Are You a Fan or a Follower?

In the few moments I had between Kid's Praise and busy kids, I heard an interview on Christian radio that really caught my attention.

Kyle Idleman, teaching minister at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky was being interviewed about the question: Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus Christ?

Maybe it's because "Tebow fever" is still in the air or maybe it's because we've just completed another Superbowl season, but...

...the question stuck with me.

I began to think about some of the differences between a fan and a follower:

  • A fan is a enthusiastic, jumping on the bandwagon and cheering when things are great. A follower doesn't waver. She sticks close, even when the outcome doesn't look favorable.
  • A fan knows about someone. A follower knows someone.
  • A fan loves the fun, but a follower is willing to work.

For a lot of people, it's easy to jump on the "Jesus bandwagon" -- to go to church and participate in events, to say the right things around the right people and act the part when others are looking, but when the rubber meets the road and life gets hard or popular opinion turns against us, do we stick with Him?

Idleman pointed out that a fan is close enough to be associated with Jesus, but not close enough that it requires something of me. Is this where so many of us hold back?

When it comes time to do something, to speak up or surrender or sacrifice, are we willing? Are we willing to quit sitting on the sidelines cheering and instead jump into the game, even if it means getting bloodied and bruised?

I have often been struck by Jesus' words in Matthew 7, a passage that Idleman also referenced. Upon first reading it, Jesus words seem harsh and rough, but isn't He here drawing that same distinction between fan and follower?

"Knowing the correct password--saying 'Master, Master,' for instance--isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience--doing what my Father wills. I can see it now--at the Final Judgement thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.' - Matthew 7:21-23 (MSG)

The New International Version translates verse 23 as saying, "I never knew you!"

"True knowing comes down to the relationship where Jesus is what matters most" - Kyle Idleman

A fan knows about Jesus. A follower knows Him.

So how do you know if you are a fan or a follower? What is the litmus test to measure our role? We might feel like followers, but to what, or Whom, does the evidence of our lives point?

During the interview, Idleman shared three symptoms that might suggest I'm a fan rather than a follower.

  1. You might be a fan if you confuse your knowledge with intimacy. Just because you know about Jesus doesn't mean that you have a close relationship with Him.
  2. You might be a fan if you have a hard time identifying any sacrifices you've made for Jesus -- it's never really cost you anything.
  3. You might be a fan if you find that you're comfortable. We are called to carry a cross. Shouldering a cross should not be comfortable! There are times we have to step out of our comfort zones.

We can stop being fans and become true followers, and we don't have to do it on our own! For so many of us, we try and try and try only to feel like we come up short and fail again. The blessed news is that we don't transition from fans to followers on our own or by our individual strength!

It is God's grace that invites us, and God's Spirit that gives us the strength to follow.

"We want to make it trying when it really is dying" - Idleman

Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is not about working and trying harder. It's about surrendering each and every day, beginning each day on our knees with a spirit of humility. Sometimes it's not about doing; it's about being.

Abide in Him (John 15).

"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on a solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit--but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards." - Matthew 7:24-27 (MSG)

I don't want to just know about Jesus. I want to know Him.
How about you?

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{Idleman has a lot more to say on the topic of fan versus follower. In fact, he's written a whole book on it -- Not A Fan. If you'd like to investigate this idea more deeply, check it out.}