Summary: A sermon about self centredness. The first in a series of anti-sermons where they tell people to do the opposite of what they are suppose to. Kind of blatant reverse psychology.

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

fireworks display.

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

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

my needs’.

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

will be.

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

teaching about.

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.”