O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Question: Frustrations with the Faithful

A have a favor to ask you on behalf of a friend of mine. He’s working on a project and has been soliciting answers from both believers and non-believers to the following question:

What do other Christians do or say that frustrates you?

I thought we might be able to generate some thought-provoking answers to that question, which I end up addressing more than once in the new book.

For instance, one time I overheard a well-meaning Christian say, “It’s totally a God thing that my flight got canceled, because I got to share my faith with the lady next to me. Talk about a divine appointment!”

That kind of over-spiritualization of chance occurrences really frustrates me, because it’s so narcissistic. Yes, Christians place a high value on the salvation of a single soul. But do you really want to infer that God whipped up a thunderstorm at DFW, piled stress on airline employees, and inconvenienced hundreds of travelers just to engineer a single (eternally significant) conversation? Really?

I can’t go there. If my flight gets canceled, I’m hesitant to assume a master evangelistic plan. I’d much rather chalk it up to a backlog of delayed flights due to a major storm somewhere. That’s not a God thing. It’s just common sense. The alternative — delighting in it for self-centered evangelistic purposes, without giving a thought to the countless other people who just want to get home in time to say goodnight to their kids — is pretty unattractive.

Anyway, there’s an example.

Please note: the aim here isn’t to pile on to Christians for the stuff we all do. Think of it as constructive criticism. What are the things we Christians do or say that might seem harmless to us, but could be annoying or frustrating from another perspective?

Got it?

Comment away.

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Jana Green

posted April 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I think it is annoying when people at church get wrapped up in the little details that are not important. Like donuts. I once got yelled at by an older lady in our church for not bringing donuts. She down right verbally attacked me for something that wasn't even my fault. But even if it had been my fault, aren't we all about grace and forgiveness. Besides that, for goodness sake….they're DONUTS.Clearly I'm over it.(Maybe it's my turn to work on the grace giving bit…..)

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Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

posted April 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Oh, where to begin? :)I get really frustrated when Christians imply "If your faith was stronger, __________ wouldn't have happened." Fill in the blank: you wouldn't be depressed, your marriage wouldn't have fallen apart, you wouldn't have lost your job, your child wouldn't be rebelling, etc. It's equally frustrating when people imply that God made one of those devastating things happen in order to teach you to lean on him and generally strengthen your faith.Here's what I think: Messy, unpleasant stuff happens to us, due to our sinfulness and free will. God is able to redeem—to make something beautiful—out of any mess we find ourselves in.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 3:32 pm

It is annoying when churches put so much emphasis on membership before allowing attendees to serve. I recently moved, but before moving I was a member of the same church that I loved for 28 years. We struggled to find a new church home. After visiting several times at a local non-denominational church, I volunteered to serve and was given an opportunity almost immediately. At my former church, although I loved it dearly, my volunteerism would have had to be "earned" by membership and years of faithful attendance. :) My new church is like a breath of fresh air. I am now surrounded by believers of all faiths and backgrounds. I like to think that it resembles what heaven will be like someday…a body of believers instead of denominations.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

It frustrates me when people ask you to pray for them to overcome something, but they never put any effort into overcoming it. It's like having this sin or struggle or hardship in their life makes them feel special, so they'll tell you all about it, but they don't truly want to get rid of it.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm

In a similar follow up to your example. I get annoyed when people say things like "So & so you are such a faithful person, God can't help but bless you." Or "God is going to bless all of your hard work, you totally deserve it." These words are so contrary to the gospel – last time I check God did not need us we needed Him. We deserve nothing – He gives us Himself…

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posted April 28, 2010 at 3:45 pm

When growth is equated with knowledge. Nobody grows by reading info or memorizing how great points are catalogued or organized. It's how you respond or apply it after you read/know what God wants you to do that stretches you, making you grow.Echoing Beth, when we tell people we'll pray for them as a "spiritual-sounding" excuse NOT to use the resources we have right now to help them. It's using prayer as a scapegoat. I am as guilty as the next Christian on that one.

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Ryan Paige

posted April 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm

The seemingly frequent belief that the words in the Bible are only important insofar as they support whatever a particular person believes. Anything in the text that deviates from those beliefs is dismissed through interpretation, at best, or a pfft and wave of the hand at worst.Of course, that's not a behavior that's limited just to religious beliefs.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I get frustrated by how inconsistently people apply their convictions in real life. For example, one of my college roommates posted a list of companies we should boycott because they supposedly made money from the porn industry (she couldn't explain the connection, and I never did know the original source of the list). Yet she gladly gave her business to the convenience store next door and went there to refill her cup almost every day even though they prominently displayed hard-core, bagged porn magazines by the front counter and directly profited from porn.

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Norse, Jesica, and Boden

posted April 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm

When you ask someone something and they say "Well, I'll have to pray about it." Really they are saying – I don't want to do what you asked or answer honestly so I am going to just avoid it for now while I think up a clever excuse. Sometimes we just need to suck it up and say "No". Granted, sometimes we do need to pray and prayer is a huge part of the life of an authentic Christian, but for it to be used as a cop out really bugs me.

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Pink Lemonade

posted April 28, 2010 at 4:00 pm

"All you need is Jesus" cop-out answer is mine. Got XYZ problem? All you need is Jesus!! Let me get out my Christian Decoder ring that I got when I graduated Sunday School to break that down for you… oh wait… they weren't giving them away the year I graduated Sunday School! :( Note to pastors: how Jesus might be the answer would be a really terrific sermon, leaving visitors and Christians alike with much to think about and apply to their lives throughout the week.Our new pastor likes to say things like "you don't need medicine to deal with depression! All you need is Jesus and a small group that cares about you!" as if a chemical imbalance that occurs with greater frequency in the inhabitants of a land that gets no sunshine during the winter can be solved with a sprinkling of Jesus, some hugs and group prayer.

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Robert R. Cargill

posted April 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm

insist upon an inerrant, infallible biblical text. very frustrating.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm

the "it was all in God's plan" thing when something tragic happens get to me. i have to say that it really gets to me when people assume that if someone says something like the above or any of the things that drive others crazy that they are being holier-than-thou or narcissistic. i think they just don't have good communication skills and when they don't know how to say something… something really stupid comes out. it may not even be what they really mean. cut other people a break… give what they say a more positive spin. if they fuss at you (especially if they are elderly) there may be something else going on. just because you like the way something is done better doesn't mean it is more christian or more spiritual. it just means you like it better. ok i am done… :-)

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posted April 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I'm against all kinds of displays of outwards religiosity, partially because I grew up in an environment where it was considered rude and impolite.So, in everyday life, I cringe when people bring their gods into non-religious conversations. It's like someone slapping their private bits on the table when you're talking about politics. Sure, they're a part of you, but are supposed to be private things and they have nothing to do with the topic of conversation.However, this is largely just a cultural difference.In general, I find the "yeah, but they're not REAL Christians" stuff frustrating and highly annoying. Whenever a Christian of some specific flavour of the faith disagrees with statements made by another Christian, they're quick to denounce their opponents as heretics. I can't count how many times I've heard this – it's been done by people opposing gay rights, it's been done by people for gay rights, or any other imaginable for/against position on pretty much any topic out there.The "Real Christian™" card has been used against Pat Robertson when he talked about Haiti, it's been used against Westboro Baptists, it's been used against Lutherans, Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Methodists, Orthodoxes (Orthodoxians? Orthodoxites?) and their positions on various individual matters.The usage is characterized by the incredible level of arrogance and self-righteousness the card-user exhibits to make it very, very clear that the specific flavour of Christianity they personally subscribe to is the REAL deal, and anyone else who disagrees with them on any given issue is very obviously and plainly not a Real Christian™.In a milder form, I've seen it being used by even the most agreeable and otherwise logical and mild-mannered Christians. I've seen it used by some of my very close friends.Last time I checked, the definition of a Christian had to do a lot with the fact that they assume Jesus was the Messiah, and the rest is pretty vague, allowing for a wide variety of stands and interpretations.

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Josh Wood

posted April 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm

My big frustration: gossip wrapped in prayer requests. I.e. "Please pray for Cindy. She was hungover at work today…again…also, she might be pregnant…again…with John's baby. Also, please pray for John's wife."

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Little Miss Emmy Lou

posted April 28, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I have a hard time when people assume it is God answering prayers when someone is healed. Yes, this may be the case, but when we go on and on about how faithful God is because someone who is ill gets better, what does this say about the faithfulness of God when someone does NOT get better, or dies? Just because things went the way we preferred them to go, we call it God answering our prayers. Last time I checked, God answers prayers in many, many different ways, not just healing people.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm

"God hasn't called me". I will pretty much turn a deaf ear to whatever you have to say after that because I know it will all be about why you don't want to. God can move mountains and God can't equip you to work in the nursery for 1 hour? That is a flat out lie. Just admit you don't want to do it. Too many people use God as a cop out for what they don't want to do. God "called" you to be a missionary in a country where you risk your life to spread the gospel but you can't work in the air conditioned church or give your testimony? I am rolling my eyes at you. My favorite is the nursery- I know it isn't for everyone, I really do. But I have heard the excuse "God wouldn't want me to work there- since I don't want to be there it wouldn't be safe for the kids" too many times. REALLY??? You can't go an hour without saying something that will turn the children away from God or beating them or something? Blah Blah. Bottom line: Don't blame God for what you don't want to do.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Athletes (or anyone else doing anything even remotely competitive) attributing a god for their achievements. It is a habit that curiously is often interpreted as somehow humble, while being incredibly egoistic.It takes a special kind of person to be arrogant enough to assume that your god loves you so much more than he loves your competitors that he decided to grant you a victory over everyone else.

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Ruth in the Desert

posted April 28, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Christians who hold grudges. Christians who are so holy that they are shocked by other Christans' failings–and can't ever forgive them.

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Ruth in the Desert

posted April 28, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Also, Christians who can't get together without serving fattening food! It's 9:30 in the morning, do we really HAVE to offer doughnuts????

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posted April 28, 2010 at 6:38 pm

One of my favorites is when someone dies and someone says "God just needed him more than we did." UGH – REALLY?

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posted April 28, 2010 at 7:48 pm

For me it's that Christians assume the role of Judge and Jury. I haven't read in the bible where it says that we have the responsibility of judging everyone. I have read where Jesus calls for those without sin to cast the first stone. I understand why people don't want to come to church, because they are judged before they get in the door. It's not up to us to decide who is worthy of heaven or not.Change is the other issue. Christians can get very stale when they resist change. And after a while stale things stink.I also don't agree with the train of thought that Christians buy "Christian" alternatives cause they think they are being holy. Parents seeking alternatives in music for their little Johnny, and wrapping him cotton wool to keep their conscience clean.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 8:09 pm

In somewhat a similar vein as others, I loathe the flippant attitude many Christians take toward the death of another Christian, esp. if there are perceived benefits (i.e. someone "gets saved" as a result of the death). Having hope in a future resurrection does/should not make the present tragedy vanish. Futhermore, the inability in general of many Christians to confront the harsh realities of life without glossing them over is very bothersome. . .

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posted April 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm

The "how can you be a Christian and believe X" deal, as if Christians have a monolithic view about every subject. I've seen things like Young Earth Creationism or a republican voting record become measuring sticks for faith, and anyone who falls outside of that just gets left behind. I've seen that in my own family with my husband.Also hate using prayer as an excuse to avoid actually DOING anything. I know that sometimes there's nothing that can be done and that prayer conveys a concern. But a LOT of the time there's something you can do, even if it's just actually go and be with the person. But far too often we'll just say, "I'll pray for you" and that's it. *sigh*

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Cecelia Dowdy

posted April 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Your example reminds me about something that happened to me in college. This guy I knew had to work in a religious banner for an event. The banner was huge, so he needed to work on it outside. The day he needed to work on it, it rained. He thought, "I don't understand. Why would God let it rain when I have to work on this religious banner?" His phone rang, and he got an urgent message only because he was home, instead of out there, somewhere, working on the banner. So he chalked it up by saying, "So, that's why God let it rain that day. If he hadn't let it rain, then I would have not gotten that message." – NOTE THIS WAS BACK IN THE EIGHTIES, BEFORE EVERYBODY HAD CELL PHONES and NOT EVERYBODY HAD ANSWERING MACHINES.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm

An observation: a huge proportion of Christians have a god who 100% agrees with whatever (political or otherwise) opinions they hold. This is pretty easy, as there's sub-flavours of Christianity out there designed to support just about any possible political stance from liberal socialism to far right fascism. Given this, you can god-shop until you find one that agrees with you. It's easier than to change your political opinions.So, what additional value a political opinion has if your religion fully supports it too? Nothing, it would seem.Considering all this, bringing religion into politics is annoying. Finding religious justification for being anti-universal health care or anti-gay is worthless. Of course your religion agrees with your opinions, that's why you chose it. Your opinions are not based on the Bible, your Bible is based on your opinions.

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posted April 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

After reading through the previous comments, there seems be a common tone of bitterness in the voice of the writers. And I don't care how arrogant that sounds; remember that we are discussing depraved, broken sinners that are undeservingly redeemed and in the process of being reconciled to God. Of course Christianity is messy. But I challenge ya'll to focus on Christ's goodness and grace rather than the faults of the people he redeemed.Anyway, in an attempt to be constructive, my greatest personal struggle in my life and frustration with the Church at large is the lack of passion for the gospel. Why don't I hunger and thirst for His presence like a thirsty animal pants for water? Why do I reject the fount of Living Water to drink from a broken cistern? Why do I not see in myself and in others a passionate, deep longing, and even yearning, for Him who is better than life itself? Why am I and why are we content with a complacent Christianity in light of the radical Savior who saved us in an act of radical grace?I think the first step towards being passionate about the gospel is to have Christ-centered and cross-centered teaching in our churches. The gospel is not somehow 'elementary' to the faith or a tagline at the end of a sermon on debt, marriage, or whatever, but the central focus of everything. In 1 Peter, we're told that the prophets who foretold the gospel longed to look into the things we now hold as ordinary, and that angels eagerly desire, even lust, to look into the gospel that I am so complacent about. Paul preached in Corinth for a year and a half that he resolved to know nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified. The gospel must be our focus.As a kid, the "Where's Waldo?" books were my favorites. In them, you see Waldo hidden in a variety of cultures and situations, and the common thread of the book is to find out where Waldo is and who he is. The Bible is not much unlike Where's Waldo. On every page a righteous, just, sovereign, merciful Jesus is revealed. He is the truer and greater Abraham, leaving his home to create a people for God. He is the truer and greater Moses, leading us up out of the slavery of sin from a tyrant far worse than Pharoah. He is the truer and greater David, slaying a giant we could not defeat in our sin, and imparting victory to all of God's people. He is the truer and greater Passover lamb, shedding his innocent blood to redeem wicked sinners like you and me. The gospel is the power of God, not only to objective justification, but also to sanctification. If we lose sight of that, we lose grace and Christianity no longer be unique among the religions in the world, with its emphasis on Christ's finished work on the cross rather than our own moral performance.May the Gospel of the Grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ be loved and responded to in lives of worship by his people-

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posted April 28, 2010 at 9:48 pm

And in case I haven't commented enough, another annoyance is people who speak like they're giving a sermon. Sermon-like speeches are best reserved to sermons.

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Maria D. @ DownrightDomesticity

posted April 28, 2010 at 9:55 pm

In the church circles I run in, believers tend to confuse being Christian with being Republican/conservative.

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Eric Stevens

posted April 28, 2010 at 11:45 pm

"everything happens for a reason!""God blesses those who bless Israel–so we need to support the modern day state of Israel no matter what they do!""hate the sin, love the sinner" (mostly because of the hypocrisy of how this is lived out–most don't hate their own sin, just that of others…and they usually don't love the sinner either)Churches that essentially tell you who to vote for without actually naming that person, by articulating why that candidate's political stances are the "right" ones (usually it boils down to the abortion issue, and their stance on gay marriage).praying for Obama's death.

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Nicodemus at Nite

posted April 29, 2010 at 7:25 am

At my church, we just voted in a new youth minister and we were talking and he said, "Hey I saw on your FB your religious views says, "Recovering Pharisee", I was wondering what that meant. And I said, well it's like a recovering alcoholic, except for religion, I'm not trying to be religious and just follow Jesus. And he said, "Oh really, you still struggle with that?" Even worse, he turned away and didn't really want to finish the conversation.One time when we were joining a new church, the pastor and his wife came over to meet us. We were talking about our church experience and I said, "Yeah, we love eating so we'll stick with being Baptist." And the pastor's wife corrected me and said, "Oh, we're Christians, not Baptists." Sigh.Or anytime something bad happens and a Christian says, "Just know that God is in control and he knows the outcome."Public prayers annoy the crap out of me too.

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posted April 29, 2010 at 10:50 am

Here's another pet peeve: anonymous tongue lashings in comboxes.

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posted April 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

I think the church in America, like any institution, unconsciously/unintentionally furthers many things that are antithetical to it's original core beliefs. Here are three things that I have been just as guilty of as the rest, but with time and reflection have come to frustrate me:1. Equating God's blessing to material gain.2. Thinking American Christianity is the full picture (e.g. re-interpreting/americanizing scripture; ignoring the vibrance of the church in the global south)3. Lack of intellectual examination of our faith; discouraging constructive debate and discourse; and letting others do our thinking for us.

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Britt Hester

posted April 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

"I just wish I knew God's will for my life." The more I hear that the more I want to throw up. It's frustrating to me because I don't believe God has a "will" specifically formulated for us. That said, I do believe that God has a will or way for to emulate. The issue is we typically don't. So, what bothers me with the "I just wish I knew God's will for my life" statement is it appears we are more concerned with knowing exactly where God wants us to go rather than concerning ourselves with who we are becoming as we go wherever it is we are destined to go. Don't get me wrong, I do believe God calls each of us to a particular vocation; I believe I'm called to ministry. However, I think God is more concerned with who we are becoming rather than what career path we choose.

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posted April 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Actively pushing your religion is another one. Door to door god salesmen for one, but also all kinds of missionary work. Religion is a personal thing. Keep yours, and let your neighbour keep theirs.

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posted April 29, 2010 at 3:17 pm

As a woman, one of the most frustrating things is when Christian men interpret the Bible to mean that they are more than just "spiritual leaders," but are automatically wiser and more knowledgeable about all things (and therefore don't listen to women and their opinions). I know this is not something that just Christian men do, but it bothers me more in Christianity because I believe it goes directly against what the Bible teaches us.Also: When the church cares more about marketing itself and spending money on the next big thing (this happens most often in a church's music ministry, it seems to me) than they do about getting their hands dirty helping others and living out the Great Commission by leaving the safety of their state-of-the-art church building.

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posted April 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm

A woman at my place of employment believes that our new boss is a good man simply because he says he's a Christian. Personally, I can't say that I'm a good person just because I'm a Christian. I don't even wear my "Christians-R-Us" t-shirt in public. I think it's a misconception of many that if someone attends church on a weekly basis and has the "I was saved" coffee mug they are automatically "good people". I'm not bitter…

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Eric Stevens

posted April 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm

"if you were to die today, how sure are you that you would be in heaven?""if you died today and stood before God, and he were to ask you, 'why should I let you into MY heaven?', what would you tell him?"etc…

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Rob Swick

posted April 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm

My frustration, on top of several others mentioned, has to do with Christ followers who think that they have to be "nerdy" or socially odd in order to be a Christian. They say that their faith makes them nerdy, or their belief structure calls them to be socially awkward; at which point they throw out they are called to be "in the world, not of it"(John chapter 15 is fantastic, but lets not pull the meaning out of context). Your personality is exactly that, not caused directly by your faith.I'm off my soapbox now….

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posted April 30, 2010 at 6:16 pm

*Warning: Can of Worms* As a person who is usually not very "political," at the current moment I am apalled by other AZ Christians who whole-heartedly support our new (Nazi-esque)immigration law. Just because something is Ultra Right Wing does not make it Christ-like. (Or Left Wing, for that matter.)

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