Today's '"thought" comes from a book by Kyle Idleman entitled, "Not a Fan."
If you have not read it, you should. It's an honest, forthright, needed challenge to much of what is culturally accepted as Christianity, or being a Christian, in America, and there are few, if any believers, who could not benefit from picking up a copy and making your way through it. For as most surely know by now, we can all misconstrue what it means to be a follower of Jesus, or let once earnest faith and obedience lapse into empty habit.
And, with that being said, the following excerpt is from the opening chapter. Enjoy.
"It may seem that there are many followers of Jesus. But if they were honestly to define the relationship they have with him, I am not sure it would be accurate to describe them as followers. It seems to me that there is a more suitable word to describe them. They are not followers of Jesus. They are fans of Jesus. Here is the most basic definition of "fan" in the dictionary: "An enthusiastic admirer."
Its the guy who goes to the football game with no shirt on and a painted chest. He sits in the stands and cheers for his team. He's got a signed jersey hanging on his wall at home, and multiple bumper stickers on the back of his car. But he's never in the game. He never breaks a sweat or takes a hard hit in the open field. He knows all about the players and can rattle off their latest stats, but he doesn't know the players. He yells and cheers, but nothing is really required of him. There is no sacrifice he has to make. And the truth is, as excited as he seems, if the team he's cheering for starts to let him down, and has a few off seasons, his passion will wane very quickly. After several losing seasons you can expect him to jump off the bandwagon and begin cheering for some other team. He's an enthusiastic admirer.
It's the woman who never misses the celebrity news shows. She always picks up the latest People magazine. She's a huge fan of some actress who is the latest Hollywood sensation. And this woman not only knows every movie this actress has been in, she knows what high school this actress went to. She knows the birthday of this actress and she knows the name of her first boyfriend. She even knows what this actress's real hair color is -- something the actress herself is no longer certain of. She knows everything there is to know. But she does't know the actress. She's a huge fan, but she's just a fan. She is an enthusiastic admirer.
And I think Jesus has a lot of fans these days. Fans who cheer for him when things are going well, but walk away when its a difficult season. Fans who sit safely in the stands cheering, but they know nothing of the sacrifice and pain of the field. Fans of Jesus who know all about him, but don't know him. But Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, "enthusiastic admirer" isn't an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.
So, are you a Fan or a Follower?
Many fans mistakenly identify themselves as followers by using cultural comparisons. They look at the commitment level of people around them and feel like their relationship is solid. Essentially they grade their relationship with Jesus on the curve, and as long as they are more spiritual than the next guy, they figure everything is fine. That's why some fans are almost glad when its found out that the Christian family everyone admires so much has a child who rebels, or a marriage that struggles to stay together isn't as perfect as it appeared. The curve just got a little lower.
Have you noticed that when we compare ourselves to others as a way to measure our relationship with Christ, we almost always put ourselves up against those who are spiritually anemic? I have a tendency to take this approach in measuring myself as a husband. I try and convince my wife how good she's got it by pointing to a friend whose husband never takes her on a date, or by telling her about my buddy who forgot his twenty-year anniversary...
Another measurement fans use is the religious ruler. They point to their observance of religious rules and rituals as evidence that they are really followers. After all, they reason, would a fan go to church every weekend, and put money in the offering, and volunteer in the nursery, and listen exclusively to Christian radio, and not watch R-rated movies, and only drink wine-coolers at the party? "Hello?! Of course I'm a follower. I am not doing all that for nothing!" Yet here's the real question: How does Jesus define what it means to follow him? Whatever measurement he gives is the one we should use."
The rest of the book fleshes this out, chapter by chapter, starting with: 1.) "You must be born again." 2.) Knowing Jesus intimately rather than simply knowing about him. 3.) Having him as one of many, or your one and only. 4.) Following Jesus rather than following the rules. And many more...
It is true. We often define what a relationship with Jesus is far differently than Jesus does. For even a quick glance at the Gospel's reveals that Jesus demands a relationship that requires of us an "all of nothing" response. Its, "leave everything and come follow me." It's "take up your cross and follow me." It's "unless you love father and mother, sister and brother, yes, even your own life less than me, you cannot be my disciple."
Christianity is not something we can add on to everything else in our lives to make us feel more complete. It demands our all -- our full commitment and unreserved allegiance to Him. To those people over the years who have told me, "I tried Christianity and it just didn't work for me," my response has been: "That's because you were just testing the waters, or toying with it, and Christianity only "works" when you embrace it unreservedly. It only "works" when you hold nothing back."
That we might no longer be fans, Pastor Jeff