Do you know the most common reason people aren't interested in Jesus? It's Christians. That's right. The main thing standing between an unbeliever and Jesus is most likely a Christian.
We know that nobody following Jesus wants to be the reason others refuse to do the same. So we made a list of all the things we could think of that a Christian might do to turn others away from Jesus. Because, if you're developing a missional lifestyle, then you'll want to do everything you can to avoid pushing people further away from him, right?
Now, we know that sometimes people are just turned off by Christianity regardless of what we do. But, we still need to make sure we aren't doing anything to give them more reasons to reject Jesus.
So, we decided to count down the 5 most damaging kinds of Christians and their attitudes toward people outside the church. Toward people with different views about culture and morality.
You'll probably be able to identify specific people in your life represented below. Chances are you've even identified with one or more of these descriptions at some point in your life (we know we have). This isn't intended to be a judgment on anyone. But, it's impossible to fix a problem if we don't even recognize that it exists.
So, let's count down the 5 worst kinds of Christians when it comes to the way they interact with their non-Christian friends and acquaintances. We'll start with #5 and end with the one we believe causes the most damage. You might be surprised to find how many people you know that match #1.
NOTE: We only used male pronouns here because it was easier that way. But, these descriptions apply just as much to women as they do to men
#5 The Couldn't Care Less Christian
The damage caused by this kind of Christian usually goes unnoticed. There is no active injury or injustice. This Christian simply doesn't put much thought into his faith or how others relate to Jesus. He avoids theological and moral conversations. Not necessarily because he wants to avoid confrontation. But because he just isn't interested. He doesn't try to hide his faith, but it's hard to tell that it's there anyway.
Interestingly, church leaders often point to this as the worst attitude a Christian can have. They talk as if there are only two options: either you are on fire for God and want everyone to know about him, or you have no passion for God and don't care about people (the lukewarm Christian).
We clearly disagree with this "one or the other" mentality. But we do agree that a Christian who doesn't care about things pertaining to his faith is damaging to both his Christian friends and those in his life who don't know Jesus. Damaging because he gives the impression that Jesus isn't that important to him, which causes others to assume Jesus just isn't that important at all. But, realistically, we consider this attitude to be minimally damaging, because it usually goes unnoticed.
What causes Couldn't Care Less Christianity?
To be blunt, the main cause of Couldn't Care Less Christianity is a lack of love for Jesus. If you have no love for the things of God, then you should probably try to determine if you have love for God at all.
If we were making a list of the kinds of Christians who are most dangerous to themselves, we might have put this one in the #1 spot. But that's not the point of this list (maybe another time).
In the end, this attitude is the result of a disconnect between the believer and his faith. It could be a result of never understanding his faith to begin with. Or it could be a result of witnessing too many Christians who embody the other 4 attitudes in this list. Seeing too many Christians engage non-Christians poorly could have caused the Couldn't Care Less Christian to take the opposite position by refusing to care.
#4 The Undercover Christian
On the outside, there is only a slight difference between the Couldn't Care Less Christian and the Undercover Christian. What makes them different is that the Undercover Christian goes to extreme lengths to avoid being outed as a Christian.
He is afraid people will think less highly of him if they find out about his faith. This ends up forcing him to lie about his beliefs and, eventually, make compromises to fit in.
The Undercover Christian goes further than just avoiding particular conversations. Sometimes he is forced to go along with particular viewpoints that he might not agree with in order to make sure his friends don't ask the wrong questions.
This is more damaging than the Couldn't Care Less Christian because of the potential for fallout. When the group eventually discovers the Undercover Christian's true identity, he will never be taken seriously again. His faith will be meaningless to his friends, and any negative feelings they previously had about Christians and Christianity will be reemphasized and strengthened.
What causes Undercover Christianity?
Many Christians are scared their non-Christian friends will respond negatively if they bring up their faith. For some, it is easier to act one way around Christians and another way around others. This is where we get the negative stereotype that Christians "praise heaven on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week." Sadly, this is far more common than any of us want to admit.
And the result is that Christians are seen as hypocrites. The Undercover Christian has little impact before he is discovered. But as soon as his affiliation with Christianity is revealed, he adds to the reputation Christians have of being fake. All because he is afraid of the negative stereotypes attached to Christianity. To be fair, we can't really fault him for wanting to avoid those stereotypes, but going undercover helps nobody.
#3 The Run and Hide Christian
You know this guy. When he reads Jesus' prayer in John 17 that we should be in the world but not of the world, he focuses only on the second half. The Run and Hide Christian focuses all of his energy on staying pure.
He avoids sinful people. He is completely sheltered from the world. He spends 6 out of 7 days in Bible studies and other church events. Staying within the safety of his church building and Christian friends to avoid being tainted by contact with non-Christians. Nothing but Christian music (the crappy kind from the early 1990's). If a movie isn't Disney, it's too worldly. Anyone who might disagree is deemed a heretic and immediately discarded.
The Run and Hide Christian has a very small amount of actual interaction with non-Christians. Because that would open him up to ungodly influences. But that doesn't mean he can't still negatively impact those around him.
Running and hiding does not go unnoticed. Instead, it becomes very clear to those the Run and Hide Christian runs from that he considers them dirty. Without saying a single word, the Run and Hide Christian makes people feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and ultimately unwilling to give Jesus a chance.
And, things are only made worse when the Run and Hide Christian tries to explain his reasoning. When he tells people the reason he avoids alcohol, cigarettes, dancing, PG-13 movies, and Harry Potter, it does nothing more than confirm their suspicion that he considers himself better than them. They are unclean, and he must avoid them if he wants to be a good Christian.
What causes Run and Hide Christianity?
Self-centered thinking is the root cause of Run and Hide Christianity. It is the belief that I have to do what's best for me first, and then I can help others. Except, since we will never attain perfect holiness in this life, the Run and Hide Christian never moves on to helping others.
He thinks his example of running away from anything un-Christlike makes him a good witness for Christ. Unfortunately, it really only shows that he doesn't understand the life of Christ at all. Remember who Jesus hung out with? Sinners! The most holy person to ever walk the earth spent the majority of his time with the dirtiest people.
The Run and Hide Christian is damaging to non-Christians because he gives them the impression that following Jesus means following a long list of rules. Rules that they apparently break a lot. Not inviting. Not good news. Not helpful.
#2 The OVERZEALOUS Christian
Some of you might argue that this is the most damaging attitude for Christians to have (we obviously disagree...but only slightly). The Overzealous Christian is a humongous turnoff. He's openly judgmental. And even more so when the sin he is condemning is something he's never dealt with. He is pushy, untactful, and unenjoyable to be around.
Sadly, this kind of Christian is often elevated in the eyes of other Christians. They see him as bold and honest. He speaks truth, and he is willing to suffer for Christ.
But, if you ask the non-Christians he confronts, they have a different opinion. The Overzealous Christian is responsible not only for keeping people away from church. But also for making people within the church so uncomfortable they leave. Many people who love Jesus and live lives that show it are just as turned off by the Overzealous Christian as those who have never been to church a day in their lives.
These are often the guys who make the headlines for "standing up against...(insert moral issue here)." The louder and more offensive he is, the more attention he gets. And the more strongly opposed to Christianity people become.
The Overzealous Christian is damaging because he focuses on behavior modification. He tells people to stop sinning so God will accept them. And He is convinced that legislating morality will bring Americans to Jesus.
What causes Overzealous Christianity?
The Overzealous Christian wrongly believes that Jesus accepts us based on our actions. He might not know this is what he believes, but he shows it by his words and actions. When he quote's Jesus' line, "Repent and believe," his emphasis is wholly on the first half. His focus is on repentance. Behavior modification. The appearance of holiness.
Often, the Overzealous Christian has a very dramatic conversion story. A history of rampant sin that Jesus delivered him from. But sometimes he is the child of deeply religious parents who was raised in the church and taught about the dangers of sin from a young age.
Whatever his background, the Overzealous Christian places so much emphasis on eradicating sin that he ends up undervaluing the importance of trusting Jesus.
#1 The Passive-Aggressive CHRISTIAN
The Passive-Aggressive Christian does everything out of love. His tone is usually very sweet and unoffensive. He is always willing to pray for people. He just wants what's best for the people in his life. And, he doesn't pass any judgement...At least that's how it seems.
The Passive-Aggressive Christian actually does have a motive behind every action he takes. And that motive is either to get you to go to church or convince you to believe or act the way he wants.
He repeatedly points out sin and suggests things that should change in a person's life. He starts sentences with, "It's not for me to judge, but..." or some other phrase to soften whatever critique follows.
His message is essentially the same as the Overzealous Christian, but it comes across less offensive. So, why do we say this is the most damaging kind of Christian? Wouldn't it be worse to be more offensive?
Well, yes, we generally agree that offensive people tend to cause more damage than unoffensive people. But this is different. Society has already learned how to spot the Overzealous Christian. They expect him to be offensive, and they simply tune him out. But, the Passive-Aggressive Christian is a little harder to identify.
The Passive-Aggressive Christian sounds like he genuinely cares about people. People feel comfortable enough to let their guard down in a way they never would with the Overzealous Christian. So, when they realize his goal is to get them to church or to sneak in some kind of evangelism tactic, they feel betrayed. And it makes them wonder if any Christians are truly genuine or if they all have hidden agendas.
What causes Passive-Aggressive Christianity?
Passive Aggressive Christianity is way more common than most Christians realize. In fact, Passive Aggressive Christianity is often taught from the pulpit as effective evangelism.
Have you ever been on a mission trip? You went to some foreign country, and you built something or provided some kind of service. Then, once the people there were happy and thankful, you sprung a sermon on them.
Or, maybe you've gone downtown with a truck full of sack lunches. And you told every homeless person you could find that you wanted to give them some food...if they would sit through a gospel presentation or let you pray with them.
Even much of the recent push toward getting to know neighbors and provide services for the community is tainted by Passive Aggressive Christianity. What does the pastor tell his congregation to do after one of these interactions? Invite them to church on Sunday!
Why do we do this? Why can't we just love people and look for ways to make their lives better without any ulterior motives?
Because we want to see results. We want to be able to measure how successful our efforts are. And, how do we normally measure the success of a church or evangelistic effort? We ask: How many conversions were there? How many people came to church this week? Did they stop a particular sin?
We can't measure relationship. Or what's going on in a person's head. At least not immediately. Passive Aggressive Christianity is a result of outcome-based thinking, and it is not the way of Jesus.
What's the Point?
Our point with this list is that there's a lot of stuff happening in the name of Jesus that is actually pushing people away from him. Whether we're silent about our faith, obnoxiously loud about our faith, or overly interested in a particular result, we've all done things that have given people a negative impression of Christianity.
But, if we're aware of our tendencies toward any of these attitudes, we can fix them. You don't have to continue doing and saying things that push people further from Jesus. We can be better.
Join the Conversation
Is there an attitude we should have included here?
Do you have a story of someone who embodied one or more of these attitudes?
Maybe you think we're wrong.
Let's talk about it. Feel free to add a comment below or share this article on Facebook along with your input. We'd love to talk about this with a larger audience. So, click the social media icon of your choice on the right, and let's see what the rest of your friends have to say. Make sure you tag us in your post, so we can join in!