Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People (Mar-Apr 2002)

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By Constance B. Fink
March-April 2002

What in the world is a “bad Christian”? Is the phrase an oxymoron? Christians have been described as “backslidden” and “carnal” but not “bad”. At least not until this book. Is there such person as a bad Christian? Are there groups of bad Christians? Do I know any? I didn’t think so. At least not until I read this book.

DaveBurchett is an Emmy award winning television sports director and former staff member of Campus Crusade’s Athletes in Action. A sports career? What qualifies him to author such a book? His humility and willingness to be honest about his own life provide an example to the reader. His personal experience of deep hurt when his infant daughter was shunned from her church nursery because of a birth abnormality drove him to examine believer-to-believer relationships. His personal observations of many church splits flagged him that there may be widespread problems. And his study of the model of the New Testament church and church history provided the objective balance for an accurate evaluation.

His conclusion? Not all Christians are “good”. And not all the “Christian” things we do are biblical. In fact, some may be quite harmful and may even cause irrevocable damage. His challenge? What can we do to prevent further harm? And what must we do to more effectively reach our world?

This thought-provoking, behavior-changing, tradition-challenging book is a must-read for both church leaders and pew warmers. Burchett’s candid message is for the one who has been wounded by the church as well as for the one who has hurt others. On the one hand, the person doing the hurting will be faced with compelling challenges. On the other hand, the person who has been hurt will realize the problem is far greater than his personal situation. And I venture to guess that most of us in fundamental evangelical churches fall into both categories—on some level we are both hurting, as well as being hurt at any given time. The challenges revealed in this book will awaken us all to the harmful ways of relating to both believers and unbelievers, encourage us to know we are most likely not alone in our personal disillusionments, and stimulate us to “a new way of relating that will bring healing to the church and transform our witness to the world.”

Burchett presents his confrontation of the 21st century Christian with humor rooted in imagination. Coupling his wit with a simple and clear writing style, his point is poignantly driven to the core of the reader’s passion. For example, the chapter on how we “market” Jesus through lapel pins and air fresheners in attempts to “win the lost” is…well, you will just have to read it to see how we are using our money and abilities in wasteful ways. What message are we sending to the world? Are people drawn to the Savior with a lapel pin? Is a fish-shaped piece of jewelry the most effective way to touch our grocery clerk’s deep need for Christ’s saving grace and mercy? Or do these trinkets say something about us—are they safer than relationship?

Burchett contrasts this marketing approach with the companies who “make great products and happen to have Christian values.” He cites a battery company in Dallas that produce a great product but it is not a “Christian” battery. Rather, “They are a company that makes good batteries and operates according to solid Christian principles… I would like to see an emphasis on great work and quality products that just happen to be made by Christians…The integration of quality without ethical compromise will get the attention of at least some consumers.”

Woven throughout the book, Burchett exposes the “Christian” stand on many contemporary issues in our “seeker-friendly” churches, or rather, as he would prefer, “sinner-sensitive”. Even if you disagree with Burchett’s stand on these issues, this book will make you think and evaluate the reasons for your position. And to do that you may feel he has stepped on your toes. But it is not for revenge; rather, it is to get your attention. And hopefully you will close the book struck with the importance of evaluating your life in regards to such things as:

·        Eternal vs. non-eternal issues. Instead of asking “What would Jesus do?”, Burchett asks, “Would Jesus spend His time on this?” If Jesus were on this earth, how and where and with whom would He spend His time?

·        Eternal vs. internal approaches to behavior change. Am I trying to be a “good Christian” or a “Christian doing good things”? Are my actions only on the surface, like the Pharisees, so others will see I am a “good Christian” or is my choice for behavior reflective of the humility which results from knowing God?

·        Separation vs. involvement concerns. How far and where should a Christ-like relationship take me? How far did relationship take Christ?

Your priorities, preferences, methods, attitudes, and words will be exposed in the book’s wake with two simple, foundational questions left standing: Who is Jesus Christ and what should a real relationship with Him mean? What should your life look like as a result of that relationship? Please consider Burchett’s perspective before giving the simple, traditional answer.

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