The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Christians 1
Live in the Circle of Ineffectiveness
Cardiff Heights Baptist
2 January 2000
I trust everyone had an enjoyable New Years. You know what I
found really incredible was that by the time the Sydney fireworks
were finished, it was time for the Adelaide fireworks to begin.
Close to half an hour worth of fireworks, incredible. Most people
find fireworks to be pretty spectacular but I must confess, I found
my interest beginning to diminish after about fifteen minutes.
I think the fireworks display on the day after the coronation of King
James II in 1685 would have been more to my liking. The display
was organised to be on the River Thames. As the first firework was
lit, an over enthusiastic spark gave premature encouragement to
the rest. One of the most spectacular fireworks collections of the
century was gone inside of a minute. There was a simultaneous
banging and whizzing so great that dozens of spectators jumped
into the river and for hours afterwards the city of London was full of
coachmen chasing their runaway horses. That display is credited
as being the most ineffective fireworks display of all-time.
Tonight we begin a four week series on the Seven Habits of Highly
Ineffective Christians. My answer to Stephen Covey’s book the
Seven Habits of Highly effective people. We will look at a different
habit each week in order that we might become more like that
Now some people will have already picked up on an anomaly in
that there are seven habits of highly ineffective Christians and only
four weeks. That’s because habit number five is to never finish
what you start. So in order to practice what I preach there will be
only four. Now I want to say at the outset that the seven habits we
will be looking at, sorry four habits we will be looking at in no way
exhaust the many ways to become ineffective in the Christian life,
but I believe they represent the very best of the worst.
Of course, if your desire is to become more effective in your
spiritual life, if you yearn for a deeper walk with the God who made
you, if you wish to live a more Christlike way with your family,
friends and those around you, if you seriously desire discipleship, I
suppose you could modify these habits and simply do the opposite
of what we talk about over the next four Sunday evenings. But
before we look at the first habit why don’t we pray.
One of the hardest things we do at this time of year is to make
New Year’s resolutions. And they always seem to be the same
ones year in, year out until we just can’t be bothered any more.
Which coincidentally is habit number six. Well that’s because
whenever we make resolutions they are always to hard like the
ones in Stephen Covey’s book. What we are going to do here is
suggest a few resolutions you could make which are dead easy
and sure fire ways to achieving complete ineffectiveness in your
walk with God.
The first habit of a highly ineffective Christian is that they live in the
circle of ineffectiveness. The circle of ineffectiveness is crucial to
the idea of spiritual poverty. What is the circle of ineffectiveness I
hear you asking? On a side note questioning and curiosity are
definitely not habits of highly ineffective Christians so cut it out.
The circle of ineffectiveness is perhaps best illustrated
Show Diagram http://www.geocities.com/dreamingisdangerous/circle.bmp
To live as ineffectively as possible, put at the centre of your life ‘Me
and my needs’. This must always be paramount. You must never
consider anything in any way other than how it will affect ‘Me and
A Christian living a dynamic Christian life would of course, have
God as the centre circle with ‘Me’ being the smallest. You,
however, must keep God to the side and make the spheres
converge as little as possible, preferably only on Sunday Mornings
or in emergency situations, such as when your flight takes a two
thousand foot plunge while you’re eating a fruit salad.
Likewise, keep ‘Others’ outside your circle. The way you treat
others shows how much you love God. The farther away you keep
them, the farther you will be from him and the more ineffective you
If we are to totally bomb out on the Great Commission we need to
abandon ourselves to the great omission. We need to fail to deny
ourselves. Jesus was talking about denying yourself in the
essential battle of life: the scramble for the throne, the struggle
over who is going to be God. Who is going to occupy the centre
circle. If we are to be a highly ineffective Christian we need to
assume God’s place as king in our lives.
If we take for ourselves that which was never meant to be ours,
the role of being God in our lives, we will never be at peace with
ourselves or God, and we will never be free. We will be highly
ineffective. When you deny yourself, you invite God to take the
throne of your life, to occupy what is rightfully His, so that you may
function as a person who is spiritually alive in Christ. Denying
yourself is essential to spiritual freedom. Undesirable to those who
aspire to being ineffectiveness.
An American poet named E. E. Cummings would never capitalize
the letter “I” in part to protest against this domination of the
individual ego. He was trying to say that we are the problem, not
something out there. But the “I” which dwells within. This is
possibly the greatest weapon in the highly ineffective Christian’s
arsenal. We see life through our own perspective. We interpret the
actions of others in light of how it affects us. That is why when
you’re feeling down often the worst thing that you can do is try to
help somebody else. Because, as you help someone else your
problems suddenly don’t seem as important as they used to, nor
as insurmountable either. And the circle for me and my needs
becomes smaller and no longer occupies the centre.
One of the biggest dangers for the Christian who is seeking to be
highly ineffective is the word of God. The Bible is a very dangerous
book. In order that you remain highly ineffective it is a good idea to
avoid it. Where that is not possible, if you must read the Bible may
I suggest the version printed in 1631 by Robert Barker and Martin
Lucas, the King’s printers at London. It contains several mistakes,
but one was inspired. In Exodus 20:14, the word ‘not’ was omitted.
For those of you not familiar with that verse it is the seventh
commandment which decreed, on the highest authority, that you
shall commit adultery.
Now I know this Bible is rare and owners of it are particularly
unwilling to part with it so maybe if I highlight a passage to avoid it
will help. A good passage to avoid if one wants to remain in the
circle of ineffectiveness is Luke 10 verses 25 to 37.
What we have in these verses is a perfect model of ineffectiveness
living very dangerously and engaging Jesus in spiritual discussion.
Read Luke 10:25
This is a perfectly acceptable question for an ineffective person to
ask. Firstly it contains the word “I”. The inclusion of this word helps
to keep this teacher of the law in the circle of ineffectiveness. What
is perfectly outstanding about this model of ineffectiveness is that
this wasn’t some simple soul in search of truth. He was a prince of
the religious system in place in first century Israel. He was an
expert in the Law, a rabbi, a scholar and a religious leader. He is
attempting to engage his fellow teacher in some dull theological
discussion about the specifics of the eternal life Jesus was
Read verse 26
Jesus responds in overblown amazement. “Why do you ask me?
What is written in the law? What do you read there? What do you
teach in your synagogue about finding God’s favour?”
The rabbi is taken aback for a moment and now forced to think for
himself, which is definitely not a habit of a highly ineffective
Christian. He scratched his chin and pondered, “Well let me see.
The most succinct form of the Law is that, ‘You must love the Lord
your God... with all your heart and with all your strength and with
all your soul.’” Pausing for a moment, he caught himself and with
greater confidence he rehearsed the rest, “And you must love your
neighbour as yourself.”
‘Well,’ laughed Jesus, ‘so you knew the answer all along!’ The
sting of the sarcasm would not have been lost on the rabbi.
Read verse 28
The rabbi being the highly ineffective person that he was wanted to
make sure he did only just enough to satisfy this requirement, so
he probed for more specifics.
‘“Love your neighbour as yourself”, well that might mean any
number of things,’ said the rabbi. ‘If I am to love my neighbour in
order to find favour with God, who then is my neighbour?’
Jesus then replied with a story. “Let me tell you a story”
Read verses 30-36
Jesus leaned forward awaiting with interest the response. And of
course, there could be only one response. The most obvious one.
The rabbi no doubt felt the uneasiness of not knowing what Jesus
was going to make of his answer, but not being able to
second-guess him he responded sensibly, ‘Why the one who had
mercy on him.’
‘Indeed,’ Jesus said. ‘Go and do likewise’ And with that the
discussion came to a close and Jesus moved slowly away from the
The impact of their exchange was yet to hit the rabbi. Like a slow
release drug, the realization of the dead-end into which he had just
been lead dawned on the rabbi later, but no less powerfully. Left
alone and dazed by Jesus’ story, he struggled to make sense of
what had just gone on. Thinking deliberately, logically, sequentially
he retraced their steps.
‘I had asked him what must I do to live forever, and he agreed that
I must love my neighbour to inherit eternal life. Then I asked him
who was my neighbour, and he told the story in which my
neighbour is everyone I encounter with a need.’ And with that the
penny dropped. Just enough is not enough. Enough is true love.
If true love demands selfless care and concern for our circle of
relationships, it demands it equally for those outside that circle.
The parable of the Good Samaritan lays bare the implications of
loving your neighbour. It involves great risk, great cost, great
sacrifice. None of which are compatible with the circle of
ineffectiveness. That is why this passage of scripture must be
avoided at all costs if one is to be a highly ineffective Christian. It
demands that you place God and others where you and your
needs should be.
So remember to live in the circle of ineffectiveness so that you can
be a highly ineffective Christian you need to place yourself and
your needs in the centre of the biggest circle an exclude God and
others as much as possible. If you find yourself wanting to be
effective remember that, “The early bird may get the worm but the
second mouse gets the cheese.”