This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fan or Follower?

In her talk to the recent Emerging Church conference in Albuquerque, Alicia Torres-Fleming mentioned the difference between being a follower of Jesus and a fan.  A fan is someone who sits on the sidelines and roots for someone's success.  A fan of Jesus would be someone who is enthusiastic about Jesus, but who is mainly a spectator in actual Christian living.  Fans “follow,” but only in the sense of watching and keeping informed.  We can be fans of particular musicians by enjoying and advocating their music.  We can be fans of a sports team by watching and rooting for them.  There is often an element of psychological transference that is going on with fans.  We attach our hopes and dreams, even our self-image, to this other figure whom we then sort of live through.  There is a vacarious element here as well: the figure of whom we are fans is the one who works, produces, struggles, and accomplishes the victory or the performance.  Fans only observe, participating at best by being encouraging.  But there is always some distance. 
A follower, in the sense of a disciple, is different from a fan.  A follower literally follows.  That is, they go where the leader goes, they learn to do what the leader does, they actually take steps to live the life of the one whom they are following.  
It is one thing to be a Christian in the sense of rooting for Christianity or for Jesus, while still sitting comfortably at home maintaining a conventional existence.  That is a fan.  It is another thing altogether to leave home and take up the life Jesus lived.  That is a disciple or follower.
Torres-Fleming was challenging and encouraging people to move from being mere fans of Jesus, to engaging in actual discipleship of Jesus.  Discipleship is something that must be done with one’s body, not just with words and thinking.  It walks in the same steps as Jesus. 
In her life it involved leaving a good job in downtown Manhattan, and going back to the ghetto in the Bronx to work with the poor.  In the life of Shane Claiborne, another speaker at the conference, it meant living in community in the inner city.  Others may understand Jesus’ call in different ways.  But in every case it must express what we know about Jesus’ own life.  He lived in community.  He walked lightly on the Earth.  He lived in extreme simplicity, poverty, and frugality.  He followed the way of non-violence.  He healed people and cast out demons.  He taught about God’s love.  He embodied forgiveness and acceptance.  He placed himself among the outcast and rejected.  He rejected the values of the religious, political and economic establishment.  And he sacrificed his own life for others.  
We can admire Jesus for all this, but if our admiration does not become real in our actually living like he lived, we just stay fans.  A disciple is one who actually takes on those characteristics of Jesus’ life and lives them.  A fan might place a WWJD? bumper-sticker on their car.  A disciple actually looks at their life, asks “What would Jesus do?”  Then, in the power of the Spirit, takes the crucial step of changing their thoughts, words, and actions to reflect what Jesus would do.  


Bet said...

"To want to admire, instead of follow, Christ is not an invention of bad people; no, it is more an invention of those who spinelessly want to keep themselves detached at a safe distance from Jesus."

Soren Kierkegaard, in "Provocations"

2nd man united said...

What would Jesus do?

This question assumes that the questioner has sufficient knowledge and sufficient power in themselves to adequately accomplish this goal. Jesus and the apostles taught that human minds and powers were inadequate to live or do as Jesus would. (John 15:5; 2 Cor. 3:5; Romans 7, among many others). Therefore, to live the Christian life a human must allow God to live in, with and through them. Jesus will repeat the life he lived in his first body in anyone who chooses to exchange their human life for His life living in them.

Jesus is the first to exchange human life and abilities for experiencing the Holy Spirit and God the Father living in, with and through Him. Jesus is the first to allow God to live through Him while He was in His first body (John 14:10-11; Philippians 2:1-11). Instead of living in one human body, Jesus’ Spirit now lives in His New Body. Jesus’ New Body is the total number of people that have received Jesus into their lives. Now, Jesus can live His Life through each Christian and through His New Body in the same way that Jesus lived when He was on earth in His first body. This is the difference between trying to imitate Jesus through human life and radiating Jesus by His life. You do not represent Jesus as a Christian. You present Him.

The majority of the church is still living as if they were in the Old Covenant. There needs to be an awakening to the fact that God moved on from that 2000 years ago. Christians will still operate under this concept when you hear them say “Lord, come be WITH us now” or “Lord, come UPON me now.” But, God moved on from this about 2000 years ago when He established the New Covenant. He was trying to get their mind around the fact that all three persons of the Trinity would live INSIDE of them, not WITH or UPON them. They would now be included in the fellowship that the Trinity has been experiencing throughout all of eternity.

Paul Rack said...

Nice, and characteristic, quote from Kierkegaard.