For some time now I have sensed that the word ‘christian’ has lost its original punch.
Many people seem to use the label ‘christian’, without having a sense of what it means to follow Jesus.
Many others seem to react negatively to anything associated with the word ‘christian’, but not for reasons related to what it means to follow Jesus.
I am not sure when I became a ‘christian’.
Born into a ‘christian’ home, I went to a ‘christian’ church and a christian grade school.
(Interestingly, I attended a ‘public’ highschool – is ‘christian’ not ‘public’ but ‘private’?)
When I decided to become a ‘christian’ minister, I went to a ‘christian’ college, then to a ‘christian’ seminary, and then graduated to serve in two ‘christian’ churches among good, ‘christian’ people.
But while serving as a ‘christian’ minister, I encountered the message of Jesus (go figure), as opposed to the doctrines of the church.
Don’t get me wrong, the doctrines of the church include the message of Jesus, but in my own experience the message of Jesus was lost in the doctrines of the church.
I started to think (and think even more so now) that, while we still will have doctrines, that the doctrines of the church are a sub-category to the message of Jesus.
The early disciples did not have catechisms or systematic theologies in their hands when they decided to follow Jesus, they developed their thinking after they started following Jesus.
The key elements for the early disciples was not learning doctrine, but it was deciding whether to throw in their lot with Jesus and His mission from God.
They had to decide to surrender their own dreams and ambitions, and risk their future safety and success by aligning themselves with Jesus and His kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
I want to rediscover this radical quality of deciding to follow Jesus, spending time in dialogue with Him to learn and grow, and going out with Him into the world to seek and to save the lost.
I want to be a disciple, not a ‘christian’ or a ‘church-goer’ or a ‘pew-sitter’ or a ‘church member’.
Jesus is God’s messiah, the only hope of the world, and His way is the only way.
What I need to figure out from here is, how do I live in my own time the way Jesus did?
From my point of view, Jesus did not come to forgive me or to take me to heaven… these are just the fringe benefits.
The reason Jesus came was to call me to Himself that I might join Him in His mission for the world.
He is calling me (us) to a way of life, a way of living and dying that is contrary to the worldly ways.
Somehow, being a Jesus-follower ought to be more radical than being a ‘christian’ was to me.
I am slowly learning what it means to be a Jesus follower… but I have a long way to go.
Will you join me?
Join me in this blog conversation about what it means to follow Jesus.
You will find personal stories, questions for discussion, Bible readings and reflections, as well as updates on my own journey.
You can also share your own stories, ask your own questions, and offer your own insights to the question, what does it mean to follow Jesus?
In His Hands,
Thank you so much for writing this article, Norm! I stumbled upon it today and I want you to know how encouraged I am to know that I’m not the only one in this world who thinks in a similar way.
For a little background on me:
I’ve been a church-goer ever since I was born and on into my young adult years. Before I got married in my early 20s, I would always be expected to join my parents in their avid church attendance, which was 4 times on Sundays and once mid-week for a Bible study. After I got married and had kids of my own, that dwindled down to 2 services on Sundays and one mid-week Bible study – until our kids moved out on their own. Around that time, I developed some health issues (that still persist today) which prevented me from doing all that church-going. That’s when Jesus began to have a heart-to-heart with me, opening my eyes as to who He truly is. I started to incorporate what that really means into my understanding – without being constrained by the church’s concept of who the Lord is and what He stood/stands for.
In John 14:9, Jesus said “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, yet the church paints 2 very different pictures of who God is (in comparing the Old Testament to the Gospels). They do this even though “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and He is the “exact representation of the Father” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus came to set us all straight on that. He refuted much of what had been written concerning His Father – as we see in Matthew 5: 21-48 – where He says, “You have heard it said…” and then He lists several examples of things they have ‘heard’ said (as was written by the scribes and read aloud in the Temple), such as ‘an eye for an eye’. However, He goes on to say — “But I say…” (which is something completely different to what the scribes had written).
So may the real representation of God please stand up! Is He the God that the scribes portrayed Him to be in the O.T., or is He the one whom Jesus was trying to reveal to us when He said in John 14:9 “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”?
One of the reasons I felt the need to stop and ponder this question is not only because of what Jesus said, “You have heard it said – But I say…”, but also because of the words of condemnation that He spoke concerning the scribes. In Luke 11: 52, Jesus said, “Woe to you Scribes, because you have taken away the keys of knowledge!”. Even the prophet Jeremiah was aware of this ongoing corruption of scriptures in his day. In Jeremiah 8:8 he said “You keep saying, ‘We have the Lord’s teachings. So we are wise!’ But this is not true, because the scribes have lied with their pens”.
So apart from my health issues, now that I see Jesus being God the Father as well as the Son in in this new light, I could never go back to church knowing that I’d be labeled as a ‘heretic’. Thankfully they don’t burn people at the stake anymore!
Yes, it’s very sad that many of the people who call themselves “Christians” walk on path contrived by deceitful human beings which appeals to the prideful, self-righteous and self-centered ‘me first’ attitude of seeing oneself as being ‘better than that person over there”. The lying pen of those who scribed falsely in what was supposed to be ‘Scripture’ – the infallible word of God, gives these types of people (who think that they are ‘Christians’) license to hate and justification to be bigoted isolationists despite any horrific hardships it may bring to their fellow man.
I do wish, however, for there to be a group of Christ-followers out there who think along similar lines as I do and with whom I could converse with – so I don’t have to feel so alone. But for now, it’s just Jesus and me – and the rare times I find people like you on the internet who dare to write articles like yours.
Many thanks for writing this! ~ Coleyna
I just came here while looking for a picture. Your I AM picture, that is a cut down version of another. I write a daily devotional blog, and need pictures and music videos every day. Once in a while I say hello to people who write about God online like I do.
God nudges me?
I’ve written over 2600 posts in 7 years now. I don’t get many page views, but God said that isn’t my problem, let Him take care of it. I don’t go to a church. I’ve never been to any kind of training. I am a machinist, husband, father, wannabe violin and guitar maker. Most of all a follower of Jesus. I don’t like doctrine, they form demon nations. The main focus of the blog has always been: Come back to Me, and Seek God WHILE He may be found.
My blog has been a great source of growth for me spiritually. I read posts and I’m amazed at them sometimes. I write in the flow of the spirit. I’ve written about just about everything. Nehemiah, and then this wall stuff comes up. Job, Job is great. Even a paraphrase of Romans, Paul is the hardest to understand, I don’t think like he does. This last year until now I’ve been doing the Chronological Gospel. Only up to John 9. I don’t know if I’ll use the small or the big photo, but it will be live on the 19th.
Greetings Norm: Finally read why you refer to being a “Jesus Follower”. Today I listened to Charles Price who said the “church” as we know it today is not the “church” of the Bible. We, as believers, born of the Holy Spirit, are the church as God intended it. What we call “church” is just a bricks & mortar building or facility. While rules, regulations, doctrines, etc. might be necessary, these are not what God had in mind when He called us to follow Jesus with our whole being, body, mind and spirit. Some among us would continue to hold onto these ingrained doctrines and teachings, but I believe, like yourself, God is looking at the condition of our hearts, not at all the “laws” we keep. Just a comment from a Jesus Follower who daily gives me the grace to follow Him…in my weakness, He is my strength.