Why I’m No Longer a “Christian”

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.

On Journey,
Ken L Roberts

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59 thoughts on “Why I’m No Longer a “Christian”

  1. It thrilled my heart to read this! I have been thinking about the fact that saying, "I'm a Christian" makes you a Christ follower. Oh how wrong we are! I love to say, "I'm a Disciple"! Oh that just feels appropriate…………..to be a "follower" or to be a "Disciple"? There is no question………speak to me Lord and teach me Your ways! Thank you Pastor Ken! I love your blog!

  2. I agree with you whole heartedly, the word Christian no longer carries the same meaning in this day and age. Being called a disciple of Christ (Jesus) paints a defined picture of one that would not be easily confused with those who call themselves "Christian." Thanks for sharing Pastor Ken.

  3. Many years ago when you were my pastor, we discovered (as you stated in your blog) the difference between calling ourselves 'Christians' or 'disciples'. It was so liberating and exciting to realize that we could drop the chains and become more than we thought we could be by being a 'Christ-follower'! I have shared that with so many people. The look on their faces or tone in their voices, is priceless! Thank you again Kenny, for bringing this life enhancing and world changing life style, front and center. Amen and Amen.

  4. Words so well written, and point extremely well taken!! Our church family recently finished doing the book study of Not a Fan!! So pray that it is truly taken to the depths of souls, not just "a nice book study". Disciples are needed in these desperate times!! May we ALL have a stronger commitment to be true disciples today than we did yesterday!! Thank you for your words!

  5. Thanks Ken for re-thinking! I get your point, and I agree with your intention. Though I'm a bit hesitant as to whether the word "disciple" communicates better with non-Christians/non-disciples what the content is of following and living with Jesus. Anyway, look forward to your further re-thinking.

  6. Acts11:26 "and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.".
    So then you have allowed the enemy to steal our name. You have opted for another title which describes what a Christian is. Sad.

    • Susan,
      Could not agree more. The “Christian” badge is when you are recognized as a disciple of Christ not when you call yourself one.

      Unfortunately Ken’s article makes it sound like all “Christians” just give mental assessment to the Christian faith. While that maybe true for many today it is NOT true everywhere. The fault if one must apply blame lies in the pulpit. Weak doctrine produces weak disciples.

  7. Susan

    Thanks for your response. I really haven't forsaken my name/His name. The article was just a way to provoke the thinking of how do we live in a way that truly represents his name. That was really the whole point of the article. My hope and encouragement is whether we call oursevles "Christians," or "believers" or "followers of Christ"- we redeem what it really means to be that. And I think we have lost that meaning in our culture – both inside and outside of the church.

    But, truly, I really, really appreciate the comment. Dialogue is healthy.

  8. I don't think you're a heretic — I think you;re being foolish by conceding the vocabulary of the conflict.

    Think about this, please: who were the first to be called "Christians," and why?

  9. Frank,

    Thanks for the comment. I do hope and pray and try to live accordingly, that for those of us who call ourselves "Christians" that we can redeem the true meaning of the term – both within the church and to those watching from outside of the church. That's really the only intent of the post.

    However, I do hope that this kind of healthy dialogue and thought-process might move some people back toward the proper meaning. But thanks for your engagement in the dialogue.

    God's ongoing best

    Ken

  10. I think it's sad that you put Mormons in the catagory of not believing in Christ. Our actual name is The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. We are Christians and we are most definitely deciples of Christ.

  11. Whoever posted the comment above did not leave a name or a way to directly contact them. So, since I have posted all comments that has come in concerning this particular blog post, I thought it only right and fair to post the one made above as well.

    If I had the blog to write again I would not have used Mormons in the same sentence as Hindu, Buddhism, or Atheist as anti examples to being a "Christian." Although there has been and continues to be some debate whether the Mormon religion stands in line with historic, orthodox Christianity, I still would not have used them in the light of contrast with being a Christian that I did. Mainly because whether Mormon's are considered part of the orthodox Christian faith wasn't my point. If it had been, I would have made that the subject of the blog. Also, if lumping the Mormon faith into the article took away from the main point of the article, then it wasn't helpful.

  12. Just had a conversation with someone regarding this very subject, and your sentiment echoes mine. When I was a little boy, the term "Christian" carried some weight with it. Now not so much. It's a polarizing word in our society. Thank you for your candor. This is the second blog session of yours I've read. Very good stuff! Blessings, Jason

  13. I believe that changing "names" will NOT make the diference. We MUST revive the meaning of the word "Christian". We must LIVE it more and SPEAK it less this great word. So this idea of name chanching is WRONG!

  14. Sandor,

    I appreciate your comments and I agree with them! If more people will LIVE it more it's proper name will be revived and reclaimed. That's my prayer and that was the intent of the article. So thanks for the comment!

  15. Run with it. I became a "born again" Christian in 1976. At that time many believers felt the need to distinguish themselves from comfy cultural Christianity by referring to themselves as born-again. Today upwards of 70% of Americans claim a born-again experience. I'm not sure it means what we think it means anymore. It is human to change the uncomfortable into the comfortable. Disciple is a good way to describe ourselves as long as we do not get comfortable simply thinking of ourselves as disciples.

  16. I agree with so much of what you wrote pertaining to the lack of meaning "being a Christian" has in today's culture. But I imagine the same dilemma existed during The Middle Ages, and I imagine religious Jews have had the same problem for a long, long time.
    I don't think the answer to the problem is to come up with a new word or phrase; that's a fairly recent (20th century) idea that came from marketing gurus. Would you introduce yourself as a “citizen of the previously British run colony in the New World” just because some people don't like what the U.S. stands for in some places?
    I think the answer is to simply be “a Christian”. People will notice the difference. They may even say things like, “See that guy over there, he's a REAL Christian”.
    When you live and work in the real world, surrounded by false believers, non-believers, and anti-believers, you really don't have to ponder what you are going to call your religious persuasion, because all those other people are going to name it for you; ”Bible Thumper”, “Hypocrite” “Jesus Freak”, “Religious Nut”, “Holier-then-thou”, just to name a few.
    I'm not really concerned with what people think when they hear I'm a “Christian”, because no matter what pre-conceived notion they may have, good or bad, my actions and attitudes are going to be the deciding factor as to what that means in the context of my life.
    I'm more concerned about what Jesus calls me.

  17. Shawn,

    this is really good stuff! And really, I agree with you. That was the point of my article; just to get people to think about what it really means to be a Christian and to live accordingly.

    Really good input. THANKS!

  18. Great blog post – very provoking, and a good strategy to get some discussion going. 😉

    I'm definitely on the same team as those who responded and said that renaming ourselves is not the answer. I would rather REDEFINE what a Christian is rather than change our name, because, as someone pointed out, the name was given to us in the Scriptures. The term Christian is a sacred name, I believe, because it has marked out a people of God from the beginning of the faith. The Devil has deceived people into thinking it means something other than a disciple of christ, but I like what one writer said about living it out so that someone would say: now that's a REAL Christian. Distinguishing between true and false Christians is more productive, it allows us to keep the title God gave us, and it allows us to teach non-believers what makes a "real" christian, which is, discipleship.

  19. The Dandler,

    Thanks. Good stuff. Yes, the "remedy" is to redefine, or to return to the definition of what being "a Christian" once was and yes, the only way we can do that is to be a true disciple of Jesus. Thanks for what you are doing with your blog as well http://www.dandelblog.com

  20. I agree with you Ken. I have recently moved to a new area and trying to find a church, I have visited a few now, and to tell you the truth, I see apathy, no passion, the same old routine, no intimacy with the Holy Spirit, lack of being friendly, and conservatism. I decided to get my head down at home and study revival on my own heart and pray, I don't want to be with Christians who aren't friendly, lack passion, are not motivated to seek God's heart and worse still have no time for the poor and homeless, what kind of love is that? The church is in serious disobedience.

  21. Deborah

    thanks for your comment. Yes, we need a return to the heart of following Jesus, walking and working with the Holy Spirit and really being the Church. I personally believe we are being "set up" for a major reformation.

    Ken

  22. Ken,

    This post went where I suspected you were going with this series. I commend you for daring to take a stand against the overwhelming cultural misuse and abuse of this term – Christian.

    For all those offended by Ken's title and/or content,

    Please take some time to study Acts 11 where we first find the term, 'Christian' in the chronology of the 1st century saints. The first thing I would note is that those first called Christians did NOT take that name for themselves. It is how they were described by their friends and neighbors and fellow citizens of Antioch. It is a term used by others to describe them, not a term they coined for themselves. So if you want to be called a Christian, live so that this becomes the only way your friends and neighbors can describe you … that you belong to Jesus Christ. That will only happen if you live Jesus so vividly that nobody knows any other way to describe who you are.

    Amazingly, and ironically, it is because they were so profoundly and identifiably linked with Jesus and His ways that they were called Christians. How I wish that were true today. As you pointed out, though, western society has misappropriated the term and given it a popular infusion that so waters down the true definition of the term that even the writers of dictionaries get confused as to its meaning.

    Good job, Ken. I am looking forward to reading more of this series.

    G

  23. Glenn,

    Thanks for kind words and the reinforcement of my point. I'm obvious not against the term Christian and know it's true biblical meaning. But we must redeem it by living a life like-Christ.

    You're a great thinker and I appreciate the dialogue.

    Ken

  24. Amen Ken!! Well said! There is unfortunately a difference between being a Christian and a disciple of Jesus. Every disciple of Christ is a Christian but not every Christian is a disciple. The next blog would be to include the fact that we are not to 'just be disciples' of Christ but are called to 'make disciples' according to the Great Commission; Matthew 28:18-20. That is a COMMAND for all Christian disciples and not just for those who stand in the pulpit. No true disciple is exempt from the command to make disciples! Thanks again Ken for sharing God's Word with boldness and clarity!

  25. But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. 1 Peter 4:16

    Your definitions are not historical nor biblical. You can be a false Christian or a false disciple of Jesus Christ, or you can be a true one. I call myself a follower of Jesus Christ, yet this didn’t make the list. For a time, because Jesus said He is the Way, there were groups of Christians who called themselves followers of the Way. Anything wrong with that?

    God knows the heart and He will separate the goats from the sheep on judgement day. The indwelling Holy Spirit that is the distinguishing mark, not whether you call yourself Christian, follower, disciple, and the many other names Christians and unbelievers call Christians. And According to scripture, the fruits (both their doctrinal beliefs and actions) are how you can tell a Christian, disciple, follower of Jesus.

    Inversely you are saying: calling yourself a Christian means that you don’t trust Jesus with his/her whole life because of using the name Christian, but someone who calls themselves a disciple does, is ridiculous. This is really bad theology and bad logic.

    If you teach this to unbelievers, they are going to say, “Oh, Christians are not true, Christians are not real, only disciples are.” So, you will be attacking the worldwide brethren who use the name Christian by telling others they are not true followers of Jesus.

    There are consequences to you making up and using your own definitions. Have you thought them through?

  26. Right on dear brother! It seems to be easier and simpler, in this present society, to take the path of least resistance as if to think that being a ‘Christian’ is equal to being a Christ-follower and disciple. And as you’ve stated… far from it. Actions will always speak louder than words. We’re to be a living, moving and acting in the power and authority of our soon coming King. Continued blessing to you.

  27. I would agree that the term Christian doesn’t mean a lot these days. My wife is just blown away when she sees a Christian fish on a vehicle and right below it a bumper sticker supporting pro-choice, or the number of Christians who support the liberal agenda. Are their eyes truly open by the Holy Spirit to see what pain & suffering results from our actions or inaction’s? At Acts 1:8 Ministry we encourage Christians to walk like Jesus walked. To get out into their community and share as well as show God’s love to everyone and provide them a taste of what His grace through Jesus is like, to receive a free gift or service totally free and it cannot be bought at any price. It comes with an invite to come and learn more at your church along with taking the time right then and there to listen, to care, to pray, and maybe even to share tears and an embrace. We give our program away so we can set an example for others to do the same. This method make sharing fun as well as rewarding because God comes alive through the people He brings to you and the witnessing that takes place at a timing that could only be His! I believe this is a critical part of growing deeper a faith and coming closer to Jesus.

  28. Here is a very clear reason to follow, and now I have decided to be a disciple as you have explained than ever before. There is no time we should think we are right in our decision in the spiritual world unless God reveal it. God is now revealing the idea of a true follower of Jesus Christ to me and I feel it is exactly correct.
    Bishop Wafula Wanyonyi.

  29. I can so relate! Our church just finished working through the Evangelism Explosion book which teaches the same thing you speak about here! No where in the Bible can you show me where it says to go make Christians. Jesus said to make Disciples ! May God richly bless you as you work through
    this radical transformation!!

  30. Great post Ken. I can relate and identify with your points and truth. Many Christians don’t understand the real meaning of abiding in Christ and your description of discipleship is the essence of a follower of Christ. When I think about your imposed question it brings me to Ephesian and God’s definition of church. In its first chapter verses 3-14 it defines Christ’s body as the church and opens up the door to discipleship. Thanks for sharing a challenging post. God bless you my friend.

  31. Awesome! I totally agree. I still say I’m a Christian, but I don’t advertise it loudly because I disidentify with those who are spreading fear and hatred in the name of Christianity. I prefer to show someone my faith by my love, by my deeds done in the Spirit, than to loudly proclaim that “I’m a Christian! I hate this and this and this and don’t ask me to love anyone who doesn’t think like I do” That is, sadly, the message that is going out into the world from those who gave mental assent and not their inner hearts to the Lord.

  32. I agree with everything you’re saying in essence but my approach is a little different.

    1 Peter 4:16 teaches us that the term “Christian” is scripturally correct so I’ve decided to stick with it but as a Bible Teacher for the past 25 years I’ve observed that there are 2 different “Christianities’ and that’s the perspective I teach from.

    One “Christianity” is just a popular Religion that has NO saving power which allows sinners to feel comfortable in their unregenerate condition, guaranteeing them eternity in hell and the other is a Blood Covenant sanctioned by God through His Son, Jesus Christ to re-establish His Divine Government on Earth.

    I’ve written articles, created videos and about to write a book teaching this concept but as far your perspective is concerned I can totally get behind you and completely agree with your decision and lifestyle. I have no problems there.

    God bless you as you continue to live and teach for Him!

  33. I understand your thought process. So, when the title “disciple of Jesus” devolves into a description just like “Christian”, what are you going to change the name to?
    Until we Christians get our act together, a name change is only temporary. You can call yourself anything you want, but actions always speaks louder than words.

  34. Hello Ken,
    I was intrigued by the title of this article so decided to read it. Let me say at the front end; I support what you have to say and both my wife and I tend to refer to ourselves as ‘believers’ for many of the reasons you cite and others. I have pastored 5 churches in 3 countries, built some, planted some, done missions and evangelistic work over some 50 years. Stared ‘Christian’ television channels and internet radio stations. In all of this, I have seen the church do much damage oddly enough, in the Name of the Lord. I once started a message saying” I don’t like church people, but I love Kingdom people” and went on to explain the difference. Disciples don’t live like church people and church people don’t live like disciples. Theres much more I could say, but I’ll close by reiterating, you would have my support in this decision you and your church have taken.

  35. Apparently, you are in a religious and cultural struggle of some sort, and it may be that you and your followers may not have a deep and pure understanding of who God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are and what they have been doing ever since day one. What you say sounds good, but it only half sales. It really underscores everything that God worked against in the Old Testament, and all that Jesus worked against in the New Testament, which honestly, got him nailed to the cross of salvation; but God knew that would happen because of the wickedness of those who chose to follow Satan as well as those, who claim to believe him.

    The Bible plainly teaches that God is not really about religion or religions; and Christ clearly spoke against religions and religious leaders, because unfortunately, as much as they desire to do well in their own minds, and claim they are worshiping God, they are opposing God, and trying to tell God what to do, instead of being lead by God. Israel in the O.T. constantly made this mistake. In Christ, in the New Testament, the people were afraid because Christ appeared to be doing away with their religion and religious practices because that took their focus off God and placed it on man. They knew truth and did not like that.

    Being a Christian is not a bad term and there is no misleading in the term, if anyone has a true understanding of the term, which as you point many do not, but why do you believe you have a better idea? That could be interpreted as believing you are even better than Christ. True Christians practice true Christianity and true Christianity is not a religion, it is a life style. That naturally includes being a Christian is to be a disciple of Christ. Any child can and will tell you this. So, truthfully, you are way off course and truly have no honest idea what you are doing and God will still have mercy on you, because he loves you.

    If you had learned it correctly, you would understood correctly, then, you would have taught it correctly, but you did not and now you want to find honor among men, instead of God, and change the course of their life, because you are off course. That is very sad.

    Now you can delete this instead of posting it because it offends you! You are totally wrong!
    Dr. Bill Avaritt

  36. I appreciate what you are saying I agree with you 100%. In recent years when I Inquire about a person’s spiritual status, I ask: are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Immediately if they are a true believer they light up with joy and say yes I am.

    My reasoning to approach someone in this manner came from an experience in the 70’s. A dear friend who has since gone to heaven would give her salvation testimony often, and hundreds were saved because of her love for Christ. But the first time I heard it impacted me for forever. She said when the arresting police officer asked her, “are you a Christian?” She said, “my immediate thought was…well I’m not a heathen.” She thus responded to the arresting officer, “yes sir I am Christian”. She said, “I did not have a clue about the walk of a true believer in Christ. I am happy to say, that young man invited me to church and that Sunday I asked Christ to be Lord of my life and I radically changed.” And change she did. I met her after her first month of knowing Christ in a personal way and she was on fire for her Lord and Savior and it kept burning until the spring of 2015. My lesson learned: Never assume when someone says they are a Christian they know Christ.

  37. I too have pastored, and at times wondered what it would be like to actually require discipleship in order to be a member of my church. I’ve been told that no one would belong to such a church, at least not in America. My heart says a resounding “yes” to your name change idea.

  38. That is about as good a definition as I have ever heard… WELL DONE!

    Guess I would say I’m a “disciple in process,” I just don’t seem to arrive some days. But I do know what you are saying. But as Dallas Willard says, “The main thing God gets out of your life is not your achievements ….its the person you BECOME.” I like to think I am becoming more “disciple-like” daily!

    Thanks for sharing!

  39. A very interesting point here and one that does not come across as off. In fact I remember about 15 years ago a baptist speaker David Edwards talking about the lable of Christian and the need to change it. Instead he says we should become “fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”
    I believe there is a lot a validity in this especially in today’s highly charged climate. Not just the political climate, though that is crazy enough, but in particular our cultural climate.
    Discipleship is something that we should be working through everyday, yet many are content with what a friend of mine calls “fire insurance.” I am a disciple and proud to be one. I make mistakes, get things wrong, strive to correct, and look to Christ for guidence, inspiration, and hope. Like Paul, who was never tied down to any label other than a “slave to Christ.” I hope to run the race and win the prize for which I have been called heavenward.
    I am uncertain in these volitile times what the future holds for the cultural label of “Christian.” Either we as Christ followers will make it mean something more again, or it will simply become a label for our ethical rearing.
    No matter what though, I believe we as followers need to continue to put our hands to the plow, tilling the hard soil day in and day out. Seeding it with the love and compassion that Christ himself cultivated in us. Water it with tears of joy and of sorrow, sometimes, as I think of the martyrs who have gone before, even with our own suffering and blood as Christ himself suffered and bled for us.
    No matter what we are called, may we be found in our actions as His disciples.
    Just my thoughts.

  40. Sad that culture forces us to give up the name Christian, which connects us to those so identified in the New Testament. I prefer to highlight the difference between being a Christ follower and a disciple of Christ. Jesus effectively created large crowds of followers, but He also effectively confronted those followers with Biblical truth that thinned the crowds by challenging followers to step away from the crowd and closer to Him in order to become a true disciple. I believe in the BASICS of discipleship.

    A true disciple of Christ is…
    B-orn again of God
    A-biding in the Word of God
    S-eeking the holiness of God
    I-nvesting in the work of God
    C-onnecting with God in prayer and with other disciples in fellowship
    S-haring the Gospel of God

    Blessings my brother,
    Pastor Bob

  41. I have been feeling the same- names, titles, and such have created division that it’s hard for me to get out that I’m a ‘Christian’. It’s hard to even say that I’m non-denominational, because this too brings division. I have started to say that I’m a believer and leave it at that unless someone asks, “Of what?” I have just recently made a Facebook page called United Heartbeats. Through this page I hope to LOVE. I want to bridge the gaps where names, titles, and such have created division. I want to reach the hurting, broken, and hardened. I want my love to connect to other believers, non-believers, and friends. I also want to encourage others who’s’ hearts beat as mine to join and help me to create a beautiful melody. I have never felt so strong about anything before in my life. I thank you for your view. I can see I’m not alone in this way of thinking. 🙂

  42. Interesting article Ken. I run a church planting school on the Thai/Burma border. Recently the Lord encouraged me to spend more time teaching our students how to be, and how to disciple others.
    God bless, Alan Jones
    Founder
    Kingdom Mission International
    Maesai, Nth. Thailand

  43. Brother, you are right. To the real followers of Buddha, Buddha is just their Teacher who had reached the highest state of Enlightenment. So also for real followers of Jesus. Jesus is a teacher who taught the disciples about the highest state, being in fellowship with Father and he taught them the way by meditating in the hills or in deserts.