3 Common Mistakes Christians Make That Turn People Off From Church
Chances are, if you grew up in the church, or have been a believer for a while, you have become numb to some glaring issues Christians have in representing Christ, and the church as a whole. It is easy to dismiss our judgmental attitudes, or overlook our inability to reach out and love people who are different, or maybe scare us a little. I’ve attended and been a member of a few different churches since becoming a Christian, and I’ve noticed that everyone tends to struggle with the same things – no matter if it’s a super hip mega church, a traditional congregation, or a brand new church plant.
1. We don’t lead with love
People need truth and love. One without the other leads to a warped Gospel. The truth spoken without love is harsh and causes people to raise their walls, close their ears, and walk away. Love spoken without truth easily turns into a prosperity gospel, or an “all roads lead to heaven” approach. Our default is to lead with truth, but too often we forget to follow up with love. Jesus gave us many great examples of how he lead with love, and followed up with truth – the adulteress woman, the Samaritan woman, consorting with tax collectors, etc. Mark 2 tells us that Jesus dinned with thieves and other disreputable sinners. He knew these people needed the Truth, and he knew that what they were doing was wrong. But he also knew that they were looked down upon and scorned by the world already. They heard every single day how they were not good enough. Jesus knew that if he was going to make a difference, he should show them how much he cared, and gain their trust and respect. Then the truth he followed up with would hold weight in their lives. John 13:35 says:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Let that sink in. We are to be known by our love. The world is to know us not for our reasoning skills, and our long list of do’s and don’ts. We are not set apart by our cross jewelry and our Ichthus bumper stickers. We are to be known for our love.
2. We ask people to behave before they believe.
This is the number one hindrance to going to or staying at a church for most of my non-Christian friends. All too often, we encounter someone who is dressed a certain way, or who uses a colorful vocabulary, and we bee line in the opposite direction. Not only is this not loving, but we give off the judgmental vibe, (even in all our subtle bee-lining). How can we expect someone to hold all of the same values we do, without having the same foundation of right and wrong? If our worldviews are fundamentally different, our actions will follow suit. So instead of nit picking on the length of shorts one should wear before they can come to Christ, explain why Christ is worth coming to in the first place. Or better yet, show them the difference Jesus has made in your life. Bottom line: we cannot change anyone, but we can point them to the One who can.
3. We form cliques around shared beliefs, instead of forming community around shared brokenness.
It’s fine to have friends who believe the same thing you do about scripture, but when that becomes the glue that holds you together, you tend to be prideful. It causes an “us vs. them” mentality, and ultimately takes away from the unity we were all created to share in Christ. Instead, if you base your Christian circle around building each other up, knowing you are all broken, and live in a world where we are so easily damaged – well, that leads to humility. And there’s nothing more attractive than a humble Gospel. You may or may not agree on every doctrine, and that’s ok. Remind each other of truth, encourage one another, and put their needs before your own – now that’s a group anyone would want to be a part of.
So what’s the big deal?
Doing these things, whether intentionally or not, is in fact, a big deal. It’s a big deal because Jesus often opposed the Pharisees openly for their pride and judgmental attitudes. He also overturned tables and tore apart the temple when he found that it was not being used for it’s intended purpose. So we ought to be careful that we are using the church for her true purpose – to seek and save the lost, to point them to the Truth in love, by any and all means necessary.