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5 Stupid Things The Church Needs to Stop Doing to Make Progress

The church has more than its share of critics these days.

Sometimes the criticism is unwarranted. People project their issues onto a congregation or onto the church, which is never healthy.

And, of course, the church will inevitably run into criticism.

What we’re doing is counter-cultural and will never be met with universal applause. The Gospel, even when powerfully shared, got John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, Jesus and the prophets killed, just to name a few. While it seems strange to say it, even love, when seen fully and magnificently, gets rejected.

But other times we absolutely deserve the criticism that comes our way.

Often these days, it seems, we’re not ridiculed or persecuted because we’re fighting nobly. Nope, sometimes we just shoot ourselves in the foot.

Here are 5 things that, in my view, would help the mission of the church become more authentic and more effective if we could just stop doing them.

1. Being So Weird Online

Too many Christians come across online as either

Toxic (Hello angry ranters, trolls and haters);

Cynical (Yes, we know you’re disappointed with everyone all the time and no one gets it as right as you); or

Syrupy (So sweet we can’t stand the taste and are not really sure you live in the real world)

Why do so many Christians think their social media feed is a place to show the world their weirdness?

It gives the impression that if you’re going to follow Jesus you also need to become socially awkward.

I know people might say “no, I’m just being authentic”. But being authentic does not mean being weird. (I shared my personal criteria for what I share online in the name of authenticity in this post).

I think a general rule is if you can’t imagine saying it in real life to a person, you shouldn’t say it online.

If you go to post something and you think, well, that would be braggy if I said that to someone, that’s a healthy check. It means you’d be bragging. So don’t post it.

Similarly, if you think “Well, people would just walk out of the room if I said that in real life,” then maybe don’t say it.

If you’re always angry or cynical or all you do is complain online and you think “well, I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like that in real life,” then that’s a clue that maybe you shouldn’t say it, or be like that.

And if you think “well, then I’ll have nothing to post,” then you’ve likely put your finger on a deeper issue.

Christians, let’s just stop being so weird online, okay?

2. Commenting on Politics

Part of the weirdness is political.

God is not a Republican or a Democrat, or in my country, a Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat. Nor is God an independent.

God is God.

When your church becomes a mouthpiece for a political party, you cease to be the church.

Your job is to share the Gospel, not to change the government.

As I shared in more detail here, Jesus and Paul spend surprisingly little time trying to influence the government. Jesus completely rejected the idea of becoming the government when people asked him to become their political leader.

I know some will say “well, God has opinions about things happening today”.

I’m sure he does.

But when authentic Christians sincerely share different views on subjects, we should be very careful about speaking for God.

And, after all, when God happens to have all the same opinions you do, you’re probably not even worshipping God anymore.

You might be worshipping yourself.

3. Handling Conflict So Poorly

The church should be the best in the world at handling conflict. We were taught by Jesus exactly how to do it.

Yet we often side step. We gossip. We talk about other people rather than to people.

We avoid conflict. Or we run into it like a bulldozer claiming we’re all about truth.

If we just handled conflict humbly, gently, introspectively and bravely, we would be so much better.

If you really want to see how to restore someone in love, listen to this message by Andy Stanley on judgment and helping others who are sinning. It’s brilliant.

If we handled conflict more healthily, our churches would be so much healthier.

And a healthy church is a church that can help other people get healthier.

4. Ranking Sin Selectively

Christians have become fairly good at focusing on the moral failings of others while ignoring their own.

We pretend that the worst sin you can commit is sexual. And—don’t get me wrong—sexual sin has serious implications.

But so does gossip. And divisiveness. And quarrelling—sins Christians routinely ignore. Mostly because we commit them.

I would suggest that just as many congregations have been ruined by gossip, divisiveness and quarrelling as have been stained by sexual sin. But you’d never know it given the way we talk about sin.

I’m all for surrendering our sexuality to Christ. But I’m also all for submitting our propensity to gossip, our divisiveness and our quarrelling to Jesus and dealing with that seriously.

Imagine what the church might look like if that happened.

And we haven’t even touched gossip, gluttony or envy yet, all things with which Christians routinely self-medicate their pain.

Maybe if Christians humbly confessed their sins first, the world would be more likely to come to terms with their sins.

So here’s an idea. Instead of pretending someone else’s sin is worse than your sin, confess your sin.

You’ll be in such a better place if you do that. And so will they.

You might actually be able to help them.

5. Judging Outsiders

This is a pet peeve of mine.

As I outlined here, we in the modern church have largely ignored Paul’s injunction to stop judging non-Christians.  Even Jesus said he didn’t come into the world to judge it, but to save it.

I completely get the urge to judge our neighbours and even the world. Things bother me too.

But I have to refrain. Our faith in Christ demands it.

Before ministry, I was a lawyer. In first year law, I remember having a crisis because I couldn’t imagine representing a client I believed might be guilty.

I stayed after class one day to talk to my criminal law professor about it. He assured me of a few things. First, if your client tells you he’s guilty, you can’t ethically enter a non-guilty plea.

That made me feel better.

But then he told me that almost every client says they’re not guilty.

I got nervous again.

“Well what if you think he’s guilty but he says he’s not…doesn’t that put you in a horrible bind?”

I’ll never forget his answer.

“You’re confusing you’re role, Carey. You’re not the judge. You’re his lawyer. Your job is —ethically, morally and legally—to give him the best day he can possibly have in court. The judge will decide whether he’s guilty or not.”

I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.

So…Christians, the world has a judge. And it’s not you.

He’s fairer than you. More just than you. More perfect than you. And far more accurate.

In the meantime, do your best to help reconcile your brothers and sister in the world to their heavenly father through Christ. That’s your job.

Take some comfort in that. And for all these reasons and more, stop judging.

What Else?

Any other self-defeating, stupid things you wish we’d stop doing in the church?

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

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  • Eric McBride

    I followed a link here from a pastor at a church I used to attend. I say this not to be “that guy” but to share my perspective. I no longer believe in God. With that being said, you have hit on several key points that the atheist community uses to berate the “church”. I can’t personally say that #1 has been an issue with Christians I know, but the others are spot on. Well written article. If Christians truly want to grow the church they should take heed of what you have written.

    • Eric…thanks for the comment. Man, that’s heartbreaking. I’m sorry for your experience. Have you tried talking to the church you ended up leaving, or another one? I really hope your faith sparks again. I do.

      • Eric McBride

        I am sorry, I didn’t want that part of my statement to be paramount. I merely mentioned that for you to understand my perspective for the statement. I really wanted you to take away from this the fact that you addressed key problems with religion today. The issues with the church I attended were only a part of my change in belief. However, I will say this, with your level-headed way of thinking (at least by what I can tell), you are exactly what religion needs today. So once again I give you props!

        • ChuckAddison

          Nice to see good people from opposing viewpoints having a logical discussion. Love it. And agreed, great article.

          • Eric McBride

            Absolutely. At the end of the day we may not agree with what feel is true regarding religion, but that does not permit us to be disrespectful. In fact, once a month I meet with a group of Christians who sit around, have a beer, and talk about anything that comes to mind. We never get heated with each other. That’s what happens when people don’t act like jerks 🙂

  • Carey – Love the article and the reminders.
    I totally agree that we in the church stink at conflict resolution.

    One thing I’d like to suggest, however, is that we should consider NOT using Matthew 18 as “the” conflict resolution passage. While I’m not saying it can’t “guide” a conflict resolution discussion, Jesus is talking about when “someone sins against you.” Not all conflict is based in sin; sometimes people just disagree.

    There are other passages that speak to how to do conflict (“Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths….”, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”…., “Be at peace with everyone. ..”

    Yes, we need to get better at resolving conflict in the church. And I think there are principles from Matthew 18 that can inform the process. But I think one reason we may do conflict poorly is because we’re not looking at other passages to guide the discussion. Just a thought. …

  • william jason o’neal

    A pastor blocked me on Facebook in 2012. His wife did as well. His wife’s sister however have dated random high profile sinners such as guys that want to be big time. I talked about wanting to sin but tried to hide those posts from him. He never even personally talked to me and knew I wanted to talk with him. They seem like they judge the people like me who struggle in life(no money, no job, no healthy eating) more than those that have those things like what I mentioned above. They may not outwardly judge but their facebook friendslist gives them away or who they simply associate with. I feel its not right.

  • Suzan D Reed

    Maybe churches could stop trying to so “authentic” and just be churches. God is eternal, His love is eternal, the Bible is eternal, the message of Jesus dying for our sins is eternal, & the need for repentance is eternal. All of these things are eternal and unchanged. I am so sick of Dumbed down Common Core Christianity.

  • Poodz

    WOW! Amazing article Carey! The lawyer and judge paragraph is so true.

    • Thanks. PS. Love your Instagram pics. That’s you, right?

      • Poodz

        Haha I just saw this. Yes that’s me, thanks!