When Christians Get It Wrong – When Christians Are Unchristian

Welcome to our interactive study, this will only be as good as your participation I look forward to your participation.  If at all possible please read chapter 1 of the book When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton.  You can also watch the sermon based on the chapter When Christians are Unchristian, preached by Reverend Hamilton.  Please also remember the ground rules I poached from Allan R. Bevere: This is a place to reflect upon important (and some not so important) matters. If you read something you disagree with, don’t get angry; leave a comment in response and join the discussion.  Passionate and lively debate is a great thing and is encouraged in the context of civility. Comments that include name-calling, insults, and profanity will be deleted.

Overview: Many people outside of the Christian faith see Christians as judgemental, unloving and hypocritical.  Hamilton compares these “Christians” as to the very same Pharisees that butted heads with Jesus so often.  The right thing for us to do is to love, not find fault and condemn.  When we differently from how Jesus acted we draw negative attention towards ourselves and those who claim to follow Jesus.  Jesus was the ultimate when it came to “walking the walk, ” and we could all do a better job of imitating.

Observations from Book and Sermon: We see throughout the Gospels that Jesus was did not always spend time with the church of his day.  In Luke 15:1-2 we see the Pharisees complaining about Jesus eating with the sinners.  Jesus stood for love, and even non-Christian acknowledge this fact.  Jesus wanted to draw people in rather than push them away.  Jesus warns against wrong motives, judgement, “majoring in the minors,” and being two-faced.  All of us are hypocrites, even famous and not so famous pastors, only by recognizing this do we begin to resemble Christ.  Jesus commands us to not judge and to love all (neighbors and enemy alike.)

Please share with me what your general impressions of this chapter.  What areas did you find challenging?  What areas did you find yourself in agreement?  What would you like to discuss more fully?

I look forward to your responses.




21 thoughts on “When Christians Get It Wrong – When Christians Are Unchristian

  1. Sam Fisher

    I sure this is old news, but this book is available on Kindle for $0.99. I believe the offer is good for the month of August, but I could be wrong.

  2. Carol

    The first chapter left me with feeling I have so much work to do. I do not want to give Christianity a bad name. I also know young adults, especially, who seem to be leaving the church. How do we encourage them to stay, come back, or whatever.

    1. Jen


      I know when I first came to St. John’s in 2007 I felt very uncomfortable. Only one person came up to us. The next day I saw a guy walking fast down my front walkway as I went outside to see who it was I found a bag with a loaf of bread on my doorknob. The guy waved as he drove off. Viewing the inside of the bag it had a paper that said St. John’s. Made me wonder if I wanted to return. After about 8 months of attending I was ready to leave the church I felt it just wasn’t for me. I was attending what I had planned on being my last service and a strange woman who I had never seen came up to me with open arms. She was very pleasant and made me feel I belonged there. Here it is over 2 years later and I am still attending all because of this strange woman. Because of how I felt when I joined I make it a point to find a new visitor each week. I will say it is very hard walking into a new place not knowing anyone. A simple Good Morning or hi how are you goes a long way. Also if Evangelism committee would reach out to first time visitors as they fill in the red/black book and invite them back. There is so much our church offers but we need to share this info with those that are new. I found out after attending over a year and a half that we have 8 adult Sunday School classes. This wasn’t even explained to me when I joined. A little effort goes a long way.

      1. John McDowell


        I am sorry for your experience. I joined in 2007 and had quite the opposite experience. What service do you attend, not that it matters, but I am curious. I definitely now will make even more of an effort to greet people who appear to be new to the service.

    2. Jen

      Hi John,

      I attend Saturday night. I am at the church by 9 am Sunday to have the chance to talk with first service people I have met. I pop over to Living Faith to say hi and then I attend 11: service.

      I at this time love the church and people. I have met some great people. I am involved in anything I can get my hand in to… : )

      You never know what effect talking to someone may have on them. Look at me I was leaving the church, a few words from a strange woman and now the church can’t get rid me…. : )

      1. John McDowell

        I am glad you stayed too and glad you now have a good experiences. I too Love the Church – which I guess technically is the people 🙂

  3. Marsha Findley posted these comments in the Book study Details post, but I believe they are important for todays conversation:
    This topic of “When Christians Get It Wrong” is very timely for my family and for many of those of whom I’m aware. We have two grown children with families of their own and they are telling me that they have FAITH and consider that to be a core value. However, the implementation of that faith should include giving to others, welcoming others into their circle, making attempts to follow the lead of Jesus with love and forgiveness. My daughter has gone to Guatemala and actually helped build a cement block home and funded other activities there…She not only opens her check book, she rolls up her sleeves to help. She doesn’t always see that in many of the Christians that attend Church on a regular basis. This is disappointing and she has therefore not attended in awhile. Our son, is more of a philosopher and lives in Colorado. There, he hikes and bikes in the mountains and does his own meditating, but again feels that “Church” disappoints his view of the Christian way.
    My thought is that we are all human, with human flaws and human goodness…Try as we might, humans do make errors in judgement and do not always deliver as the younger generation may expect. However, in my view, we should allow for differences of personalities, beliefs and behaviors. Unconditional love is a hard goal to reach toward, but we can take steps every day. When I am in the company of other folks who become judgemental or full of gossip, I am guilty of being silent and not contributing, but may not offer a verbal opposition to that behavior. It is my goal to be as non-offensive as possible, but let folks know that I do not want to hear or engage in that.
    Most people, I believe, are good, but we all get caught up in the stresses of the day. The TV hawks 24/7 fear and bad news. Therefore, we are in a world that is difficult to have a peaceful environment. We can, and should, reach out to each other in Christian love and take the time to form lasting habits in that regard.

  4. John McDowell

    I used to have a lot of those feelings. I would not go to church and say I was faithful. I was raised Catholic and went to church through college. When I moved to Davenport I went to multiple Catholic churches and did not feel welcomed. I went to church by myself and sat alone and no one really reached out, no one even said hi. I have been to 2 churches in Davenport where I felt welcome, I appreciated the people, and I liked the fact that the churches actively helped people and helped others to participate in outreach.
    I really felt at home at St. Johns and appreciated the way people noticed I was new to the church and came over to say hi. It maks me really try to make point to smile and say hi to people. Inwardly I am somewhat shy, so I have to prompt myself to actually go over and start a conversation with someone, but this is something I am working on.

    I also think I could do better to invite people to church with me. I do believe many of the people I have met at St. John are honest, caring, and giving people. One thing I have learned though is I have to walk the walk in many ways myself. I have just recently started doing daily devotions and setting aside time to be with God each day. All those years I called myself faithful what I really meant was I believed in God. That does not mean I judge others that don’t due as I do. How could I? I am 39 and just started devoting daily time to God. I think we are all on a journey, but I do know if more people started truly started displaying Christian values the world would be a better place. And I don’t mean the type of Christian values that have been politicized. I think most people have good intentions, but I do think many of the results have been polarizing.
    So far I find what I have read in this book interesting. I know that I have truly made Christ the center of my life just recently (I guess you could say walking the walk) and I feel so much more connected and fulfilled.

  5. Angie

    I think this chapter hits on the number one reason I have heard for people to be non-Christian in my life – the perception that Christians are overly judgmental and hypocritical. My dad always used to say “actions speak louder than words”. If we claim to be following Christ, but act in ways that are contrary to His teachings, what people see is a hypocrite. Most of us definitely need to do a better job of remembering to be Christian outside of church. Going to church on a Sunday does not make you a Christian.

    The area I see as a huge struggle for Christians is in treating others with compassion while not succumbing to societal norms that go against Christ’s teachings. How do you confront someone with their sins without being judgmental? I know some people who can do it, but most of us, I think, chose one of two other paths: be judgmental, or keep quiet so you don’t offend anyone. I tend to do the latter personally, but often question if that is the right way. Unfortunately, even as a Christian, I have found myself turned off by other Christians who are too pushy or judgmental. Not an easy line to walk!

    This chapter did remind me of the book In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon. An interesting look at this topic if you haven’t read it.

    1. John McDowell

      I do think we can lead by example. That has an impact even without crossing that line to be judgmental. If someone asks you to participate in something that goes against your values instead of just refusing or going along with it to feel comfortable, people can say no that goes against my values.
      Also I just read one of Joyce Meyer’s books and it talks about people being negative and complaining. She often talks how Christians need to be happy and smile at people not just superficially but truly work to be happy. She talks how people identify themselves as Christians and gossip and complain and that does not paint Christianity in a very good light. If we truly have faith things will work out as they are intended and truly appreciate Gods AMAZING Grace we can certainly can be more at peace.

  6. Paula

    I found this Chapter very convicting. I try to be open minded, but as I read… think that if not externally, am internally judging. I am certainly NOT perfect as none of us are. I have an older daughter who’s boyfriend is a non-believer. I am constantly and consistently telling her this is not right. Yet, I wonder as I do so if I am behaving in a Christian manner. How would Christ like me to respond? Am I actually showing the boyfriend why he shouldn’t be a Christian by my non-acceptance? I guess I am confused over how to define my Christian beliefs without being judgemental. In my mind, silence is acceptance. Maybe I will find out more as we go on it the book.
    I know that for me, my spiritual growth with the Lord is a journey that will last my lifetime. Maybe that’s what He wants.

  7. Shari

    I underlined a couple of paragraphs that spoke to me, which seemed to tail into the sermon on gossip we had recently…it seems that there are so many people who don’t understand that the true Christian is not looking to be the pious Pharisee who has to trumpet their good deeds. The true Christian is the one who wants to just do their best to love others every day..which is the hardest thing to do.

    My son told me once when he worked in a restaurant, that the folks in the bar on Saturday night were generous, kind, and pleasant to the servers. The folks who would come for brunch after church were mean, rude, and unkind. This is the kind of impression that unfortunately is given to many people, young or old, and steers them away from the grace that could be theirs.

    1. John McDowell

      Judy I really find your son’s observation interesting. It is fascinating how people can form their opinions. It tells you it is important to live your values all of the time. It is an awful thought to think a person could actually turn someone away from Christianity.

    2. Connie King

      I am endlessly reminded of political figures who constantly tell the world what great Christians they are–are they really, or do they just want the recognition for it? I could see parallels in today’s political climate in the first chapter.

  8. Judy

    This Chapter provided much food for thought! Since perception is reality, we must listen to the information that is provided by this group of 16-29 year olds. I have tried to remember how I felt, and what I thought of the church when I was that age (long time ago). I was no longer an active member of the church I grew up in, but going to a Catholic University, I did go to mass often (I was not Catholic). Because of the philosophy courses I was required to take I moved to a more philosophical perspective on God and religion. I was as liberal (not very) as I would ever be again in my life. I’m OK your OK was the motto! Hearing what these young people had to say was not really all that surprising. So this leads me to the following questions about the study that was presented; has anyone looked at whether there has truly been a significant % increase of youth leaving the church between ages 16-29? Is there really a problem or is this the same as it was 40 years ago when I was in college, a free thinker and not active in the church? But soon realized, as did many of my friends, that life is quite empty without Christ.

    -When looking at the results shared in this chapter, I first looked at the 91% felt that Christians are anti-homosexual. Are they saying that we see homosexuality as a sin or are they saying we condemn a person because they are a homosexual. This is not clearly defined. Love the person, hate the sin. Based on scripture homosexuality is a sin; Gen 19: 1-13, Lev 18:22, Lev 20:13, Romans 1:27, 1Cor. 6:9. The Bible strongly condemns homosexuality and as a Christian are we not called to clearly-lovingly call sin what it is?
    -Christians are considered judgemental (87%) – In other words be tolerant. Yes, we should be but I do not think that that translates into agreeing with all other religions, philosophies, opinions etc. Moral relativism which says that every philosophy, idea, and faith system has equal merit is thought by some to be a virtue. A moral relativist would consider a Christian narrow minded and unenlightened. A Christian believes that Christ rose from the dead, other religions do not. Only one can be true. The Christian faith (Hebrews 9:27) says man dies once, other religions speak of reincarnation, only one can be true. Because a person may not agree with anothers truths, opinions, or because they hold a different set of values does that make a person judgmental? If the answer is yes, than the assessment is probably true. Is this again perception that we need to work on?

    -Christians are hypocrites. Yes, everyday!! I guess we do not admit often enough that we never achieve our stated goal.

    This chapter left me wondering —–Are we Christians that believe and profess that the whole Bible is the “breathed word of God” ?
    Note: I find this method of dialogue very difficult. I would much rather see you face to face to communicate/share/discuss.

    1. John McDowell

      Judy regarding your comment: This chapter left me wondering —–Are we Christians that believe and profess that the whole Bible is the “breathed word of God” ?
      I think one thing to consider is the context of text when reading some of the Bible passages. I am not a Bible scholar and to be honest I have gone a long period of my life without studying the Bible, but now I read it every day. What I do know is the bible has passages about not wearing clothes of blended fabric, passages that say women should not wear jewelry, passages that talk about slavery Etc. There seems to be a lot of text people say that they need to take in the context of there circumstance.
      I would like to post more on this conversation, but I have to go to work. I just want to say I am certainly not dismissing the Bible, I am just saying you have to be careful about condemning people. Everyone is a sinner and we should have love for everyone. I want to be the best Christian I can be and I want to learn all of the lessons God has for me. I know I have to do more to reach out to people and share the Amazing Grace of God.

      1. Judy

        Your comments are well taken and your reminder of the importance of looking at the context of the text and the time in history of the words in the Bible. (side comment-The Bible never ceases to amaze me, the very same words that are read today may have a different meaning tomorrow depending on my need and what God wants me to understand.) Yes, we are all sinners, both knowingly and unknowingly. To me –This study is important because it is the unknowing sin, that we (I) often do not recognize. We do not want to be guilty of turning one person away from Christ. I so agree with your statement that we love the sinner, it is the sin we condemn and want to be left at the door of satan.

      2. John McDowell

        Hi Judy –

        I also think by welcoming the people we can possibly invite them to start their journey. This will allow them to grow in Christ. We all start somewhere. I think any time we can lead someone to Christ that is a tremendous accomplishment. I was listening to the song Testify to Love from Wynona Judd this morning. It gave me some inspiration. I will continue to try to live my life by example and Testify to Love 🙂

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