Thursday Thirteen #2: Thirteen Mistakes Often Made by Well-Meaning Christians (Including Me)

by Hopeful Spirit on Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Included in the First Edi­tion of the Car­ni­val of Chris­t­ian Advice, hosted at
Ask Andrea

I actu­ally got the idea for this list from a post on a blog titled “Friendly Athe­ist”. The author appar­ently goes to dif­fer­ent churches as an observer and com­piled a list of “20 Things That Chris­tians Do in Church That Annoy Me”.

This list is com­prised solely of my opin­ions and view­points, and is not intended to be an indict­ment or judg­ment of any per­son. Mar­tin Luther said we are “weak, puny and sin­ful” beings and that includes me!

I am guilty of doing many of these things more often than I care to recount. I am actu­ally going to print this post out and affix it to my bul­letin board at home and in my desk drawer at my office (see the first item) to serve as a reminder to myself to adhere to these principles.

Thir­teen Mis­takes Often Made by Well-Meaning Chris­tians (Includ­ing Me)

1. Attempt­ing to con­vert co-workers.

There is a time and place for every­thing and it is most inap­pro­pri­ate to pros­e­ly­tize in the work­place. Sure, if you hap­pen to know that one of your col­leagues is a Chris­t­ian, it is accept­able to men­tion your shared beliefs at lunchtime, dur­ing breaks, etc. so long as the con­ver­sa­tion takes place in appro­pri­ate loca­tions and does not inter­fere with other folks’ rights.

2. Judg­ing others.

We’re all guilty of doing this from time to time because it is human nature, but I really hate it when I hear Chris­tians judg­ing other peo­ple, espe­cially when they go so far as to spec­u­late that another per­son is not a “true” or “real” Chris­t­ian or ques­tion where the per­son in ques­tion will be spend­ing eter­nity. We are com­manded to “judge not, let you also be judged.” Along with this goes Num­ber Three …

3. Dis­play­ing an atti­tude of supe­ri­or­ity as com­pared to other religions.

Too often Chris­tians act as though they have “a lock” on the truth and every­one else is so igno­rant that they don’t deserve to be treated as equals. Our truth is just that: Our truth as we under­stand and believe it. I am a firm believer in John 3:16. But I also believe that, as Jesus com­manded, I should strive to main­tain an atti­tude of humil­ity at all times, even when it comes to the fact that I have dis­cov­ered what I believe to be the truth. And right in line with this item and Num­ber Two is …

4. Dis­play­ing an atti­tude of exclu­siv­ity rather than inclusivity.

Jesus hung out with society’s unde­sir­ables. He was not with the “cool kids” at the “cool table” in the cafeteria.

o where do Chris­tians get off decid­ing that they are only going to asso­ciate with other Chris­tians? How are you gong to go out and make dis­ci­ples, as Jesus instructed, if you only hang around peo­ple who think the way you do?

Too often I see Chris­tians form­ing cliques — within and out­side of orga­nized reli­gion — from which they actively and pur­pose­fully exclude peo­ple they per­ceive as not meet­ing their expec­ta­tions or stan­dards or being dif­fer­ent from them. Next time you find your­self in a social sit­u­a­tion, make a delib­er­ate attempt to hang out with the peo­ple who don’t seem to be “in,” rather than try­ing to fit in with those who are.

Seek out that per­son stand­ing alone in the cor­ner of the room watch­ing the party go on around them. Start up a con­ver­sa­tion. Intro­duce your­self to the quiet cou­ple on the side­lines whose names you don’t know. See how it feels. I think you’ll find it to be a very lib­er­at­ing and ful­fill­ing experience.

5. Deny­ing the inher­ent truth of the Gospels.

At first glance, this might seem like a con­tra­dic­tion of above items. But it is not.

I have actu­ally heard Chris­tians say shock­ing things like, “Well, I don’t believe in hell” or “I don’t think there really is a devil.” In my opin­ion, if you are going to adopt the label of “Chris­t­ian,” you must embrace the core con­cepts of the belief sys­tem with­out reservation.

The most basic tenet of Chris­tian­ity is set forth in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who­ever believes in him shall not per­ish but have eter­nal life.” He also said that no one will come to the Father except through Him. There­fore, as we under­stand the truth, the pos­si­bil­ity of eter­nal damna­tion for those who reject those basic tenets is real. Chris­tians are called upon to pro­claim the Gospels boldly, not shrink from their mes­sage because it is unpop­u­lar or unpalat­able to some.

6. Believ­ing that their style of wor­ship is the only one that is accept­able or pleas­ing to the Divine Creator.

Luther­ans call Pen­te­costals “holy rollers” and Pen­te­costals call Luther­ans and other tra­di­tion­ally con­ser­v­a­tive churches “the frozen cho­sen” and on it goes … There is no sin­gle style of wor­ship that is com­fort­able and appro­pri­ate for every­one. It is entirely a mat­ter of per­sonal pref­er­ence and what one becomes accus­tomed to.

If peo­ple want to yell out “Hal­lelu­jah” in the mid­dle of a wor­ship ser­vice, that’s their busi­ness. If peo­ple want to sit in the pew look­ing at the hym­nal, fol­low­ing along, but not singing, that’s their choice. As long as the wor­shiper comes before the Divine Cre­ator with a truly repen­tant and open heart, I don’t really think it mat­ters whether the wor­ship is loud and rau­cous or restrained and quiet.

I once had a music direc­tor tell me that peo­ple were not wor­ship­ing if they weren’t singing the hymns dur­ing the wor­ship ser­vice. Such a state­ment is infu­ri­at­ingly obnox­ious and igno­rant. Case in point: My father never sang a note in church his entire life, but he had the hym­nal open, fol­lowed along, and could recite the words to many hymns. He just didn’t sing because he did not feel that he had a good voice and pre­ferred to lis­ten to oth­ers mak­ing music. Nobody is ever going to con­vince me that my father was not wor­ship­ing — he was just doing it in his own way.

7. Empha­siz­ing or focus­ing on the neg­a­tive aspects of Christianity.

Our rela­tion­ship with the Divine Cre­ator should not be based on fear. The mes­sage is called the “Good News” for a rea­son! We are com­manded to make a joy­ful noise, after all. There are plenty of rea­sons to be joy­ful and thank­ful. Just take a moment to look around you and you can find some with very lit­tle effort if you just think care­fully about it. For instance, if you are read­ing this, give thanks that you can read and for the teach­ers and par­ents who taught you to do so. Are you read­ing this while indoors? Hey, it’s cold out­side, so give thanks for being inside and hav­ing shelter!

Yes, it is just that basic and sim­ple, folks. Think about it.

8. Quot­ing the Bible sans his­tor­i­cal con­text with an insis­tence upon literalism.

The Bible must be read and under­stood with an appre­ci­a­tion of both its his­tor­i­cal con­text and lit­er­ary styles. Gen­e­sis is an alle­gory. I doubt very seri­ously that the Divine cre­ated the heav­ens and earth in seven 24-hour days. Evo­lu­tion and cre­ation­ism are not incon­sis­tent theories.

9. Attempt­ing to influ­ence the beliefs and behav­iors of other people’s children.

It is up to par­ents to decide the nature and extent of their children’s reli­gious edu­ca­tion. Bluntly, other peo­ple need to back off and butt out. If the par­ents are not teach­ing the chil­dren about Chris­tian­ity in a man­ner with which you approve, pray about it. But do not inject your­self into the equa­tion. Grand­par­ents, this includes you!

10. Fail­ing to use the resources pro­vided to them by the Divine Cre­ator.

The old cliché is true: The Divine Cre­ator helps those who help them­selves. You have a brain, so put it to work. Rea­son. Ana­lyze. Eval­u­ate. Deduce. Be good stew­ards and use your tal­ents and abil­i­ties while lis­ten­ing for the still, small voice. It is speak­ing to you.

11. Accus­ing the Divine Cre­ator of not answer­ing prayer.

Garth Brooks sang that “some of God’s great­est gifts are unan­swered prayers.” That’s entirely wrong. There is no such thing as an unan­swered prayer. ALL prayers are answered. It may just be that you did not get the answer you sought.

A turn­ing point in my life was my atten­dance at a class on prayer a cou­ple of years ago which was facil­i­tated by a layper­son who had stud­ied the sub­ject of prayer in depth for many years. She made the point that we should always pray for the result that is con­sis­tent with the Divine Creator’s Plan. For instance, if a friend or loved one is ill, we imme­di­ately pray for the per­son to be healed, to get well, right? What if that is not the Plan? What if it truly is that person’s time to cross over into eter­nal life? We are bound to be dis­ap­pointed if we have prayed for the spe­cific result that we seek and it is not in align­ment with what is meant to be. Which leads to …

12. Accus­ing the Divine Cre­ator of hav­ing a “will” that allows bad things to happen.

Well, it was God’s will that [insert hor­ri­ble event].”

I don’t know why God didn’t cure him, but chose to let him die.”

I just don’t under­stand why God lets wars go on if He is all-powerful and lov­ing. Why doesn’t he put a stop to all the hor­ri­ble things that keep happening?”

You’ve heard Chris­tians say those things and many other sim­i­lar remarks. Maybe you’ve said them yourselves.

I do not believe the Divine Cre­ator has a “will” that allows bad to hap­pen or come to us. There is a Plan and every­thing that hap­pens is in accor­dance with it. For me, that is con­cep­tu­ally dif­fer­ent than the “will” that peo­ple insin­u­ate dri­ves the Divine Cre­ator to sit back and do noth­ing in the face of catastrophe.

Look, I don’t know why bad things hap­pen any more than you do. There is evil in the world. It is every­where and our angels are bat­tling it for us all the time. Ulti­mately, it will be defeated. In the mean­time, this is a bro­ken world we are liv­ing in.

Trust me, I have a lot of ques­tions that I intend to ask when I meet the Cre­ator face to face.

13. Fail­ing to give thanks in all things.

I’m still work­ing on being thank­ful every moment of every day in all cir­cum­stances and about all events in my life. Are you?

1 Amy H February 15, 2007 at 1:41 pm

Who really is thankful in all circumstances? Is it possible? That will definitely be a work always in progress. I enjoyed your 13!

2 amy February 15, 2007 at 2:02 pm

I guess I am following the other Amy.What a good list..It actually made me tear up because if we did the opposite of those, we would be more of an example

3 Christine February 15, 2007 at 8:06 pm

I wanted to thank you for posting an intelligent, articulate and well-thought out article. I’m very glad I stumbled onto your site through TT. I look forward to reading more. Have a great weekend.

4 Cheryl February 15, 2007 at 8:13 pm

You’ve said it all! Amen! Thank you for being my tenant this week and welcome to Thursday Thirteen. Reading the Bible as the author’s intended means a great deal to me. Have you read any of J.P Holding’s work online?

5 Fence February 16, 2007 at 4:55 am

Great list. I normally don’t visit “religious blogs” because they tend to make the mistakes you’ve listed.

Happy T13

6 Viola February 16, 2007 at 6:31 am

I just came and read a post you did on “Journey on Cross and Quill.”

Very nice and I will visit again. I’ve noticed the Thursday 13…I should do it as well. It looks fun!

Come see me when you have time at

7 Robin February 16, 2007 at 10:46 am

Fence took the words right out of my mouth. It was really a pleasure to read such a tolerant, open-minded post. I’m glad I stumbled across it.

Welcome to the Thursday Thirteen, I look forward to reading more from you.

8 Cheryl February 16, 2007 at 12:03 pm

I wanted to add, as I reread your post, that I do believe Genesis is literal history. I have been studying this in detail recently and have found the Bible and evolution to be incompatible for a number of reasons. If anyone wishes to dialog with me further on this, I am available! :)

9 Lady G~ February 17, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Well done His good and faithful servant…

Great list.

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