How would you define your relationship with Jesus, asks Kyle Idleman in Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. Are you a follower, or a fan?
Idleman's book, which is currently the CBA's #8 bestseller in Christian Living, draws a stark contrast between committed followers and fairweather fans. The two profiles are so night-and-day different, we'd reasonably think we'll just know which we are. Not so, says Idleman. Arguing from Scripture such as Matthew 7:21-7, he claims that many fans think they're followers.
I believe we can gain some insight into our commitment to Christ through frank discussion about it with other Christians. Sometimes these conversations can generate light and heat, as we see in Idleman's anecdote below, which I've excerpted from Not a Fan. If you're curious about whether you lean towards follower or fan, think about this as you read the story: do you identify more with the young single father, or the mother?
A young single father started coming to church. He had grown up in the church and made a decision for Jesus as a kid but had never really committed to him. But within a few months of coming to church he was all-in. He fell in love with Jesus. He had discovered the pearl of great price and it was worth everything he had. The change in his life was pretty dramatic. His relationship with Jesus turned his life upside down. Before following Jesus, his life consisted, in his words, of "going out, drinking, smoking pot, and chasing girls." He'd show up to work with a hangover more often than not. He was full of anger and didn't know why. He felt like he was running in circles with no purpose, just going through life aimlessly. But following Jesus brought a radical change to his life. You spend a few minutes with him and it's easy to see the joy that he has found in Christ. He is constantly at church, serving in whatever way he can. He's a single dad with plenty of financial struggles, but when he became a Christian he decided that he would no longer work during church times, even though he needed the hours. He started to give generously even though things were tight.
Not long ago he asked if I would have coffee sometime with him and his mom. I did not know his mom but I said I would meet with them. When the three of us sat down for coffee I thought I knew what she wanted to talk to me about. I was aware that she went to a different church in town and I assumed that she wanted to meet with me to say thank you... But that wasn't the case. She was upset with him. She blamed me and she blamed the church because she said, "My son has taken all of this too far." She was not pleased with how much time he was spending at the church. Some of the relatives were bothered by his desire to always want to pray before the family meals. He wouldn't be quiet about the sermons and was handing out CDs of the messages. She didn't think it was wise for him to give some of his hard earned money to the church. And lately he had been talking about going on a mission trip. After she made her case that he had taken this all too far, with a tone of frustration she asked me, "Can you please tell him that the Bible teaches 'everything in moderation'? Can you please tell him that it doesn't have to be all or nothing?"
I tried to keep a pleasant smile, but my teeth were clenched, and my breath was short. I was feeling defensive of my friend. I could feel my eyebrows narrowing and saw my nostrils flare. So I did what I always do when I get angry; I started quoting Scripture from Revelation. I said to this lady who had been in church most of her life, "In Revelation 3 Jesus says to the Christians in Laodicea, 'You are neither hot or cold but because you are lukewarm — I'm about to spit you out of my mouth.' Jesus doesn't say, 'Everything in moderation'; he says you can't be my follower if you don't give up everything. His invitation is an all or nothing invitation."
Jesus has defined the relationship he wants with you. He is not interested in enthusiastic admirers who practice everything in moderation and don't get carried away. He wants completely committed followers.
Which person did you identify with more? The young single father, or the mother?
If you feel more like the mother, or if you feel somewhere between the two, I recommend you check out Idleman's Not a Fan. In the latter two sections of the book, Idleman explores how Jesus defines the relationship he wants with his followers. Then Idleman discusses some common hurdles that fans come up against, and shares biblically-based wisdom on how these obstacles can be overcome.
You can read an excerpt of Not a Fan on Scribd.
I would love to hear what you think about Idleman's distinction between follower and fan. Do you find it accurate, helpful, convicting and/or depressing?
(-Adam Forrest, Zondervan Internet Team)
About Kyle Idleman