“My prayer is that your eyes would be opened and the Spirit would awaken your soul to the kind of relationship Christ desires to have with you. I am jealous for you to discover that now and not waste another day living with some sort of watered-down and diluted form of Christianity. I want you to experience this, not just so you can experience the life-giving, soul-satisfying existence on this planet that God wants you to have, but because I believe eternity hangs in the balance. Bottom line is this…there will be a day when we stand before God, and on that day many who thought themselves followers will be identified as nothing more than fans.”
— Kyle Idleman | not a fan.
Fan or follower?
Most of us who grew up in the church would call ourselves “followers.” Most of us would be offended at the thought of even being asked such a question. Most of us answer this question without even understanding there’s a distinct difference between being a “fan” and being a “follower.”
A fan has conditions. A fan is loyal until it’s inconvenient, difficult, or boring. A fan plays it safe. A fan confuses knowledge for intimacy. A fan merely keeps up appearances. A fan measures his or her “spirituality” by employing cultural comparisons and religious yardsticks. A fan despises divine interferences. A fan is a professional pretender. A fan’s greatest con is usually the one unintentionally played on themselves. A fan is not a follower.
A follower goes wherever, whenever, and however the Lord leads. A follower joyfully welcomes each season of life – no matter how inconvenient, difficult, or boring. A follower is considered “radical” by the world (and by fans). A follower has knowledge and intimacy. A follower is vulnerable, real, and open about his or her weaknesses. A follower doesn’t measure spirituality. Period. A follower lives with reckless abandonment.
Now let me ask you again: Fan or follower?
Again, most of us would answer “follower.” Most of us would be offended at being asked this question a second time. Most of us would reply without even taking a second to truly examine our lives. The purpose here isn’t to cause anyone to doubt their salvation. Rather, the purpose here is to ensure we are all living lives worthy of the calling we have been given in Christ Jesus!
Does following Christ cost you anything? Has it ever cost you anything?
If your answers are all about sacrificing your Wednesdays and Sundays for church, revisit those definitions above. If your answers are all about tithing, revisit those definitions above. If your answers are all about how you follow the ten commandments and how much better you are than so-and-so at such-and-such church, please, please revisit those definitions above. If your answers are all superficial things that don’t portray a radical transformation in the way you love, live, think, and behave, then you’re likely not a follower, but a fan.
Followers of Jesus Christ embrace change, desire change, demand change in their own lives. They want their lives to be uprooted and turned upside down if that’s what it takes for them to live lives worthy of their calling in Christ! Followers obey Biblical mandates in joy, not in fear, obligation, or pride.
Being a follower of Christ will cost you. It cost some their families, others their friends. Some people lost their money, others lost their possessions, many lost their titles and professions. A great many have even lost their lives. Being a follower of Christ will cost you. In a radical and transformational way. If it hasn’t, then maybe you’re merely a fan of Jesus and not a follower.
Do you really know Jesus or do you just know about Him?
This is where knowledge vs. intimacy comes into play. Knowledge without intimacy is a textbook. Knowledge with intimacy is a relationship. It’s living, it’s active, it’s intentional, it’s a two-way street.
We all know who Michael Jordan is. But I think it’s safe to say that none of us know him. Do you know what makes MJ smile? What his heart hurts for? What his most precious memory is? No, no, and no. Do you know what makes Jesus smile? What His heart hurts for? What His most precious memory of you is?
He doesn’t care if you can recite Psalm 119 from memory. He doesn’t care if you know the fruit of the Spirit and all the books of the Bible in their correct order (and praise God for that because, confession: things still get fuzzy for me after Ezekiel). What He cares about is whether or not you’re being intentional about getting to know Him on a personal level.
It can’t just stop at simple knowledge. He is a personal God. So get to know Him personally. Not as a fan who puts verses all over their walls, says “Amen!” at the end of a sermon for the sake of appearances, audibly mutters “Yes Lord!” during a prayer so that others might gauge “spirituality.” No. Don’t fake it. Because whether you know Him or not, He knows you. And He knows when you’re faking it. If you know ABOUT Him, but don’t know Him, get into the Word and get intimate with Him. Fans know the latest stats and can spit off direct quotes. But only followers understand the heart behind it all, and only followers know how to make that heart smile.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Are you one of the “many” described in this passage?
Perhaps you’ve been sucked into fandom without even realizing it. Maybe you were a follower at one point but you got blindsided by complacency, entitlement, and pride. Or maybe you’ve been a fan your whole life. Friends, we can’t change the past, but we can rejoice in knowing our past doesn’t have to be our future. Leave the fandom behind and choose to follow Christ as a true disciple. I say this in total confidence in Christ Jesus my Lord: You will NEVER regret it.