Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are you a fan of Jesus?

Playing catchup on our Mere Churchianity discussion group with Glynn Young and Nancy Rosback. I'm a week behind but am catching up on Chapter 16, "The Evangelical Sellout". Be sure to check out Glynn and Nancy's thoughts on the latest chapter here and hereMelissa at In Silence, Humming Softly has also joined the discussion so be sure to check out her thoughts as well.

I want to throw some numbers out there to set the tone. From Chip Ingram's book, Living on the Edge referencing a Barna study he commissioned:
  • 81% of those calling themselves Christians said spiritual maturity is "following all the rules"
  • Half of churchgoers don't know how their own church defines a "healthy spiritually mature follower of Jesus."
  • Only 21% of Christians described their relationship with Jesus as a sign of their own personal spiritual maturity, 14% living a moral lifestyle, 13% being involved in spiritual disciplines.
  • A minority of churches have a written statement outlining the expectations of spiritual maturity and they often define this by what people do, not what they believe
  • Outside of this Barna study, Chip gives the anecdotal case where he asked 50 pastors what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and only one was able to give a coherent answer. Everyone else gave a vague version of "a follower of Jesus". When asked further what that looks like, answers varied as described above.

From an interview I heard a couple of weeks ago with Phil Vischer, writer of Veggie Tales:
  • 50% of adult Protestants cannot define the word grace
  • 60% of high schoolers in youth ministry drop out after graduation
We know the symptoms. In Chapter 16 of Mere Churchianity, Michael Spencer defines the disease: we are fans of Jesus, not disciples of Jesus. He gives the comparison between a baseball player and a fan of baseball. I like the joke of "eating at McDonald's every Sunday doesn't make you a hamburger."

When I became a disciple of Christ, the visible evidence of the numbers above drove me to the fellowship I am in now. I was converted in a campus ministry after being part of another campus ministry that prayed hard Sunday nights after partying hard Saturday night. And the fellowship was more about who was sleeping with who than how were our own personal walks with Christ. I knew there had to be something more than this, and I thank God for leading me to where he did.

I remember when one guy started coming around our campus ministry. He was active in his home church, a few hours down the road, and wanted a local fellowship. He participated in our worship, we studied the Bible, we prayed together, and when he looked at the lives we were striving to lead he told us, "this is just like my church back home. But only for those in leadership." Michael gives a similar story of a brother who was taking a course on discipleship who dropped out because, "This is for preachers, not me." (Mere Churchianity, pg 189)

I look around the current Christian climate and I see a malaise that is contagious. I read book after book and follow blog after blog to try and find the magic formula for what is wrong and how to fix it. But I've forgotten my own conversion and what brought me to the foot of the Cross. I've forgotten the stories of those like my friend above, to whom it never occurred that the lifestyle of a disciple is the expectation of all Christians, not just those in arbitrary positions of leadership. And so I've fallen into the Christian consumerism trap that Michael describes. He gives a great outline of the catalogue of endless "Christian" products that would be worth a post of its own, but instead I'll give my own checklist:
  • I write a blog, tweet about my convictions, and follow several others who do the same as we all preach to the same choir.
  • I've taken classes on Christian marriages and Christ-honoring finances.
  • I've attended countless conferences, seminars, and workshops.
  • I've taken classes on Biblical survey and apologetics.
  • I listen to Christian radio and buy some of the CDs.
  • My kids watch Veggie Tales and we own several DVDs.
  • And I can't even begin to count the number of books I've read, most on how to be a "better fill-in-the-blank Christian".
And truthfully, not a single one of these has changed my walk with Christ. Sure, they motivate behavioral and attitudinal changes and feed my knowledge as well as my ego. But at the beginning and end of the day, it is only me and Jesus that matter and there's not one silver bullet program, book, study series, conference, song, et cetera that is as important as that. I am a disciple of Jesus, not just a fan who wears some officially licensed jersey with his name on it and has his poster on my wall. I thank Michael for that reminder.


Anonymous said...

me and Jesus...

that pretty much covers it.

Glynn said...

It's getting to be amazing how many people who are saying similar things. I was in a large bookstore on Monday, and took a look at the number of books recently published that echo Michael Spencer. I'm getting an impression (I'm often slow at these things) that something is going on.

Good post, Fatha Frank.

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks, both, for your comments. I also thank you for the opportunity to go through this book together. This chapter really hit the spot, right between my eyes, and hard. I can't wait to see where we go from here. There are only a couple more chapters left.

Ryan Tate said...

And I thank you for writing this. Amen.

Anonymous said...

i don't know. i think i really get the following Jesus and knowing that the Holy Spirit is speaking to my spirit and changing my heart. yet, if i were to go with the fan player analogy, it seems to me that part of me is a player, part fan and part a rookie in training.

but, i am starting to understand, somewhere inside of me, about the relationship that we are given in faith through grace. some times that relationship is very clear, and sometimes i build a wall or ignore it maybe, or i am distracted in some kind of way. not a good thing to do, that not paying attention.

though, when i have gotten lost, thankfully, i have been brought back. which has been anywhere from a moment to the one time that it was many many years.

all the the time though, i can look back and realize that the Lord was always with me, even when i was not looking to Him. i sometimes wonder if i should attribute some of that to the prayers of my mother when she was alive.

thank you for taking part in this.
it has meant a lot to me.