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5 ways Christians fail

Saw this article by John Shore on the Huffington Post – I’m copying half of it here. Helps us see and understand our blind spots. When nonChristians look at us, too often, they see hypocrites. A tough article like this helps us to search our hearts and address the dissonance that may be there.&nb…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Saw this article by John Shore on the Huffington Post – I’m copying half of it here. Helps us see and understand our blind spots. When nonChristians look at us, too often, they see hypocrites. A tough article like this helps us to search our hearts and address the dissonance that may be there.  -sb
Speaking as someone who, well, had the conversion experience 14 years
ago that I recounted in “I,
a Rabid Anti-Christian, Very Suddenly Convert
,” we Christians too
often fail in these ten ways:

1) Too much money. “Wealthy Christian” should be an
oxymoron. In Luke 12:33, Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to
the poor.” In Matthew 19:21, he says, “If you want to be perfect, go,
sell your possessions and give to the poor.” In Matthew 6:24, he says,
“You cannot serve God and Money.” Christians are generally pretty huge
on cleaving to the word of God. I just don’t see how those particular
words could be clearer. (For more on this, see my post “Christians: No Fair Heeding Paul on Gays But Not Jesus
on Wealth

2) Too confident God thinks we’re all that and a
leather-bound gift Bible.
I’d like to humbly suggest that we
spend a little more time wondering how we displease God and a little
less time being confident that we do. (See my post “Certainty
in Christ: A Blessing and a Curse.

3) Too quick to believe that we know what God really
means by what he says in the Bible.
The Bible is an extremely
complex, multi-leveled work. We’re sometimes too quick to assume that we
grasp its every meaning. Take this passage, for instance, from Luke 8:
9-10: “His disciples asked him [Jesus] what this parable [of the sower]
meant. He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has
been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “though
seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.” Huh?
And that’s Jesus “explaining” what is generally regarded as one of his
most readily understood parables! Are we really all that confident that
we always know exactly what Jesus meant by everything he said? Wouldn’t
we do well to sometimes admit that the words attributed to God
manifested on earth are just a tad, well, Greek to us? (See my post “The
Bible’s Two Big Problems

4) Too insular. When I became a Christian, one of
the things that most amazed me about Christians is the degree to which
they tend to hang out only with other Christians. We should stop doing
that. How are we supposed to share Christ’s love with non-Christians
(which we’re forever saying we want to do) when we barely know
any non-Christians? Time to widen that social base, I say. (Plus,
Christian or not, we still want to throw good, fun parties, don’t we?
Well, let’s face it: The heathen class has all the good music. We might
as well invite a few of them to our next party. Maybe they’ll bring
their CD’s!) (See my post, “My Answer to Christians Denouncing R. Crumb’s “Genesis

5) Too uneducated about Christianity. Generally
speaking (which of course is the most offensive way to speak about any
group of people), Christians tend to embarrass themselves by knowing so
little about either the Bible or the history of Christianity.
Believing that the Bible is the word of God, for instance, is one
thing; knowing nothing about the long process by which men decided
which texts would and wouldn’t make it into the Bible is another. It’s
not that all Christians should be full-on theologians or historians.
But if you’re a Christian who doesn’t know the Great Schism
from The Great
or the Diet of Worms from
… well, the
diet of worms
, then you’ve got some homework to do.

Comments (28)

  • Thanks for posting this, Seth. I feel it captures spot-on some of the things that non-believers say about us, and it is excellent food for thought.

  • Wow! God has been showing this to me and helping me break free of them! Thanks Seth! God Bless


  • I am disapointed in Adventures in Missions, and John Shore for simply giving the non-believer and the ‘liberal’ a place to take a stab at Bible believing Christians. The most embarising part is that this site gave them the knife. The comments following any of the individual posts are not Brothers sharpening Brothers, but attacks on OUR faith. This just opens the door. Are we really showing the world Christlikness? I do not believe this was a wise avenue. I am not rich, suppy for others as I can, tithe, volunteer, study the infallible/inerrant Word of God, attend church regularly, am a student at a Seminary, and acknowledge “I am a sinner saved by grace”. Nothing I do is good but what Christ does in me. It is not I who is good, but God in me. I am commited to simplicity and humility. No homosexual will enter the kingdom of Heaven. I do know better than what is implied in each of these posts. I understand contexual, historic, grammatical homilitics and exegesis. The important thing to point out is repentance. Do you acknowledge you are wrong? God is right? Do you trust Him to save you? Then be a disciple, as is included in the Great Commission. I humbly request that you remove this article. The reason- it does not edify.

  • Interesting article, Seth. Glad you posted it. We need to read these things with thick skin and a soft heart, instead of with thin skin and a hard heart.

  • In some ways I have to agree with brethens Comment. I dont want to go to a site and read how Im failing as a Chrisitan. God Calls us to encourage, restore and build up the body, and yes there are things that are truthful in Johns article , but dont lump it all into Christianity in a article. How different it might be to come and read 5 things christians are doing right! I know that the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning I have fallen short of being all Christ calls me to be.. no one needs to tell me that but I want to be a encouragement to the body of Christ when we live in a world that is so far removed from even thinking they need Christ! I want to encourage my fellow Christians not to give up and to press in even in the most difficutl situations. I want to pray for brothers and sisters and remind them that they are a child of the king and they have the living Christ with in them empowered by the very presence of the Holy Spirit because you see if they come to know who they are in Christ they wont need to hear how they fail as christians . Instead Christ will do the good work in them not you or me or so and so and so and so.. Every day we wake up to turning on the news to hear all the pain and suffering in this world and the constant negativity. So im not condeming Johns article I just dont want to spend the time in knowing all that im not but wanting to know all that I am in Christ Jesus that is what I belive will change peoples thinking..
    The first thing I tell people when I begin to share or minister to is that I dont care who they were last year last month or even yesterday all that matters is who they are today at this very moment in Christ and how can you move forward being a carrier of the living Christ!
    may the peace and joy of the Lord sustain each today!

  • It was a great idea to post this, Seth. People, wake up and listen to what the world around you thinks of you, or at least thinks of the caricature of you. There’s at least some, or maybe a lot of truth in all of his points. I first read this a few weeks ago when it was first posted online. It’s an eye opening article and good to chew on. Is there any truth in it in our own lives?

  • Of course I don’t want to come to this site and see in black and white what I may or my not be doing wrong. But this post unfortunately resonates with me because I can look at this list a see areas I need to work on.

    Regardless of whether these “generalities” are real for Christians or not, the bigger issue is that many non-Christians see us this way. What are we (meaning me) doing to change it? Is it enough to reach others that I know I live by Christ’s grace alone? How do we demonstrate that to others and let them see what grace has truly done for us? Do we prioritize correctly putting God above ourselves and wholeheartedly follow Him with our time, finances, influence, actions, and words? Or is the world still seeing us in our humanness, and not Christ lived out tangibly through us?

    Thanks for giving me something to think and work on with this post.

  • I finished reading this post and thought “What a great article! I need to post this on my facebook page!” Then I read the comments and saw that not everyone agrees with me. Generalities never apply to everyone, but there was a lot of truth in this post, and even more than that, if this is what the world around us thinks of us, we do need to be aware. I found that all of these “ways to fail” have been true in my life to some extent. The good news is that God has changed my heart in a lot of the areas as well, but I found it a good wake-up call to remember that it is not about being comfortable but about being continually stretched to become more like Jesus. Thank you for sharing it, Seth.

  • One thing to consider: if we are not aware of our shortcomings, how will we ever be roused to change?

    Thank you, Seth, for loving us enough to share this.

  • For all of you who follow this, here is the actual article from the Huffington Post:


    Seems that the majority of Mr. Shore’s followers are non-christians. Please do your research before you post. Mr. Shore is not a Christian. Purhaps his ‘conversion’ experience is satisfactory for publishers, but not for any Christ-follower. Be a disciple of Christ and boycott his material. I propose that you read your Bible and promote your growth, rather than reading Mr. Shore’s material and promoting his wallet. Do Not be scoffers of the Truth!

  • Wow. My reactions are running pretty strong right at the moment.

    The first thing I did was go to the original post (I read the Huffington Post periodically, and think we would be wise to check in from time to time to see what people out there are thinking…)

    And I agree with much of what Shore says. I fell in love with Jesus nine years ago after growing up in NYC with the theology of self sufficiency.

    I am sold out to Christ, but whatever the case may be, fortunate or unfortunate, depending on your perspective…I don’t fit a mold.

    First, Seth, I think this is valuable information. Dan Kimball refers frequently to
    “The Christian Bubble.” I say, beware of the CB.

    Most of my friends are non Christians. Does that mean I am out? I would also caution against anyone making a statement that Mr. Shore is not a Christian. Isn’t that up to God to decide?

    I have just finished reading Frank Viola and Len Sweet’s The Jesus Manifesto and can’t point enough people in that direction. Don’t fall in love with learning about Jesus. Fall in love with Jesus.

  • Those of you who want to turn away from this article and have it removed might as well be putting your fingers in your ears and yelling “la la la.” I no longer consider myself Christian and a big part is hypocrisy of what I read in the bible and the way I see Christians treat other people. Jesus surrounded himself with sinners and non-believers, he listened and he taught, but you would rather not take any criticism. The author of this article was probably far too nice in pointing out how us “heathens” (as a side note, think about how you refer to non-Christians, just because I don’t go to church doesn’t mean I don’t follow the golden rule and try to live a life of service) view Christianity.

  • “Brethren”, you have just illustrated the writer’s point succinctly.

    These good days…I prefer the authentic rabble & raggamuffins seeking grace and life than the insular steepled sanctimonious country club. Therein is life, accountability, and relationship. Though a lover & fervent seeker of truth, I’ll never be able to sit at your cool squeaky-clean kids’ table.

    I wish you only the best and a seat at the table with the rest of us hungry for grace & truth.

    Clay (as in feet.)

  • Sigh.. thats all I can say or add to the comments as you see that what happens when we tear down the body of Christ. I dont see anyone pretending to be perfect Christians we are a imperfect people in a imperfect world but the no matter where you are on the “Christian spectrum” everyone seems to pick and pull at certain scriptures always to use to the advantage of their personal views. Satan doesnt have to work to hard to mess with us we do it all on our own and my spirit grieves when I read what things like this can do to the body of Christ. We waste so much time imagine if we all just followed Jesus command and His great commission Matthew 28 which Im pretty sure everyone is familiar with “, go and make disciples of all nations and baptizing in the name of the Father and son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”

  • Really? I guess John Shore may be correct … if you have been living under a rock, totally isolated from the contemporary church for the last 25 years years! On some of his points, I think Shore just got it wrong (like: “Christians are too confidant that God thinks we’re all that …” most people struggle with embracing God’s true gift of love and grace); and on other things, he just seems to be living in la-la-land if that is his perception of the church. And if it is — as some are suggesting — still a “perception of outsiders of the church,” then why is he not helping to disspell the false perception instead of feeding into it?

    Isn’t that an old sentiment? Where is Shore (and those who are agreeing with him) living and going to church? And for those of you who have commented that you have dropped out of church/Christianity because of the very things Shore intimates — I invite you to take another look. Because although I was a part of the church Shore is describing, it certainly isn’t the church I am a part of today. You might have to look around, but if anything, the church has had such a backlash to this 30-year old image it has struggled to shake, I am almost at the point of being concerned that the pendulum has swung in the other direction. I remember a time when the “average Christian” was REALLY bold — to the point of being offensive … and proud of that. I know it still exists, but by-and-large, the average Christian isn’t doing anything remotely similar to that anymore. Statistically speaking, the average Christian rarely shares their faith, much less being “invasive to others.” Who in the world is he referring to? The Westboro Baptist nuts?

    I understand the complaint we kept hearing in the 70’s, but is this really a picture of contemporary Christianity? I have been involved in ministry for over 25 years … and I have to say: “we have come a long way, baby!” Has Shore encountered ministries and messages of people like Shane Claiborne, Francis Chan, Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, and yes … Seth Barnes, just to name a few? Why doesn’t he highlight those as examples of where the church is and is going today? How can Shore paint in such a broad stroke as if ALL Christians are “stuck” in this time warp. And if Shore is a genuine believer, why would this be the thing he chose to share with (potentially) millions of people? Shouldn’t he be sharing how far the church has come in 30 years? I am not one of those calling for the article to be removed — I just wished it had a more balanced, realistic picture of our faith today … not a 30 year-old one.

  • I don’t know what to say.

    There have been points in life each of these areas have been an issue of character and Christian commitment.

    However…I don’t think God is surprised or anxious about anything.

    It’s His church–not ours.

    Thanks for the reminder of what can easily entangle any of us.

  • Thanks, Tommy, for your thoughts.

    Obviously, this post generated many reactions; responses. I think how each of reacts or responds is directly linked to our own experiences and perceptions.

    I agree that we should not tear each other down; but I know that Shore did hit on what my own experiences and beliefs were before becoming sold out to Christ…

    What am I doing about it? Trying to create a different perception among others by the way I live.

    I worship at a Mennonite church where I was exposed to a different God and Jesus. I read Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, Campolo (father and son, and just had Bart at our church to speak to generate more discussion) and others. I write; I try to love.

    I don’t particularly want to go into specifics about how this plays out in my life, because the conversation and love isn’t about me, it is about Jesus.

    But I do know that the demographic I came from, city,daughter of an artist, Ivy League educated and then living in Burlington VT when Bernie Sanders was mayor all fed into a very liberal, disdainful regard for Christians. We went to an Alliance church for awhile, but the sharing of Christ wasn’t enough to overcome my own biases. My husband grew up Christadelphian (look them up) where that was my first “real” introduction to God…grace in living a life of love was absent. Rules ruled. Legalism came down like a boom.

    When I became pregnant (before we were married) my husband’s mother simply noted that we had better get married as quickly and quietly as possible. Shame was everywhere.

    I also know that because I posted an excerpt from a blog post by Jim Wallis about a year and a half ago I lost a book contract with Focus on the Family, and that made me sad, grieved, actually…

    My observation is that we need to start and as much as possible remain connected to Christ, and allow that to be the common, unifying bond.

    I appreciate a forum where this conversation can occur.

  • Amen!

    Also, It is not so easy for us to love each other within Christianity especially when I am seeing more Christ-liked-lovingness outside of the believers circles.

  • Jesus, Lord and Creator of all that is, was crucified by men. But he rose from the dead. Has anybody else done that?
    You gotta believe.

  • A Brethren’s Brother

    A great pastor and friend said to me recently (and yes, he’s a Christian, A Brethren),

    “The church in America is incestuous. And you know what happens with incest. It breeds retards.”

    I like what Shore is saying and, even better, I like who he is. He’s speaking to American culture as a whole rather than a tiny Christian culture which no one outside it listens to. We need to change that.

    “Beware the Christian Bubble.” Yes, please do.

  • I absolutely believe we have to speak to American culture at large and pop the bubble, and instead leave a sweet smelling aroma rather than a stench.

    I probably have more non Christian friends than Christian friends,and I want them to take a couple of steps back and ask why I do the things I do. Let’s pop that bubble…the sooner the better…

  • Wow what a great discussion!

    Shore… You get the wining line of the thread from me, I’m still enjoying it… Actually laughing, nice. “Um. I’m a Christian. Promise.” I guess you could say I’m very edified by this read, it ended with some joy.

    Prior to that, I enjoyed seeing the Church working Her faith out.

    To quote Finding Nemo: “just keep swimming, keep swimming.”

    I think we’re all in for a surprise in the end… “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).

  • John — I read the aforementioned post on your blog, and I respectfully, totally disagree with you. In fact, I think the point you are making is quite dangerous and detrimental to the Christian faith. I am not questioning whether or not you are a “real Christian” … I clearly don’t know you. But I am defending the legitimacy and indeed, responsibility of every Christian to use Biblical criteria in discerning “true Christians” from false ones. Especially if they are going to claim to speak for Christians (i.e. write and speak on issues pertaining to the Bible and the Christian life). I am shocked that you believe that Christians should not question the legitimacy of those who claim to be a believer and speak for the faith.

    I posted a full response on your blog, but suffice it to say: all throughout the New Testament we are taught to delineate the difference between a “true believer” and one who is not. We are given warnings to watch out for false teachers, and even given criteria by which to distinguish them: “By their fruit you will know them …” “be aware of false teachers …” “There are many who will come in my name, saying they are my disciples …” The very purpose of these admonitions were to help Christians distinguish between “true Christians” and false ones; to avoid the proliferation of false doctrines, leading to cults. Oops … I guess we weren’t quite discerning ENOUGH.

    This is also especially true in light of our current “religious climate” where all of a sudden, everyone is a “religious expert” — from Oprah to Madonna. Everyone is claiming to have the corner of the truth on what is a Christian, and what people should believe; and then we are told we are not to “judge” (their favorite word), anyone else, and their claims of truth. We were warned about this in Scripture, and I would admonish every “true believer” to let the Scripture be our guide in the discerning of … “true believers.”

  • Thanks for posting this. I find it ‘edifying’ because it is encouraging me to be all that Christ wants me to be. Pointing out weaknesses is not unedifying if it is done in love and for purposes of growth. Christ Himself and his disciples sometimes point out problems that need addressing. That is not ‘unedifying’, but helpful. Of course, if all you ever did was note what we are doing wrong, that would be different. You seem to follow Jesus’ lead though, so thanks for pointing out the good but not being afraid to address the bad.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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