Here it is: I am an amazing Christian.
That’s it. I am. I am truly one of the best Christians I know.
I can tell you the Gospel story from birth to ascension. I can tell you the parables and teachings Jesus spoke. I can tell you that Jesus said to love God and people and what that looks like. I can break down Pauline teachings and how Jesus built His Church on the rock, Peter. I can tell you what the model for building genuine gospel-centered community should look like. I can tell you the flaws in both “institutional” and “organic” church. I can tell you what it looks like to succeed in ministry and what it takes to fail in it. I can tell you what you need to do to be an amazing husband, father, brother and friend. I can counsel the crap out of you if you are struggling at work, in marriage, as a parent, in your devotional life, prayer life or even thug life (heh, just kidding, I’m gangsta, not thug). I’ve read enough books on church planting I could probably; no…definitely, help you develop a strategic plan for launching a church. I can even tell you what’s wrong with all the other “Christians”. You know the ones. The ones that hate gays, or liberals, or abortion supporters, or Muslims, or atheists. The Christians that aren’t me. I can break down scripture so you can understand it and even apply it to you life. I can teach, preach (not amazing at this yet, but getting there), lead a small group and disciple people. While all or some of that may seem pretty intense or difficult, for me it comes pretty easy. Pretty amazing, right.
I should probably explain. Over the last 6 months or so, God has been really challenging my heart on some stuff. It’s been pretty heavy, paradigm shifting stuff and I couldn’t exactly put all of it into context. The stuff I did “get”, I didn’t exactly like what He was trying to get me to reconsider. Then, last week, I began reading “Speaking ofJesus” by Carl Medearis. I’m only six chapters in, but God is already confirming a lot of stuff He’s been saying. Well, it’s less like confirming and more like He’s yelling, “Hey, stop ignoring Me and get on board with what I’m telling you!”Here’s the main thrust of what He’s saying, “Being a Christian and following Jesus are not always the same thing. They’re not always synonymous and most times, they’re not even close.”Here’s what that means, at least to my heart.
Medearis uses a quote given by author Donald Miller during an interview on a “secular” radio show. The quote was Miller’s response to the question of why he wouldn’t defend Christianity. It was a great quote and long, but the gist of it was about the hurt people, throughout history, have caused in the name of Christianity (from the crusades to the inquisitions, the sexual abuse by Catholic priest to people simply being yelled at by a “Christian”). He went on to say if you ask 10 random people what they think Christianity is, each would have a different answer. Then he asked, “How do I defend a religion against 10 different ideas of what that religion is?” (I paraphrased) Instead Miler opted to talk about Jesus, apart from Christianity. When you present Jesus, without attachment to any institution, all you have is Him. And when all you have is Jesus, you don’t have to defend anything, you just get to speak of your Lord and God, who loves you.
What God has been saying to me is Christianity (by itself) ≠ Follower of Jesus.
I’m positive it’s a right idea, but here’s my problem with it. I’m good at being a Christian. And if I’m honest, my real confession is…
I suck at following Jesus.
I’m not good at it. I flat out fail Him on a continuous basis. Sometimes I scream at my kids. I deal harshly with my wife. I often bring strife to my marriage instead of peace. I hate my job and don’t appreciate it as a blessing. I gossip. Speak mean of others. I’m sarcastic and often condescending towards coworkers. I’m selfish. I’m ungracious with others faults. I hold grudges. Occasionally a curse word slips out. Sometimes, I read my bible out of duty, rather than to spend time with God. I can be unforgiving. I let fear and anger reside in my heart. I point out other’s splinters, while looking pass the redwood in my eye. Sometimes, I compare my small sin against other’s egregious sin, and then pridefully declare my righteousness.
It’s so much easier to DO Christianity, than to BE a follower of Jesus.
I want to change that. I want to follow Jesus. I want to follow Him unabated and unattached. Just Him.
One of the things that holds me back is the fear of being labeled that, “Hippy, on the fringe, organic, crazy ‘Jesus’ guy”. Maybe it’s an invalid fear, maybe it isn’t. I’m comfortable in the “mainstream”, but I long for the not so mainstream. It’s just, I believe in a lot of the aspects of mainstream (or what some call “institutional”) church. I believe that churches like Mars Hill, New Spring, Community Christian, The Village, and my home church Element, are being used by God to reach the lost and the hurting and making disciples. I also believe in a lot of aspects of not so mainstream (or what some call organic) church. Frank Viola, Alan Hirsch and ministries like Verge Network are leading the way in community and movement and disciple making. I’ve been a part of a ministry in which God allowed an amazing balance of organic structure. But even that was a lot of DO and so little BE at times.
The other thing that’s been holding me back is the fear of not being good at it. Failing Jesus, if you will. I’m good at doing all the Christian things. Most people would probably never peg me as a “mess”. If I let all that go and just BE a follower of Jesus, I might (most likely WILL) mess it up. The sad truth is I’m already a mess, so it’s already not working out. The better truth of it is, it doesn’t matter that I’ll fail, Jesus won’t.
To be clear, I’m not saying I don’t know or have Jesus. I’m not even saying my heart is not being changed by Jesus. It is. But the process is slow going. I have to believe the progress would be more substantial if I let go of all the peripheral “Christian” stuff and focused more on just Him. Then I don’t have to defend anything. I can just speak of Jesus and He’ll do all the rest.
I’m trying to figure out how to put all the junk away so I can just be with Him. As always, comments or suggestions are welcome. Maybe we should start a Christians Anonymous.
Hello, my name is Bruce and I’m a Christian.