Resolved: to be a Christ follower instead of a Christ admirer.
Yesterday we looked at how consumerism has crept into the lives of churches and Christians, creating Christians (and I would dare say entire churches) that admire Jesus, but don’t follow him. All of us who are Christians fall into this rut at times, but we need to get out of it. Today, we wrap up this mini-series by looking at the difference between a Christ admirer and a Christ follower. These are just my observations of myself and others, and these lists are by no means exhaustive. We’ll look at the differences via a list of contrasts:
- Christ followers love God and others sacrificially; Christ admirers love self first. Sometimes, this isn’t abundantly clear when you listen to a Christ admirer. They say the right things, they project the right image. But when the rest of their life is examined, it portrays little of Christ–how they use their money, what their life goals are, how much (or little) they serve others, etc. Much of their experience with church and Christ revolves around three people: “me, myself, and I.” My church meets my needs. Christ followers are being transformed from selfish to selfless individuals and communities. They will sacrifice their wants (and even their needs) so that others are brought closer to Christ.
- Christ followers serve; Christ admirers consume. Those who admire Christ are often (but not always) church hoppers. They seem to be on the search for the perfect church that suits their needs–the best music, the best programs (especially youth), the best preaching, etc. Often, they will “serve” in the programs of the church that meet their needs best. For example, if they’re looking for great children’s programing, you’ll often find them serving in the children’s programs. Those who are not church hoppers tend to be keepers of the status quo. They’re comfortable. It is much less likely, however, to see a Christ admirer to dive into the mess of those who need Christ most–the poor, the marginalized, the addicted, the abused, etc.–and serve them. Christ admirers are content to serve within “the four walls” of the church. Christ followers serve those outside the church, often sacrificially and with heavy hearts for the plight of those they serve.
- Christ followers are transformed; Christ admirers remain unchanged. Many Christ admirers truly admire what Jesus did–they admire his teaching, they admire his example, they admire his death and resurrection. But admiration stops short of transformation. Many Christians filling the pews/seats of church buildings on Sundays are essentially the same people today that they were on the day they became a Christian. There is little difference apart from more Bible knowledge and regular attendance at church events. They may have ceased some outward habits (like drinking alcohol), but their hearts remain unchanged by the power of the gospel of the kingdom and the king. Christ followers allow Jesus to transform them from the inside out. The change begins in the heart, and eventually is displayed in the life of a Christ-follower. It is not instant, and in many cases is often a slow and painful process. But they can look back and see the changes that Jesus has made in them.
These are just a few differences. I see myself in all of them. There are times when I’ve loved self over God and others. There are times when I’ve been content to consume and not serve. There are times when I’ve remained unchanged instead of transformed. All I know is that I want to follow Jesus, not just admire him. That means that I must die to self instead of live for self. That means I must follow his teaching and example by serving over consuming. That means I need to rock the boat and challenge the status quo, in my life and in the lives of others who are following Jesus. I want to follow Jesus into the trenches, not just admire him from the sidelines.