I haven’t become a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or a Mormon, or an Atheist. But I’m no longer a “Christian.” Give me three minutes and let me explain.
Several years ago, the church I was pastoring made a decision to no longer use the term “Christian” as the primary way to describe our spiritual journey. We made this decision for two reasons.
First, there is a lot of cultural baggage, both inside and outside of the church, surrounding the term. For many the term simply means that Christianity – as opposed to Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Atheism, or a host of other options – is the person’s religion of choice. Sadly, many who fall into this category approach “being a Christian” as synonymous with “being an American,” loving baseball, eating apple pie, and occasionally attending church on Christmas, Easter, or during a crisis.
Second, for many people, the idea of “being a Christian” means that in some fundamental way a person has accepted the basic doctrine that Jesus died on a cross so that we could be forgiven of our sins and end up in heaven one day. This understanding is a start in the right direction, but unfortunately it is only that – a start. Those who live this brand of Christianity seldom travel to the depth of what it really means to follow Christ – a journey that ultimately transforms the very essence of who we are, what we believe, and how we live.
So, if I’m no longer a “Christian,” then what am I?
I’ve become a disciple of Jesus.
“Oh,” but you say, “that’s just semantics!” Not really. In every culture, words carry a specific meaning, and in our culture the term “Christian” no longer even remotely represents what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus. In the early church it did, but today that’s no longer the case.
So what’s the difference?
A “Christian” is someone who has accepted the work of salvation, secured through Christ, and has given mental assent to the Christian faith (belief system) as their religion of choice.
A disciple is someone who has trusted Jesus with their whole life, while continuing to be in relationship with him, as they learn to be like him.
And the two are worlds apart.
To our own detriment, we have over emphasized being a convert and downplayed being a disciple, resulting in a consumer Christianity that’s produced anemic faith in the lives of many professing “Christians” and left little lasting impact on our world. Like our national debt, the cost of amassing converts without making disciples has caught up to us and unless we make some radical readjustments, “Christianity” and the Church’s future, (at least evaluating it from an earthly perspective) doesn’t look too bright.
Before I’m branded a heretic, let me be clear here.
- I still believe in the historic doctrines of the Christian faith.
- I still believe in and I’m still involved in the Church (I actually pastor one!).
I acknowledge, to get my point across, I used some hyperbole in the title of this article. But one thing I haven’t overstated and that I’m drop-dead serious about – if we are ever going to truly represent our Savior and once again have anything of significance to offer our world, then we have to stop being “Christians” and start being disciples. Times are desperate. We need more disciples and fewer “Christians.”
Thanks for the three minutes.
Ken L Roberts