As I was finishing my first book the editor at Waterbrook Publishing asked me to submit some potential titles. I sent ten suggestions but, in keeping with my character, three of them were jokes. Imagine my surprise when one of my “smart aleck” ideas was chosen as the official title. That is how the book became “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People”. I had no idea how much that book would resonate with people who had been wounded by the church. I started the book with a rather unusual disclaimer.
I must begin with some words of disclosure. I am a hypocrite. I can be arrogant and selfish. I have been known to stretch, conceal, or slightly massage the truth. I am sometimes inconsiderate and insecure. I struggle with lust and impure thoughts. My ego often rages out of control, and I battle foolish pride. I can be lazy and foolhardy with my time. I get angry, petty, and ill tempered. I am sarcastic and cynical.
I am a Christian.
That is how I started this book when it was first published and ten years later I got to do a revised version.
As I look back over those words years later I have a sad confession to make. I have made some progress yet all of the disclaimers I wrote about then are still in play today. A lot has changed in my life since that first edition went to press. One of the dangers of writing is that your words go into your permanent record. If you write something that you regret you cannot seek deferred adjudication or buy up all of the copies in existence. Actually I might be able to do that with my incredibly modest selling second book but that is another story.
When I wrote the first edition of this book I was a little angry. Okay, at times I was a lot angry. I had seen and experienced the damage that is done by those claiming the name of Christ while demonstrating virtually none of His teachings. I wrote with passion and honesty. In retrospect perhaps a little too much honesty came out of my passion. God has taught me a lot since the original version of this book arrived in book stores. This revision will reflect some of that journey. My wife’s trial with breast cancer and more pain from the church further defined my walk with Christ. But one significant event has changed my very relationship with Jesus and forms the basis of a brand new chapter (no peeking for repeat readers…you will know which one).
So I get the rare author mulligan. A blessed do over. A chance to put at least a clarifying note into my permanent record. And I am grateful to my friends at WaterBrook Press for the chance. This book started with an honest declaration of my brokenness and shortcomings. That I can be a bit of a jerk and I am a Christian.That surprised a lot of you. It shouldn’t have. If there is one theme about our faith that should be communicated it is that we all fall short of the mark. That is why we need a Savior and not a self-salvation checklist. Author Max Lucado has a wonderful line. He says that God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. So all of us believers are somewhere on that continuum of where we started and where God wants us to be. But that realization seems to penetrate our thinking only sporadically. In fact, there are those among us who will call me a counterfeit since I admit to such unflattering traits. They will write and tell me that if I had their brand of faith, I would be above any of these sins all of the time. I believe they would be wrong.
In the revised version I got the chance to detail my grace epiphany that changed everything. You will read the remarkable story of our precious daughter Katie. I show how I learned that God is more concerned about my heart than He is about me getting upset with others. I can control how I respond to people. I can decide who I turn to in times of frustration, anger and trial.
My original working title was “Don’t Reject Christ Because of Christians”. That is still my fear today that I will not reflect the amazing grace of Jesus. Since my eye (and heart opening) change I have lived this truth from the Gospel of John.
From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
I hope you will be encouraged by my journey through trials inflicted by the church and my own lack of understanding about where my identity should be found.
Waterbrook and Multnomah are offering an incredible eBook special for When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. You can buy the eBook version for $1.99 until November 4th. That is less than a Grande drip coffee at Starbucks! Check it out at your favorite retailer by clicking on a link below.