Mean Christians

I guess a lot of Christians think that the “ends” justify the “being mean.”

This past week myself and a few friends in the youth ministry world have had several spears thrown at us. I’m not surprised at all when people disagree. It happens. But I am surprised when so-called followers of Christ think they have a license to be “mean.” No need for a big vocabulary word there… “mean” says it all.

One of the dangerous things about having an online presence is that you subject yourself to criticism from anonymous faultfinders. That probably one of the reasons why I secretly enjoy this little Saturday Night Live video about these kinds of “commenters”.

Don’t get me wrong, I get plenty of encouragement from most of you; but it’s interesting how one negative voice in your ear can really pierce through. I know I shouldn’t let it… but mean words are hard to filter out at times.

Just a few days ago while my family was on a trip down to Southern California to visit my son at his college, I got up early to check email. Some guy tweeted a link to me and said, “Something for your little evangelism contest.” The article he linked was an awkward article about a guy using very aggressive methods to bring people to Christ. I didn’t really know what this tweeter meant by the link. But, trying to be cordial and respond, I tweeted him back, saying something like, “Ha… that’s an interesting one.” An hour or so later I’m eating breakfast with my family and I notice a tweet reply on my phone. It was that same guy. Here’s what he said:

“Really, one of the most noble witnessing events ever just gets a “Ha” from you? I pity the people impressed by you.”

Now, he probably didn’t know this… but that really affected me. It really hurt.

I hadn’t mean anything with my “ha” response. In hindsight, I guess I shouldn’t have responded at all because I was actually confused by his comment, assuming he was being sarcastic (one of the difficulties of the internet- lack of non-verbal cues). Come to find out, this guy was truly upset at Youth Specialties’ little evangelism contest and thought it did “more harm than good.” Again… people will disagree. But where does this “Christian, Full Time Home Missionary to Students and Their Families” (I’m quoting his Twitter description), feel justified in telling someone, “I pity the people impressed by you.”

Wow!

I can’t help but wonder if he would have said that to me in public? Is this how he talks to his pastor if he doesn’t like his sermon? Is this how he talks with his wife? Or are these spears saved for the brothers and sisters in Christ that he’ll never see face to face.

Last week a guy went on a blogging rampage against my friends Doug Fields and Mark Matlock. I’m not going to even give the guy the courtesy of linking his blog, but trust me, it was mean! His blog was not only pure nonsense… it was mean.

He defended himself saying that he was trying to raise awareness.

No. He was just being mean.

A couple months ago we launched a new video series for parents called R U Listening. Each week we share a teenage perspective on parenting and then have an author or speaker respond with their two cents. Just two videos into the series we started getting some cruel feedback, personal attacks on David and I (I think they were from some of those guys in the video linked above).

It was mean.

I expect it from the world, but personally, it’s really difficult to receive from the body of Christ.

I see why the Apostle Paul spent so much time in his letters encouraging unity and warning us of backbiters who love to gossip and slander. We can prophesy and have faith that will move mountains… but without love… GONG!!!! CLANG!!!

Maybe that’s why Paul encouraged us to not talk in a way that divides believers, but “builds them up.” That’s what “unwholesome” talk means (no, it doesn’t mean cuss words).

So, some thoughts for us to consider (because I need this as much as you) from Paul’s letter to Ephesians, the end of Chapter 4.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

How can you kind to someone today?

How can you show compassion?

Who is someone you need to forgive?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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41 Responses to Mean Christians

  1. Dee Boudreaux says:

    Awesome response! Hopefully those “mean” Christians will read this blog and realize how hurtful they have been. I will pray for them.

  2. Jon Forrest says:

    Hey Jonathan,
    I had a GREAT idea for the evangelism contest. It involved me inflicting my own little “judgement house” on a guy. Pitching forks at him, hair dryers and even inflicting a Richard Marx video on him. But it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to take a chance on going viral looking like a stereotypical crazy Christian. (I still may make it just for you though).
    Forget all that though. Let me tell whoever will read this why I am pitiful aka impressed by you. I use so many of your resources that it is hard to tell what’s mine and what’s yours. Ive gotten to lead 5 kids in the past 2 weeks to Christ. I hope you realize how much of a part of my ministry the source is. Amazingly one of us is wrong every once in a while because I dont agree with every word you say. But I KNOW YOUR HEART.

    Im sorry but I have to tell people about this. David R Smith, the Source’s right hand man, was in my town a couple of weeks ago and he made arrangements to meet with me, just to encourage me. I AM NOBODY. I DID NOT PAY HIM. WE HAD NEVER MET. I’m sold. Y’all are soul lovers. That didnt come out right but you understand. There was no clangs or bongs with him. Again, that didn’t come out right.

    I love you and your ministry bro. Do not grow weary doing well. I love the meanie too. Sorry his voice was so loud in your ear.

    • Thanks Jon. I really do appreciate your encouragement. I’m so glad that we can be a small help providing resources for you, and PRAISE GOD about those 5 kids in the last couple weeks. God is good! Keep up the good work serving him!

      • Jon forrest says:

        Me and my boys had so much fun brainstorming about which music video to use in our torture scene. Rejected names included right said Fred, crash test dummies and bread. I’d love your input. They also suggested Barry Manillow but I’m partial to Mandy.

  3. Sarah says:

    Jonathan- This is a wise response to/reflection on the negativaty that I’m sorry you are having to deal with. I have so much respect for you and your ministry. Thank you!!!

  4. Hurting pastor says:

    I am a pastor and still never understand the pure hatefulness and mean spiritedness that’s comes from people who have been Christians longer than I have been alive. Recently I was told that I was turning the church into a halfway house because we are giving away food and clothing and have started a celebrate recovery program. Man wheres the love? And when did it become okay to question a pastor for doing something Christ commanded?

  5. Gina says:

    I remember a bit of advice that the pastor’s mother at our first church gave to me. She pulled me aside and said that ministry involves having the heart of a dove and the skin of a rhino. Oh how that has proved to be right. Why do we tend to be so wonderful to others and so unkind to our family in Christ? Keep your thick skin on and your heart tender – you are equipping leaders and changing so many lives. I really enjoy this website- the resources and the support. Thank you!

  6. Patrick Garrett says:

    Jon! You are the essence of diplomacy :) Thank you for a Christ-like response to the issue and your own transparency as an international leader of youth and their leaders. I say this against the example of your growth when you were criticised a couple of years back by your use of the word “Jack***” and the vitriol response you received from that; your initial reply post was posted then pulled by you because you felt it was not in the most humble and godly spirit. I have always admired you for that and remember it to your strength and God’s glory. This reply here is from a man who’s sanctification is evident.
    Your scriptural affirmation at the end is well-timed [even for me personally as I have recently come under "consructive criticsim" form some in our congregation] and well thought through and thorough. The Lord knows your heart and your intentions; He alone is the judge and would not have kept you going for so long — at times lke this wehn you feel the chance to give in — if you were not seeking the Lord’s guidance inyour ministry.
    Thanks again for your ministry, I will definitely be buying your DVD curriculum, and for the record: you too are a “Christian, Full Time Home Missionary to Students and Their Families” as is eveidenced by your constant discussion in blogs and books and use in videos about your own family; you practice what you preach and admit when you might have erred. You just do it with more tact — and look good doing it! Be blessed brother; we’re praying for you!

  7. dan manns says:

    i love this post jon! (wow i seem to love every post of yours – maybe cuz they all seem to hit ‘close to home’ for me.) it reminds me of a time at our church when an upper level leader turned ‘mean’ and left the church in a huff and started saying all kinds of nasty things about our church and our pastors. i watched as our senior pastor was personnally attacked with the nastiest kind of slander. i also watched as our senior pastor walked though the fire of this time with incredible grace and humility. he never ‘fired back’; he never repayed evil for evil and he never tried to defend himself. he was like Jesus before Pilate: “as a lamb before its shearers is silent so he opened not his mouth”. there were times in my youtful zeal that i wished he would fire back – i knew he had dirt on the guy and could really hurt him back if he wanted. but he didn’t. my senior pastor preferred to let God defend him; he decided that he was going to be entirely blameless and innocent in the matter. to this day i have never even once heard him speak evil of this man. it was one of the biggest lessons i’ve ever learned in ministry. and in time of course – God proved by His faithfulness and grace upon which man His favor did rest. One man’s ministry prospered and is growing to this day and sadly, the other man’s dried up and he is no longer in ministry. And I believe His favor rests upon you in the same way. “Blessed are you when men call you all manner of evil falsely for my name sake for great is your reward in heaven.”

  8. Stacy says:

    Words do hurt. That’s what tonight’s youth event is all about at our church. Coincidentally (?) we’re using the exact passage you sighted here. I’m completely impressed with your ministry and it’s been a HUGE help for my husband and me as we have just begun working with our youth. Thank you.

  9. B says:

    We are going through something _a lot_ like this at our church–sooooo painful! They have used Facebook to try and destroy our leaders–it is awful AND many of them are Christians! The enemy wants to conquer the work we do ! : ( Don’t give up!

  10. Joe H says:

    The ironic part of your post is the the”mean” people are simply adult “bullies”. If they were 15 years old and making the same comments to other students, they’d be suspended from school. Society on a whole is so focused on anti-bully campaigns right now that focus on anyone under 18 … yet they completely ignore and even admire the adult bullies in our news and entertainment industry. The political battles waged between now and November will be classic examples of “Bully 101″ tactics.

    I’m a protector by nature. Someone who actually enjoys standing up and defending the underdog. And I’m not proud when I admit that my natural first response to bullies is to strike back, hard and swift, simple crushing the opposition. But that’s just as wrong as the bullying. Never run from or ignore the facts or crimes of a bully. Never let it continue. Protect those who need protecting. Stand up for those who cannot stand on their own. But never forget to do it in His love.

    Being mean, being a bully, is something we want to see stopped with our children. None of the rules or laws or movies are going to make much difference to change that behavior … until we as adults hold ourselves accountable and live by the same standards. Jonathan, thank you for reminding us all not to forget the love part … or as the Bible calls it … “heaps of burning coals” (weak attempt at humor there folks)

  11. Bill Britton says:

    We have experienced a similar attack this week. Our pastor made a bit of a blunder last week on FaceBook and the “religious” community of our small town has lead the charge with words of “crucify.” It is disheartening and disappointing to see even the other religious leaders join in the criticism and bashing, most of it personal and unrelated to what happened. It’s times like these that we see the true character of people and what it is they really represent, the love of Christ or something else…

  12. James says:

    Jonathan,

    I just wanted to give you some encouraging words from the silent majority. I have been the volunteer Youth director at a small church for five years and I have no clue what I am doing…but I absolutely love working with these kids. We average about 12 students in our group. I was just the guy who was going to help chaperone and was thrown into it when a college student quit on us after 2 months. So I was “Googling” desperately for something to assist me with lesson plans and I stumbled upon your website. Your ministry has helped me immensely with lessons and keeping up with topics that affect teenagers. I don’t know what I would have done without it. It’s one thing to know and understand scripture. But it’s another to be able to take that knowledge and make it into a lesson that will hold their interest and get the point across.

    Thank you so much for all you do! By the way, sorry about the eye joke several weeks ago. Probably wasn’t a good time to be kidding around, huh?

    • No worries about eye jokes. Heard plenty. Thanks for the encouragement. It’s great to hear that our free resources are providing you with discussion topics for teenagers… hopefully giving you more time to hang out with kids!

  13. Joe Brown says:

    I’m sure there are those who are impressed by the guy who has pity on us. I’m not only impressed by you; at times I’m motivated, challenged, inspired, refreshed, annoyed, angered, and ultimately sharpened by you. Keep up the good work brother.

  14. Elizabeth Froemming says:

    Praying for you and your fellow warriors for Christ. It becomes so hard when the arrows come from your own camp. Not to over-spiritualize, but I often think that leaders are attacked intensely right before something big is going to happen. It’s like the enemy foments dissension in order to discourage and distract you. I hope that encourages you to stand firm, continue to forgive freely while carrying out the mission that God has tasked YOU with. Keep up the great work! I have really enjoyed your blog ever since you came to NorthPark, and my family continues to lift yours up in prayer!

  15. Sam Swann says:

    Jonathan,
    I intended to make a comment to encourage you and remind you that your ministry is very helpful to many people who work with students. I have handed some of your books out to the wonderful Youth Workers that I serve in our state, and have heard from them many times, how helpful they are. I see by the comments above that there is actually nothing I can add except to quote Paul when he wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Cor 15:58 HCSB)

  16. Tim Quigg says:

    I think meanness affects our entire world and the sad thing is that it has seeped into the church, which is not surprising since it is filled with sinful people! The thing that is different is that we are called to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit and not our own. When we go it alone, the mean streak comes out. It is so easy to have this anonymous online part of our lives where we think we can say whatever we want without any repercussions. That’s what I love about the video you posted. What would change if we were faced with the consequences of our words? Would it change the things we say? Thanks for your honesty and transparency!

  17. Mark Ashby says:

    This is a great post. I am sorry if I hurt you and I since recended the post and also sent apology letters (email) to both Mark and Doug. It was mean spirited even though I tried to justify my actions. Sorry I hurt you as well, but seeking the right channels in which to post things properly. Again, sorry for the hurt and I hope I can have forgiveness. I know the damage has been done, but it will way out of line and uncalled for.

  18. Pastor D says:

    I was in paid ministry for several years. I’m now a BCM director for a local college (volunteer position) and work full-time in the banking industry. What amazes me is how much better disagreements are handled in the banking world that in church. People use tact and know how to express calmly any difference of opinion. Unfortunately, in my years of church work, I only received the treatment you outline in this post. People like the ones you describe are revealing their heart, which is full of hate, not love. I simply do not understand how a Christ-follower can say and do such things. I’m sorry you have to go through this, but stay strong in the faith. Your ministry is making a difference!

  19. Aaron David says:

    I have a saying that I like but some others don’t so here goes “you cant make everyone happy but you can piss everyone off” that being said, I love your blogs, and your links to some unconventional humor, and your resources you are putting out. Yours and Doug Fields blogs are part of my daily personal time, and spur me in prayer and motivation. You two are inspirations and at times moments of sanity for me. Thanks for all you do and please don’t stop.

  20. Pam Vainer says:

    I’ve been in youth ministry for 30 + years. I quickly memorized this poem by Mother Teresa and it goes through my head everytime (And there are many) I’m attacked with the spears of the “righteous”.
    I’ve been getting and appreciating your e-mails & website for the last 7 years and have never commented before now. You are helping more people than you know. Remember that for every one poisonous spear, there are hundreds of people thanking God for your ministry every day.

    ANYWAY
    By Mother Teresa
    People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
    Forgive them anyway.
    If you are kind, People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
    Be kind anyway.
    If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
    What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
    Build anyway.
    If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
    Be happy anyway.
    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
    Do good anyway.
    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
    Give the best you have anyway.
    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
    It was never between you and them anyway.

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