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When Bad Christians Happen to Good People:…

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People: Where We Have Failed Each Other…

by Dave Burchett

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We all know people who used to go to church but quit going because of the way we Christians treat each other. Likewise, we know Christians who are back-biters, gossips and bitter people. We have seen these people use the gospel of Grace to make people feel like guilty, lowly sinners. We’ve seen volunteers get used up and spit out while those with special needs often are isolated and forgotten. Christians can be really big jerks and there are a lot of wounded people because of it. This is exceptionally heartbreaking because too often ‘good people’ like me, also fit the profile of the bad Christian.

David Burchett is also no stranger to bad Christians. When he and his wife Joni had their daughter Katie they knew that she was terminal, could not open her eyes and she had a deformity which left tissue exposed at the back of her skull (which they covered with a dressing). The church that they attended informed them that Katie would no longer be welcome in the nursery because of the risk she posed to other kids and the trauma it would inflict on nursery workers if Katie died on their watch. The Burchetts were not consulted about this and no concerns were ever communicated to them until they were told that their daughter was not welcome in the Nursery.

And so Burchett wrote this book exploring all the ways we Christians do damage to each other and fail to communicate God’s love to those outside of the church. The book divides into three parts. In part one Burchett discusses the way we Christians treat one another (i.e. unfriendliness, schism, fear-based Christianity). In part two he explores how we interact with the wider culture (i.e. hypocrisy, Christianese, Jesus-Junk and ‘the culture wars.’ Part three suggests how we Christians are to be in the world (gracious, humble, well-versed in the Bible and what we believe).

I never read the first edition of this book but it is refreshing to hear how Burchett feels he’s grown since when he first wrote this book (this edition came out in 2011; the original edition is copyrighted, 2002). As Burchett describes it, writing this book was cathartic for him because he could err his grievances about all the ways we Christians hurt one another. His own book called him to hold himself to the same standards, but something was missing. He didn’t yet know the meaning of grace–at least as an experiential reality. At a conference put on by an organization called TrueFaced (also a book authored by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch) he was transformed by the notion that God has already wired us to be the saints he’s making us into and is calling us to inhabit that reality. He was blown away by the reality of God’s grace.

So if you chose to read this book, you will hear stories and critiques of the way we Christians have often been saints behaving badly. You will also read suggestions and exhortations to step out and be Christians who serve the world, love one another and give their lives sacrificially for God’s mission. But you also will hear a testimony of God’s grace–that it is the Spirit at work in us, transforming us into what we already have become in Christ.

This book has an eight week discussion guide making it usable for small groups. The chapters are short and pithy with good humor and could be good springboards for discussion. But when I read Burchett say, “If you only have the budget to buy one in the near future, I would tell you to buy TrueFaced (205),” I wonder if I should recommend this book or tell you to just get the book Burchett likes. I haven’t read TrueFaced, so you get no recommendation from me, but I liked this book and am grateful for Burchett’s exhortations and practical challenges.

Readers of my blog may notice that this book covers similar ground to another of my recent reviews, Accidental Pharisee by Larry Osborne. Osborne’s book is more narrowly focused on how we become Pharisees (albeit unwittingly) with our pride, attitudes, exclusivity etc. This book does address the problem of hypocrisy but also talks about how we can be better at communicating the gospel to the wider culture. Both authors have good things to say and are challenging. I think Osborne was more personally helpful in taking stock of personal attitudes where I got off track, but Burchett offers good critique of Christian culture and the ways in which we hurt (or exclude) others.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
There's a dirty little secret in the Christian world: Christians can be mean. And not just merely mean but backbiting, cruel, underhanded, deceitful...you name it, Christians can prove that they are only human after all. So, what do you do when the "good" Christians in your life actually turn out to be a negative influence in your life? How do you move on?

Burchett takes his reader through the problems plaguing the modern church, and also reveals what he sees as the underlying/root causes of these issues. Finally, he ends with a call to the church to go back to its roots, so to speak. He encourages Christians to follow Jesus' life and example more closely, examine their lives in light of Biblical truth more honestly, and to live as simply in faith as is possible. Hurts happen, but there is not only a remedy, but a cure.

Burchett's writing is clear, open, honest, and enlightening. He uses the most simple of truths to convey his message, but it still hits hard. I love how he expressed himself near the end of the book "Christians must understand what the gospel is and how to communicate it effectively. We must demonstrate love and an attitude of service to others. And we must grow in Christ and offer something different from what society offers. Grace. It is our distinctive." Such a plain truth, but important nonetheless. Firstly, Burchett does not wildly point fingers all around. He approached his audience with gentleness, identifying himself as a culprit along with the reader. Secondly, he brings focus back on Christ and serving others. Lastly, he reminds the reader that grace is not just something that has been bestowed up on them, but that it is something that every Christian should extend to each person with which they come in contact. Only then can we see healing and a reversal of the damage "bad" Christians have caused in our world. ( )
  MissWoodhouse1816 | Feb 23, 2014 |
An excellent critique on many of the customs and practices of modern Evangelical Christianity, their incompatibility with the Gospel, and how they repel people from Christ.

The author focuses on the judgmental environment present in many churches, how divisions are manifest, the many barely profitable (if at all) matters which Christians focus on as opposed to what is truly important, the disconnect between Christian profession and Christian practice, the use of jargon incomprehensible to non-Christians, the inanity of Christian merchandising, the ugliness manifest in the culture wars, the distance between what Jesus actually taught and what many Christians believe, relative ignorance of theology, a lack of true love, and the need for grace.

This is an important exhortation for all to hear. Your toes will be stepped on at some point or another. Yet, in the end, the author does well at showing what is truly important in terms of the Gospel and how we can do better at reflecting Christ than culture, upbringing, and tradition.

Highly recommended.

**--book received as part of early review program ( )
  deusvitae | Jun 8, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While I applauded the author's intent -- to get his readers to be more thoughtful regarding the way they express the faith they profess -- there ar many other works which accomplish his primary purpose better. I would likely not recommend this work. ( )
  jlhilljr | Aug 10, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a book worth reading to help challenge and review a person's expression of Christianity. ( )
  tboonstra | May 17, 2012 |
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Skeptics argue that if Christians actually have access to absolute truth, then Christianity should produce a better grade of human being. Author Dave Burchett, a Christian, agrees. Christians follow the most humble Man who ever lived, Jesus Christ. Ironically, many Christians have concluded that knowing God through Jesus gives them permission to be arrogant and intolerant. To outsiders, the church often looks like an exclusive religious club. For insiders, the church frequently is a battleground where believers fight over ego-driven requirements and secondary doctrinal issues. These are things that Jesus of Nazareth preached against. Dave Burchett's family fell victim to the small-minded variety of Christianity, and in this revised and updated edition of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People, he presents a new, biblical course of action that relies on God's grace rather than manmade rules.

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