Have you heard of the bad Christian movement? I became interested in reading the book, Bad Christian, Great Savior by Matt Carter, Toby Morrell, and Joey Svendsen after being introduced to the movement through some of the bands that I like. The band members of Emery are the authors of the book and started the phenomenon. Intrigued by it all, I decided to investigate what the whole “bad Christian” thing is all about. I will give you my take on the book coming from my perspective. If what you read here interests you, I suggest that you read the book. If you are open to hearing people out, even if they may not feel just like you do about everything, this book will open your eyes to understand why a lot of people feel the way they do about Christians and the church. I feel that hearing people out is a worthwhile exercise that broadens our horizons and helps us to understand God and his people better.
Have you noticed a shift in Christian culture toward a more genuine, honest look at just who we are as Christians and just as people in general. The pretenses are falling away, the hypocrisy has been exposed time and time again and people don’t have any tolerance for fakes anymore. This demand for transparency seems to have been initiated by millennials but is spreading and becoming mainstream. The book falls along those lines being very honest, written the way the authors really talk, sometimes using strong language. The overarching message is, we don’t have to act like we’re better than we are. It is Jesus who is perfect, not Christians. As Christians, even once we’re saved we really do not become “good” just hopefully better than we were. We still do bad things and fall short of God’s standards. In the beginning of the book Emery band members, Matt, Toby, and Joey (also a pastor), share a little bit about how each of them, still bad, maybe better in some ways, but still not “good” Christians” by God’s standards struggled in their faith. Noticing that they weren’t the only Christians who didn’t have it all together brought them to this place of realization that we are bad Christians at best. Jesus confirmed this when he said, “Why do you call me good?” “Only God is truly good.” Luke 18:19 Why then do Christians act like they are “good” and the rest of the people in the “world” are bad? The book exposes the reality of the matter, “It’s a big problem that we try to appear “good” when the core of our beliefs state that we are, by nature and choice, “effed” up, so much so that we require the supernatural God to save us (Romans 8: 3-4). Hence the title of the book, Bad Christian, Great Savior.
The book’s chapters cover
- Bad Christians and the Bible
- Bad Christians and the church
- Bad Christians and the community
BAD CHRISTIANS AND THE BIBLE
Bad Christians are to be seeking God’s righteousness (Matthew 6:33). The verse doesn’t say we are to be seeking to perfect our own righteousness. We can’t! The Bible calls us out time and time again as what we are, fallen humans, prone to sin but with a great Savior that loves us and gave his life for the times that we “eff up”. Following “the biblical model of honesty and storytelling” as mentioned in chapter 2 will lead more people to Christ than pretending to be a “good” Christian.” Paralleling the biblical characters that followed God and those that didn’t, the book points out that the Bible only describes two kinds of people, non-Christians, and bad Christians. Listing some of the awful sins that people who didn’t follow God in the Bible engaged in paints a dark picture. But Christians are certainly better than that, right? Hold on, chapter 2 goes on to show that those that followed God engaged in the same or similar sins than those that didn’t. They were bad Christians who loved God. They didn’t keep all the commandments and neither can any of us. That’s the point the book is trying to make. That is why the biblical characters and why we too need a Savior.
BAD CHRISTIANS AND THE CHURCH
Having grown up in churches where legalism prevailed and Christians pretended to be better than they were, a sort of distaste for the church developed in the authors. Does that sound familiar? I think many of us m may have experienced this. The views presented in the book are freeing. A sort of permission to be truthful and honest about who we really are, how we struggle and a rejoicing in the fact that we have a great Savior that has rescued us and gives us the power to be better Christians and still loves us even though we are still not good enough. The guys state their mission as desiring to get out the gospel with the before mentioned realities in mind. We are worse than we may think and Jesus is so much better than we realize is the message they are proclaiming.
A list of what the church may present as the way to be a good Christian is presented with things like “go to church” and “read your Bible” on it but are we addressing the deeper rooted sins? God’s list of change and repentance that is needed in our lives is a little harder to fess up to. This is an honest representation, no holds barred book. Wait, isn’t that what the Bible is too? There is a transparency about biblical characters and the sins that they struggled with. Why then can’t we be honest about our real sins, you know the secret sins that most people don’t know about.
The book does not take a view that the church isn’t important, quite the contrary. The authors simply feel that the way that change occurs in Christians is by drawing close to God, not by checking sins conquered off of our sin list. The church is made up of Christians trying to appear holy when we’re really not. This is hurting us and keeping people on the outside from coming in. When we are not being real with each other, we are often shocked when a fellow Christian, especially a leader falls. I love the statement in chapter 3, “When leaders fail, we should be the first responders, not the crowd watching the accident scene in shock or hurling blame” . We have to stop the hypocrisy and instead help each other get back up when we stumble. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what the church should do.
BAD CHRISTIANS AND THE COMMUNITY
We Christians can be bad about spending time together. Getting to know each other more deeply in community takes time, requires vulnerability, maybe sacrifice. Chapter 4 discusses the fact that many churches try to wrap everything up in the Sunday church going event. If we are to go and make disciples, grow in grace, loving and serving God together, we need more than a Sunday together. We want Jesus to change the church not just do church better, as this chapter points out. The early church spent time together, ate meals together and shared their belongings. Many church people spend a few hours on a Sunday together, then go home to their own little domains with nothing to do with each other. To be fair, not all churches are this way. I have to say I see definite breakthroughs in my church where we actually do spend time together, serve together, eat together although we could certainly do more of it. We are stronger when we’re together, but we have to be more vulnerable and honest because the more time you spend with someone, the less you can hide about yourself. The Emery band members and road crew shared lots of time together in close quarters, becoming very up close and personal with each other which they say caused that sense of community that is sometimes not found in the church. They grew together through it. That is what we need more of, Christians in community.
THE BAD CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT
It seems so simple. Recognizing we are bad Christians drives us to the arms of Jesus, where alone we can find forgiveness and love to save us from our bad ways. If we focus on him and not on trying to do the impossible, eradicate all of our sin, we should be constantly reminded of the fact that we have a great Savior who loves us despite the bad things we do. His arms of forgiveness are wide. If your interest in the bad Christian movement has been sparked, visit the website for discussion and materials about the harder topics in life, you know the ones we don’t want to admit to. On the website, you can explore music, podcasts, books a men’s study and more. Let’s get real, keep it honest and cling to our great Savior.
Please note referenced quotes from the book:
Bad Christian TV on YouTube