6 Things Christians Say That Sound Like Faithfulness…But Aren’t

I’ve heard it so many times.

Well, we’re just being faithful.

Sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and say, No, you’re not being faithful. You’re being ________(fill in the blank with whatever is a more accurate description of what you think they’re being).

Of all the lies we tell, the lies we tell ourselves are the most destructive.

They prevent us from:

Seeing ourselves accurately.

Clearly hearing what God has to say.

Seeing ourselves as others see us.

Self-deception is one of the most intense enemies a person can face.

One of the best things you can do is tell yourself the truth. And then live and lead out of that truth.

So, in the name of increasing self-awareness, here are six things Christians say that they think are signs of faithfulness that most often…just aren’t.

faithulness1. I’m just speaking the truth

How many times have you been told by another Christian that they’re ‘just speaking the truth’, when a more honest assessment might be ‘no, you’re not; you’re just being a jerk.’

Too many Christians try to pass off being abrasive and being self-righteous as being truthful.

If you’re speaking for Jesus, you just can’t separate grace and truth. You can’t.

Speak the truth in love. You’d be amazed at how much more effective it is.

2. We’re small, but we’re faithful

This of course, might actually be true. Small churches have many faithful leaders and people in them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a small church.

But being a small church does not automatically mean you are being faithful. I’ve heard many leaders claim to be small and faithful when in fact, the more likely case is they’re small because they’re being ineffective.

This post on why most churches never break the 200 attendance mark sparked quite a debate and a good deal of defensiveness on the part of many church leaders.

Being small is not a sign of faithfulness. Not inherently. Sometimes you’re small because you’re ineffective. And sometimes you’re small for legitimate reasons. Just be honest about it.

3. We’re big because God is blessing us

Being a big church doesn’t necessarily mean that God is blessing your church. By that logic, anything that’s growing could claim God’s blessing (like an expanding street gang or a thriving black market business).

Large does not automatically equal faithful any more than small does.

You can grow a church without Christ. You shouldn’t, but you could.

Growth is, in my view, a sign of health. But being big does not mean you’re being faithful or healthy.

On the other hand (and I say this because so many people take easy shots at large churches), many large churches are faithful. Being large is not evidence you are unfaithful.

You can be small and be faithful. And you can be large and faithful. And the opposite is true.

By the way, if you want a refreshing take on the large church v. small church debate, listen to my interview with Karl Vaters. I’m from a larger church. He’s from a smaller church, and we actually get along. Here’s the direct link to iTunes where the interview is Episode 30.

4. I’m just misunderstood

A surprising number of people feel misunderstood.

And they say things like “Jesus was misunderstood, and so were the prophets.”  Well, yes. But the people who frequently claim to be misunderstood might find that changes if they learn to communicate more directly and more clearly.

Often Christians who claim to be misunderstood simply lack self-awareness.

Sure, there are moments in every person’s life where each of us is genuinely misunderstood. Some people, though, seem to frequently feel misunderstood. As in almost all the time. 

If you want to increase your self-awareness, here’s a post on four things self-aware people know that others don’t.

5. I’m being persecuted for my faith 

I live in North America. So do about 80% of the readers of this blog.

Move outside North America or the West, and you quickly find yourself in a world in which people get burned alive or beheaded for attending church or worshipping Christ. A world in which families lose their homes and livelihood for their allegiance to Jesus.

That is persecution.

Many North American Christian claim to be persecuted when in reality, their social skills need improving (see numbers 1 and 4 above).

Having someone get mad at you is not always persecution.

Having someone laugh at you for your faith is not persecution.

Nor is the brake job you need on your car ‘persecution’ (it’s just a brake job).

Or losing your bid on a dream home in a bidding war. Even if you lost out because someone doesn’t like Christians, that’s not exactly suffering for your faith.

If you think you’re being persecuted for your faith in North America, travel more.

6. I’m taking a Biblical approach

I’ve seen more than a few leaders claim to be taking a Biblical approach as soon as they start to feel threatened or inferior to someone else.

Implicit in this claim is a sense that anyone who is doing better, growing faster or seeing more traction has cheated or sold out. Undertone: I’m being biblical…they’re not.

Progress doesn’t always come immediately, and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Sometimes Christians claim to be faithful when, in fact, they’re just being ineffective.

What’s needed is greater diligence, a better strategy, a better team, a fresh perspective and a push past the jealousy and envy we all sometimes feel.

So get some gut level honesty.

Why not just say “I’m happy for them” and then get to work on the things God has given you?

Anything You’d Add?

I know this is a bit of a tough post. But if we learned to call things for what they really are, wouldn’t we all be further ahead?

I’d love for you to add to this list. What else have you seen people call ‘faithfulness’ that isn’t?

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7 Comments

  1. Jason Kennedy on September 8, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Carey,
    Great post! I love 2 and 3 those are always so funny when I hear them. I think the worst one is when people say “Sorry we missed you on Sunday!” Are we really sorry we missed them or are we just asking where they were? That one always seems a little manipulative to me. I tell my staff to not use that kind of weird back door language! If we missed them, say I’ve missed seeing you, or if we want to know where they have been ask where have you been!

  2. EdwinCrozier on September 5, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Good stuff.

    Regarding the “Jesus was misunderstood and so were the prophets” red herring that folks throw out. My initial thought when I read that was, “No they weren’t. They were understood pretty well. People just didn’t like what they heard.”

  3. Ty on September 4, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Me: “Hey what ever happened to Youth Paster Joe?”
    Church Staff Member: “You know… God just had a different direction for them.”

    aka – they disappeared forever, you will never see them again because we fired them and asked them to never come back.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 7, 2015 at 7:18 am

      So true!

      • Britton Wesson on September 3, 2016 at 9:08 pm

        I’m going through this scenario right now

  4. Brandon N Stacy Cook on September 4, 2015 at 5:31 am

    It’s hard to believe that no one has commented here yet! What you have said is such truth. I don’t know that I would add anything, but would strongly agree with all of them. Somewhere we lost the idea that we are to share the Gospel within our context, so when our old method (or a method we completely copied from someone else) isn’t working, we play the blame card or pile up the excuses rather than examine ourselves and our leadership. Thanks Carey!

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