Fans, Slaves, and Consumers

Off and on for the past few months, I’ve been reading Kyle Idleman’s book, Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (you can also check out the website). Whenever I pick it up and start reading it again, I can’t figure out why I ever put it down!

So far, it’s an amazing book with many highlights on my Kindle. My goal is to review the whole book when I’m done, but this extended quote couldn’t wait.  It hits so many things going on in church life today with biblical clarity.  Check it out:

Following Jesus requires a complete and total commitment. What the rich young ruler is really committed to is revealed when he refuses to deny himself. He wanted to say yes to following Jesus without saying no to himself. He wanted to be close enough to Jesus to have eternal life, but not so close that it required personal sacrifice. . .

There is a business book written by Ken Blanchard called Raving Fans. The book teaches businesses how to make the customer so happy and feel so important that they become “Raving Fans” of the company. Ken is a committed Christian and a friend of our church. One of our staff leaders suggested that the staff read his book as a way to better serve our members. While it is an excellent business book and there were some good takeaways for the church, as I read it there were a number of times I thought, “This is a great way to recruit customers, but a dangerous way to call followers.”

Many churches have become companies that measure success by the number of customers they have attracted. And how do we get more customers? By trying to make the customer feel comfortable, important, and happy. We want the product (in this case following Jesus) to come off as appealing and as comfortable as possible. So when someone comes in “church shopping” we try and show them what we have to offer.

Can you see why this undermines the invitation of Jesus to deny ourselves? The church sends the message, “Whatever you want you can get it here.” The invitation of Jesus is, “Give up everything.” The message of the church sounds less like “Deny yourself” and more like Burger King’s slogan, “Have it your way.” I fear the result is often a church full of raving fans, but not many followers.

Contrast the image of consumer with a much different biblical image that Scripture uses to describe followers. The Bible would describe a follower as a “slave.” That is the exact opposite of a consumer. The image of slave provides a picture of what “deny yourself” looks like.

A slave has no rights. A slave has no possessions to call their own. A slave in Jesus’ day didn’t even have a personal identity. A slave doesn’t get time off or get to clock out at the end of the day. A slave doesn’t get to negotiate. But “slave” is the way many of the followers of Christ introduced themselves.

When Peter began 2 Peter, he didn’t introduce himself by saying, “Peter, a best friend of Jesus, present at the Mount of Transfiguration, preacher on the day of Pentecost.” Instead he simply says, “Simon Peter, a slave …” (NLT). John, Timothy, and Jude all give themselves the same title. James doesn’t begin his letter by saying, “James, the half brother of the Son of God.” He begins by saying, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (NLT). When Paul wrote to the church in Rome he wrote to people who hated the word slave. We find it offensive these days because of what happened in the past, but for the readers of Romans, the wounds and the pain of slavery was fresh. And yet Paul’s letter to the Romans begins this way: “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus” (NLT). Really? Why not say, “Paul, educated by Gamalial, spoken to on the road to Damascus, bestselling author of … the Bible?” But all he says is, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ”. . . .

[N]o one ever says, “When I grow up, I want to be a slave.” But that is what the Bible calls us to. The Bible would teach that the highest calling for you is to be a slave who denies himself and follows Jesus.

 

 

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