the charge of hypocrisy because we have reduced spirituality to a list of moral benchmarks coupled with a good dose of judgmentalism. The only way to regain our footing is to remind ourselves — and others — that an authentic Christian is simply someone who has made the decision to believe in Jesus as his forgiver and then attempt to follow him as his leader. But nowhere in this series of events is perfection or sinlessness. Rather, there is simply the intentional effort and sincere desire to recognize God as, well, God. ... Simply put, we must stop presenting ourselves as the message and begin presenting Jesus as the message. There will be disappointment with Christians as long as there are imperfect people. Since all Christians are imperfect, there will always be disappointment. So we must stop having the message of Christ tied to our butchered efforts.

— author Jim White, quoted in unChristian (Baker Books, 2007); pp. 65–66

Group Discussion

Note: More questions are provided than you may have time for. Select those you would like your group to discuss.

1. Read Matthew 22:36-39; Matthew 5:43-48; and John 13:34-35. What did Jesus teach us about love in these verses? Why do you think there is often such a disparity between the love we are meant to display and what young adults often witness or experience?

2. How did Jesus treat "sinners"? Who were the only ones Jesus had words of judgment for in the Gospels? What angered him the most about these people and why?

3. Read Matthew 6:2. What warning does Jesus give regarding giving, praying, and fasting? How can the desire for attention, praise, or a good image spoil our service to God? What are some ways we can guard against wrong motives?

4. Read Matthew 7:4-5. Why do you think we are so prone to point out the sins of others without recognizing our own? How does this demonstrate a kind of superiority and spiritual or moral pride? Why is pride even more dangerous to the soul than the sins we might be denouncing in others?

5. Read Matthew 23:23-24. What was Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for in these verses? What are some ways we "forget to love" today — both as individuals and as the church? How can we help one another to cultivate spiritual honesty?

6. Read Matthew 23:25. How can we know if our religion is merely "window dressing"? Why do you think that focusing on the superficialities prevents heart change and transformation? What can help us to live out what we say we believe so that God's work is accomplished in our world?

7. If no one is perfect and all human beings are Pharisees to one degree or another, what is the real issue behind the criticism that Christians are hypocritical and unloving? Why is it so important for us to recognize our tendency to be hypocritical? How might this change the way we communicate and interact with those outside the Christian faith?

8. Read Galatians 5:22-23. How did the apostle Paul describe what it looks like when followers of Christ "get it right"? How would you describe in your own words what it looks like to follow Jesus' example of love?

9. How has this discussion helped or challenged you?

Group Activity

Read aloud Leader Extra: "Reducing Spirituality to Moral Benchmarks."

Discuss:In light of Jim White's comments, what can we do to change the perception among young adults that Christians are hypocritical? Practically speaking, what are some ways we can stop presenting ourselves as the message and, instead, present Jesus Christ as the message? Write ideas on a board or chart.


Notable Quote

My experience with non-religious people is that they are not expecting Christians to be perfect. In fact, one young adult said, "I don't mind that you Christians don't live up to your ideals. I don't live up to all of my ideals either. In the end, I guess we're all hypocrites, it's just that ... it seems that many Christians haven't figured this out yet." What makes the hypocrisy of Christians the more onerous is when we go about pointing out the sins of others.

— Adam Hamilton

Closing Prayer

Dear God, we want to be filled with your love and goodness all the time. But we're not there yet, so sometimes we're tempted to fake it — and that can get ugly. Help us to live authentically in your love and grace, letting go of our need to look good even when we aren't. Teach us to own our struggles and claim your power to transform us. Amen.




Main Idea: If we want to get it right in science and politics, we need to be open-minded, humble, and teachable, recognizing that we do not have all the truth.


Session Goals

This session is intended to help participants ...

• recognize that many young adults are alienated by the belief that much of what we know from modern science is incompatible with Christian teaching

• consider the role that fear plays in shaping how some Christians approach science

• briefly explore two major points of debate: creation and evolution

• see science as an important companion in the quest for knowledge and truth and a catalyst for their worship of a magnificent God

• consider why it is a dangerous thing when the church or individual Christians become "married" to either political party

• engage in the political arena in a way that is consistent with their faith

• be open-minded and teachable, recognizing they do not have all the truth

Welcome / Important Reminders

Welcome participants and review the important reminders on p. 8.

Opening Prayer

Dear God, many young people today have the perception that we Christians are anti-intellectual — that we check our brains at the door when we enter church — and that we are biased and judgmental in our political views. This is hurtful to hear, and our tendency is to become defensive. Help us not to react to these criticisms, Lord, but to hear and understand why young people outside the church see us this way. Help us to be objective rather than subjective, open-minded rather than closed-minded, and humble rather than proud. Remind us today that we model a Christ-like attitude when we show patience and understanding and love. Help us to be teachable, Lord, recognizing that we do not have all the truth. Amen.

Biblical Foundation

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. (Genesis 1:1-8)

"Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" ... He said to them, "Give ... to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:16b-17, 21b-22)

Opening Activity

Write the following statement on a board or chart:

The more you grow in your faith and the more profoundly you know God, the more you know that you do not know.

Ask participants if they agree with this statement. Then invite them to share ways they have come to this realization personally.

Discuss:How have you come to know that there is much you do not know? Why is it important to be open-minded and teachable?


Video Presentation

Play the DVD segment for Week 2, Christians, Science, and Politics. Running Time: 16:07

Key Insights

1. On June 22, 1633, a tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church pronounced Galileo a heretic for promoting a scientific idea that contradicted the church's teaching. Galileo's trial was the start of an accelerating process in which scientific discoveries have drawn the wrath of Christians who complain that the new ideas undermine their faith.

2. Many bright, thinking people find themselves increasingly alienated by the belief of some Christians that much of what we know from modern science is incompatible with Christian teaching.

3. Fear plays a major role in shaping how some Christians approach science. They fear science because they think that it either competes with faith or is actively engaged in destroying faith by disproving or debunking what they believe.

4. One of the major points of debate has been the Genesis account of Creation. Some Christians have insisted that science must conform itself to a literal reading of the verses in Genesis. However, the Genesis account is not meant to teach us how God created but that God created.

5. Scripture and faith, not science, teach us about the meaning of life and human existence. Science teaches us about the way creation works. Scripture and faith teach the Who and why; science teaches the how and when.

6. In the past century, many Christians were vocal in their opposition to evolution. The most famous battle between Christianity and evolution was played out in a courtroom in Dayton, Tennessee, in July 1925. William Jennings Bryan won the case, but Christianity appeared the loser. In the latter part of the twentieth century, the battle was on again as fundamentalists challenged textbooks and demanded that creationism be taught alongside evolution.

7. Evolution is only a description of a process that seems to explain how simpler organisms may evolve into more complex life forms over time. It is not incompatible with Christianity until the theory is misused and applied to ethics, or until someone uses it to suggest that there is no purpose or order to creation. Millions of Christians believe that the two are not incompatible.

8. Science magnifies God by helping us to see the exquisite and marvelous workings of creation, giving us a greater sense of awe at the Creator.

9. We get it wrong as Christians when we see science as a threat to our faith or try to make the Bible a scientific textbook. We get it right when we see science as an important companion in the quest for knowledge and truth and a catalyst for our worship of a magnificent God.

10. Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party has a corner on the truth, and it is a dangerous thing when the church or individual Christians become "married" to either political party.

11. Some Christians, in the name of God, say and do things in the realm of politics that are the antithesis of the gospel.

12. The apostle Paul offers instructive words in Ephesians 4:29-32 for how we Christians are meant to conduct ourselves in all areas of life, including politics:

• Avoid unwholesome talk and speak only what benefits those who listen.

• Get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, slander, and malice.

• Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving.

13. Jesus gave us an important word about politics when he told us to give to the emperor the things that belong to the emperor and to God the things that belong to God. Just as Caesar's image is on the coin, so God's image is on our souls. We must not allow a party, or a leader, or even our nation to become for us an idol. We must give our allegiance — our souls and our hearts — to God alone.

14. We get it right in politics when we work for justice with grace, truth, and love; fight for what we believe in a way that is consistent with our faith; and give our allegiance to God.

15. The more we grow in our faith, the more we know that there is much we do not know. A humble, teachable spirit and an open mind help us to model a Christ-like attitude.


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Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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Table of Contents

How to Use This Leader Guide,
Week One When Christians Are Unchristian,
Week Two Christians, Science, and Politics,
Week Three When Speaking of Other Religions,
Week Four When Bad Things Happen,
Week Five In Dealing With Homosexuality,
Week Six When Christians Get It Right,

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