So my friend and co-worker handed me something she received in the mail, a booklet preview of an upcoming book release. The book is called not a fan. by Kyle Idleman. On the cover of the booklet preview is a quote from Max Lucado which is a pretty official stamp of approval in the Christian book world. The book is about being a fan or a follower of Christ. My friend found it ironic that I had just tackled this issue in my sermon and then the booklet arrived in the mail, so she gave it to me to read. While Kyle claims to be of the “Evangelical/Non-denominational” stream of Christianity (according to his profile on SermonCentral.com), there are some very distinct hallmarks of his theology and that of the church where he serves, Southeast Christian Church in Louisville , KY. that are typical of Baptists. Since I am not a Baptist, I do not expect my theology and interpretation of scripture to fully align. That being said, I found something worth reflecting upon in Kyle’s booklet.
(Image courtesy of notafan.com)
The Prologue begins with a reflection of an epiphany (my word) Kyle had while searching for a topic for his Easter sermon. Why do pastors spend so much time searching for the right thing to say to those who only come to church on Christmas and Easter, which he refers to as “Creasters,” when we know that they are not looking for a church home, or a community of faith to be a part of? This hit home for me. If you were in my congregation this past Sunday as a visitor, I would apologize to you for my sermon not being directed to you at all. In fact, it was specifically for those who come every Sunday and needed a nudge to greater faithfulness. I determined that I cannot preach to those who may come in on a Sunday morning, but I have to preach those those who are there. I have to interpret the Word for the people of my congregation and address their needs, their challenges, their growing edges, their struggles, and their successes because that’s what I know. I, like Kyle, will not be preaching to those once or twice a year Christians this Easter, but they are welcome to hear these words, and hopefully, find that Christ is calling them to a deeper relationship as well. So I’m with you there, Kyle.
Then, in Chapter 1, Kyle starts to lay the groundwork for his book. He defines two groups of people which he wants you to categorize yourself in. Whoa, Kyle. I’m already having issue with the binary choice thing, but then again, I am a Methodist. So, according to him, I have to belong to one group. One of them must be “my people.” So let’s see which one it is. My option are:
1) The “Jesus fish on the back of my car” Group
2) The “Why is there a fish on the back of my friend’s car?” Group
Well, you can probably deduce from my website that I do not belong to Group #2. So let’s see what Kyle says are the prerequisite check marks of Group #1 found on pages 13-15: (My answer is in italics.)
Do you go to church? Check.
Are your parents or grandparents Christians? Yes, on all counts, but does that have to be an indicator of whether or not I am a Christian?
Did you raise your hand at the end of a sermon one time? Yes, when I give the Benediction after the sermon I preach.
Did you repeat a prayer after a preacher? How about when I give the prayer because I am the preacher?
Did you walk forward during a twelve-minute version of “Just As I Am?” Whoa, I’m claiming Methodist on this one. I didn’t know there was a twelve-minute version of “Just As I Am” so no.
Do you own three or more Bibles? Yep.
Have you ever appeared in a church directory? Yes.
Did you grow up going to VBS and/or church camp? Yes.
Is your ringtone a worship song? No. I don’t usually associate getting a phone call with worshiping God. But my wedding song plays when my husband calls.
When you pray are you able to utilize five or more synonyms for God? Oh yes, often in the same prayer.
Have you ever worn “witness wear”? No.
Is the KJV the only real version of the Bible? No, I prefer the NRSV, and specifically the New Oxford Annotated , fourth edition. How can a translation be the “only real version” when it’s not original anyway? I’m such a troublemaker…
Have you ever kissed dating good-bye? I think I’m missing some reference here, but I’ll say yes, when I married my husband.
Under “religious views” does your Facebook page say “Christ follower”? Ooo, guess I’m lucky I have a Facebook page, but no. It says “Bible-reading, Discipline-carrying United Methodist.” I like to be specific.
Did you dog Harry Potter and rave about Lord of the Rings? No, I’m a Star Wars kinda girl.
Did you get a purpose driven life in 40 days or less? No, Rick Warren and I have divergent theologies. He doesn’t like female pastors for one.
Do you say “Bless their heart” before speaking badly about someone? No, if I try to own what I say and not speak badly about people in the first place. Every now and then I slip, but then I pray for forgiveness.
Do you understand phrases like “traveling mercies” and “sword-drill’? Yes, I understand travel mercies, but I don’t know sword-drills. I had to Google that one.
In summery, Kyle asks 18 questions. I answered “no” to 7 questions and half “no” to another. That gives me 10.5 “yes” answers if you give me credit for the one on kissing dating good-bye when I had no idea what it was really asking. In all, I have 10.5/18 which is 58%. That’s a failing grade in most high school grading systems and all three colleges from which I graduated. So I suppose that means I must be a lousy Christian and/or should not be a pastor. Although some would say I shouldn’t be a pastor anyway since I have two x chromosomes, but I digress. For the record, I do not have a Jesus fish on the back of my car. Why do all Christians have to be cookie cutter versions of one another? Where is that written? After all, Jesus has disciples who were tax collectors, zealots, doctors, fishermen, and others who followed him who had been possessed by demons. They are not all the same, so why should we be?
I appreciate what Kyle is trying to do in urging us to commit to a deeper relationship with Christ. We shouldn’t be fans, but followers. However, it doesn’t sit well with me to think that we are spending so much time categorizing Christians by what they wear, what they listen to, and what kind of worship experience they prefer, rather than looking at our faith enacted, our actions and our words, and the deeds we do out of love in the name of Jesus Christ. Am I any less Christian because I’m not wearing my cross right now? I don’t think so. God can see that I have the cross in my heart; that should be enough. I like that we are not all alike. I don’t want to look out from my pulpit and see a bunch of me. I want to see diversity and uniqueness, a reflection of all creation, the very works of the Creator’s hands. I want us to think different thoughts and do different things, but be united by Christ. That is glory of the Body of Christ; to take so many incongruous people and make them harmonious in Christ. That’s something I can really follow.