The Downside of Nice
So, let’s say you are having a spiritual conversation at a coffee shop with a fellow patron. He or she asks you about Jesus, interested in knowing what He’s like. How would you describe Him to this person, unfamiliar with who He is and what He’s like? After a quick mental review of the gospels you describe Him to your new acquaintance as forgiving, compassionate, caring, loving, truthful, kind, wise, not a people pleaser, devoted to God, a miracle worker, a teacher, other-centered, disciplined, etc. These words and many others could be used to describe this One, who in some ways is indescribable. The person hears your description and asks you, “Was Jesus nice?” You are somewhat taken aback by this question, not quite sure how to respond as you wonder, “Is there a ‘right’ answer?” Let me explain where I’m coming from and where I’m going with this topic.
Over the last few years I have observed, first hand, a characteristic that has, in my view, been elevated to a place of idolatry: “being nice” as a celebrated quality in being the church. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not anti-nice, but this has caused me to consider what is being produced or not produced amid this kind of niceness. This has caught my attention for a couple of reasons, ones you may choose to disagree with. First, I would not choose “nice” as a top tier description of Jesus, and secondly, nice churches are in decline across the country, while nice Christians are making little impact with other believers or within the culture; in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, or places we frequent, in reaching people with the gospel. I believe it is the innate qualities of misplaced human niceness that has contributed to the less-than-stellar results in advancing the kingdom work given to us by our Leader. Let me try to explain by describing a few dangerous byproducts of this misplaced emphasis:
- We become people pleasers. (2 Corinthians 5:9)
- The greater goal becomes pleasing others instead of pleasing God.
- We become overly concerned about being liked. (1Thessalonians 2:4-6)
- Our niceness becomes motivated by an unhealthy need to be liked.
- We fail to provide what is truly needed in the lives of others. (Ephesians 4:15)
- We act and say what we think will please others and make them like us more, instead of what they need to grow and mature.
- We attempt to make the gospel palatable, instead of powerful and effective. (Romans 1:16)
- In our efforts to not offend anyone with the “offensive” gospel, we empty it of its power and effectiveness.
- We display a dissimilar quality to the One we are following. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- Our exaltation of niceness stunts our own transformation into the very likeness of our Savior.
- While exalting niceness, our churches remain ineffective in discipling the saints and reaching the lost. (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8, 2:47)
- We use niceness as a measurement of church health instead of the biblical measurements given by Jesus, as it relates to church health and making forward progress.
- We allow our enemy to pat us on the back for our niceness, becoming proud, while kingdom expansion withers. (Ephesians 6:12)
- If we give in to the cultural wave of tolerance and the niceness that accompanies it, we may be silenced beyond what we ever thought possible.
- We refuse to confront sin in the camp, allowing it to grow and infect the whole body. (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-7)
- The teaching of Scripture is clear on how we are to live in both grace and truth. Sadly, unbiblical grace has resulted in the decline of truthful expression within the church.
- We raise up the next generation of leaders with an ineffective paradigm for effective kingdom work. (2 Timothy 2:2)
- We pass on what we value. If niceness wins, we pass on to the next generations of leaders a weakened leadership position for tomorrow’s church.
- Niceness becomes a form of pretense and hypocrisy, the wearing of masks. (Matthew 7:5)
- Niceness becomes a mask, hiding who we really are and what we really think, the authenticity so critical for our mission.
Let me be clear, being nice is a “nice” thing; I consider myself to be nice, but when niceness is exalted beyond where it should be, danger exists. I believe this has taken place in too many of today’s churches, where the cry for tolerance nationwide is having a negative impact in ministry progress. So, what are we to do? How do we combat and reverse this trend? How can we be nice people and remain effective in our mission? Is it possible? I believe it is, but change will be required, change is difficult, and it begins with those of us in leadership. Ouch!
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16)
Copyright © 2018 Mike Moran. All rights reserved.
After a successful career in the business world, Mike Moran has served in full time Christian ministry for the last 37 years; first as an Associate Pastor in Modesto, CA., then as Senior Pastor in Washington State, and now as an Interim Lead Pastor and Coach with the national organization, Interim Pastor Ministries (IPM). Mike was one of the founding members of The 6:4 Fellowship and serves as a member of Strategic Renewal’s Transformational Ministry Team and 180-Day Coaching process. He is also part of the coaching team at Pastors In Transition. He is passionate about teaching, leadership, coaching/mentoring, and cultivating prayer movement in the local church. Mike’s mission in this season of life is, “To provide servant-leadership, coaching, and encouragement to both transitioning churches and pastors, so they experience renewed vision and greater intentionality in accomplishing their God-given mission.” Mike is married and has three adult children. Mike enjoys golfing, reading, day trips, world events, hanging out at Starbucks, and all professional sports teams in the SF Bay Area.