Are you a Follower, or just a Fan?

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman

“In case someone left it out or forgot to mention it when they explained what it meant to be a Christian, let me be clear: There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing.”

NotaFanIf you have a Facebook account, are you one of those people who has chosen to “Like” God or Jesus? Kyle Idleman’s purpose for the book Not a Fan is to challenge readers, particularly professing Christians, to seriously evaluate their relationship with Jesus Christ. His desire is to see those with merely an admiration or knowledge of Jesus to take their relationship with Him “to the next level,” to move from being merely fans of Jesus to dedicated followers, whatever the cost. Idleman says,

Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, “Enthusiastic Admirer” isn’t an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from begin sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ.

He begins the book by offering suggestions to help the reader to “define their relationship” with Jesus. Idleman points out that several things are often mistaken or substituted for being a genuine follower of Christ. Things such as Cultural Comparisons, Religious Rules, Denominational Labels, Family Heritage, and Biblical Knowledge aren’t valid measurements to determine if you are a Follower. Many people who call themselves Christians are trusting in a system they’ve inherited or been forced into, worked to establish, or studied to know about.

This is how Jesus defined a Follower:

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
“Take up your cross and follow me.”
“He who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar or deceives himself.”
“He who is not willing to leave father or mother cannot follow me.”
“Give away all that you have and follow me.” (ie. forsake all other idols; Jesus must be #1)

Each chapter begins by looking at a passage from the Gospels to illustrate the characteristics of Fans, then Idleman poses a question to help identify the symptoms of “fandom.” Ask yourself these questions:

1)  Have you made a decision for Jesus, or Have you committed to Jesus?
2)  Do you know about Jesus, or Do you really know Him?
3)  Is Jesus One of Many, or Is He your One and Only?
4)  Are you more focused on the Outside than the Inside?
5)  Are you Self-Empowered, or Spirit-Filled?
6)  Does your Life reflect what you say you Believe?
7)  Do you think you’re on the right road because of what you’ve done?

Being a Follower of Jesus isn’t just about how well you know the Bible or theology. It isn’t about how involved you are in your church. It’s not about how moral your lifestyle is. It’s not even about how you feel about Jesus.

Here’s what fans tend to do: they confuse their feelings for faith. But your feelings aren’t faith until they are expressed…There is a tendency to define yourself as a follower based on how you feel about Jesus, but following requires there to be more than a feeling. Following requires movement.

In the second half of the book, Idleman extends the invitation of Jesus to “Follow Me” to the reader, but reminds us once again what following really entails: denying oneself, dying to oneself daily, surrendering and forsaking everyone and everything else for His sake. Idleman says,

One way fans try to follow Jesus without denying themselves is by compartmentalizing the areas of their lives they don’t want him to have access to…If you call yourself a Christian, by definition you are committing to following Christ with every area of your life. It doesn’t mean you will follow perfectly, but you can’t say, ‘I’m a Christian’ and then refuse to follow Christ when it comes to certain people or places or practices.

He explains that when Jesus told his followers, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” He was essentially saying, “Come and Die.” He explains,

You can’t carry a cross without suffering. There is no comfortable way to carry a cross; I don’t care how you position it…There is this junk theology floating around out there that points to difficulties as evidence that you must not be following Jesus. The biblical reality is that when people say yes to following Jesus, they are agreeing to carry a cross, and that will be painful at times. (see Luke 6:22, 2 Timothy 3:12, Phil. 1:29)

He points out that we are to take up our cross – die to self – on a daily basis. It’s a conscious decision we must make every day. Why? Because it will not come to us naturally, which is why we need to ask the Lord for help to do this every day, and to show us how He wants us to do this.

Then he challenges the reader if they are ready to accept the implications of following Jesus. Are they willing to follow Him:

1) Wherever? What about There?
2) Whenever? What about Now?
3) Whatever? What about That?

Each chapter ends with a personal testimony from an individual who was once a Fan of Jesus on some level, but in whose life God used providential circumstances to turn them into dedicated Followers. These testimonies illustrate that as God changes hearts, He changes lives as well. So the point being made is: how has your relationship with Christ changed your life?

I very much appreciated Kyle Idleman’s motives for writing his book and for the content for the most part. It’s not theologically deep or heavy, but more basic and practical. Because the emphasis is on the individual’s response to the Jesus’ invitation and the Gospel call, it does focus more on the believer’s role rather than God’s role and sovereignty in salvation.

What I didn’t always care for was Kyle’s style of writing, but that may just be a matter of personal taste. I felt that throughout the book he was trying too hard to be witty or funny. He shared quite a few personal anecdotes as illustrations, but in my opinion at times they were somewhat drawn out and a bit of a stretch as a tie-in. After a while I learned to ignore the footnotes; almost every time I saw an asterisk and read the note at the bottom of the page, I found an irrelevant side comment that was just plain silly and pointless.

But aside from that minor issue, I do feel this book would serve many well who profess to be Christians. There are also a group study guide and a DVD film series. Whether you’re a newborn Christian, you grew up in a Christian home and church, or you’ve been a Christian for many years, this short, easy read provides a good opportunity to re-examine yourself, to see if you indeed are in the faith. It made me take a good hard look at how seriously I am following Christ, and what I am willing to do or to give up for His sake.

What is it that is competing for your allegiance to Christ? You may have both hands on the plow, but what is it you keep looking back at? Until you really have surrendered anything and everything over to Jesus and truly put him above all else in your life, you will not know the joy and satisfaction that finally comes when you go all in.

What about you? How would you complete this statement: “Saying Yes to following Jesus for me meant saying No to _______.”

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